Monday, May 2, 2011
1st Entry: February 18, 2011
I am Danielle Morris, a motivated self-starter that will be providing insight over the next few weeks as to how to be successful in both working as an intern, and searching for an internship. I will primarily focus on providing examples from my current position as the digital communications intern for a small agency located in the metropolitan area.
As a student at St. Cloud State University with a major in public relations and minor in marketing, I have been not only looking for ways to stand out from the other 16,000 students that attend my university, but I have also been looking for ways to stand out in the competitive job market. As a freshman I made it my mission to make every moment matter in my college experience. My mission ensured me that I would get the most out of my college experience as well as be success in whatever career I desired to pursue. Now, as a senior at SCSU I can provide you with insight as to how I landed internships and became an asset to the organizations I had the pleasure of working for.
Attaining the position of a digital communications intern was a must-have experience for me. The world of public relations and marketing is changing faster than ever, and social networks such as facebook and twitter spearheading many of these changes. Although I use social networks in my personal life, I wanted to learn how to use them professionally. I started researching articles and implementing some of the recommended strategies. When I started searching for internships I not only used the Career Services website, but I also used twitter and the Minnesota Public Relations Job Blog. By using multiple sites to search for an internship, it provided me with the ability to find a position that I really interest me.
Over winter break I was able to discover a digital communications internship. The opening was an agency located in the metro area with big name clients. When I found the internship, the first thing I did was look into what their current social media presence was. By having knowledge of the company and having somewhat of an understanding of what their social media efforts were, I was not only able to pull off an impressive interview, but I was able to land the job.
2nd entry: March 1, 2011
Going into my internship I knew it was going to be a challenge. Although my internship is at an established agency, the internship was viewed as an experimental position. This is not only the first internship the agency has offered, but it is also the first time they are formally using social media for a client. On top of that, the client I would be working with is very different from the rest of their client base. The agency has traditionally worked with well-established, conservative clients, but this is a racy, online satirical newspaper which launched just weeks before I started. My internship also included a personal challenge. While I am a person who loves shopping, dancing, and yoga, my client’s target audience is primarily males who love fishing, hunting, and racing.
Even though I knew my position was going to be a challenging, it was an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up. At this internship, I report directly to the founder and owner of the agency as well as the founders and owners of the clients’ businesses I am doing social media work for. In my position I am viewed as more of a social media expert than an intern. I am able to contribute brainstorming sessions and I was able lay out the first few weeks of our social media plan. Another exciting aspect to my internship is the fact that I am working with a new and growing business. I have the chance to watch the online newspaper grow from the ground up. I view the client’s success as my own success. Although some challenges in my position may seem a little overwhelming, the challenges drive my passion for the position.
To make the internship a beneficial experience for me as well as for everyone else involved, I asked early on how the success of the position was going to be measured. This not only allowed me to feel confident with the work that I was doing, but it also allowed the agency to have an accurate perception of my progress. Also, early on in the internship we established a communication plan. This was essential considering I do my internship primarily from home. Having a communication plan allowed us to communicate efficiently and effectively as well as build a sense of trust with one another. Based on my past experience, I feel establishing an evaluation and communication plan is essential at any internship and even more so when you are working with an organization that has not had an intern before. Without an evaluation plan you can be setting yourself up for failure because how you measure success and how your supervisor measures success may not always be the same. Developing a communication plan is also key to success because it is important to have a grasp on how often your supervisor would like you to follow up with them. In one of my past internships I did not define a communication plan with my supervisor and I often felt like a nuisance when I would ask for more work, but at the end of the internship I found out there was something that my supervisor wanted me to do. If I would have known this from the beginning, I wouldn’t have felt as uncomfortable asking for more work and I would have been able to add more to my portfolio. Overall, I highly recommend developing an evaluation and communication plan for every position you choose to pursue.
3rd entry: March 17, 2011
Although I love my current internship, I originally almost had to turn down the position. This was not due to time constraints, scheduling conflicts, or how much I was getting paid—it was due to a poorly written contract. If you are like me, you have probably had more than a handful of people that have preached to you about reading your contract before you sign it. However, even with fair warning, I have fallen victim to a misleading and limiting contract in the past.
For instance, I took an internship last summer at a large suburb company and I simply skimmed the contact before signing it. As I went through and signed the lengthy contract my soon to be supervisor was providing a synopsis of what I was attempting to skim. After a few weeks into my internship I soon realized that I was not getting the pay, benefits, or even hours I thought I was promised. After taking a closer look at the contract I realized there were several small clauses that I had missed. Although over all the internship ending up being a positive experience, I had undergone unneeded frustration with the company.
However, my frustration ended up paying off. This experience served as a blessing because it showed me that skimming a contract isn’t sufficient. Before accepting the internship I have now, I made sure I read through the contract several times and understood the terms and conditions of it. When I was given the contract, I was told it was a basic, confidentiality contract. After reading through it, I noticed a few red flags. I am aware that I am not an expert on contracts so I reached out to my extended network and utilized campus services to get a sound second opinion.
I soon found out the contract I was being asked to sign was not a standard confidentiality contract. I was being asked to sign a contract that would not only limit me from writing for this blog, but it would also limit me from finding a job with anyone aside from that company for a minimum of a year after the internship. After seeking advice of Student Legal Services, Career Services, professors and professionals I told the agency thank you, but no thank you.
Fortunately, the agency was willing to review the contract and renegotiate. After taking a second look at the contract they realized they had given me an incorrect contract. As you can infer, I signed ending up signing a contract. Overall, I would recommend to anyone who is accepting an internship or job offer to not only to carefully read through the contract, but also to understand what terms entail.
When you start an internship you tend to have a million different things running through your mind. Will I get a job out of this? Will I impress my boss? Will I mess up? Internships are exciting and even sometimes overwhelming, but it is important to stay focused. A great way to stay focused and attain the experience you are looking for is to set goals.
In my past two internships setting goals for my internship was not a priority. My supervisors had outlined goals they would like me accomplish and set daily tasks. Although, I have always viewed myself as a goal orientated person, since there were already goals and expectations in place I didn’t even think of creating more. However, in my current position I realized how important is to set additional goals not only for the position, but also for myself.
In my current internship my supervisor challenged me with the goal of generating over 100,000 views to their brand-spanking new website. I would be the only one generating traffic to the website, and I would not be working with any kind of a budget. I had no idea what it took to generate traffic to a website. The only tool I had to accomplish this goal was social media, which my supervisor wasn’t ashamed to admit he didn’t know too much about.
Because the first goal was so broad, it inspired me to create more goals along the way. As a basis for developing goals I researched previous social media campaigns. By doing this I was able to set realistic goals that I would be able to accomplish. Setting goals for my position also inspired me to set personal goals for myself that I wanted to attain while in my current internship.
After doing this I realized that it is something that I could have been doing all along. Creating goals not only made it is easier to accomplish what I needed to get done, but it also made it more exciting and rewarding. I didn’t meet every goal I set for myself, but I was able create learning experiences with the ones I didn’t meet. Setting goals in my current internship not only allowed me to stay focused, but also allowed me to attain the experience I was looking for.
As an intern it’s easy to feel intimidated by the talented people you’re working with. It’s also easy to forget how talented you are. Although a large part of your job as an intern is to be a sponge and absorb all the information you can, it is important to remember that you have a lot to offer as well.
When I went into my current internship I thought I would be learning more about how to effectively use social media for a business from my supervisor. However, it didn’t take me long to find out that I would be teaching my supervisor about different social media strategies. At first this was a little intimidating because I didn’t view myself as a social media expert. After contacting some public relations professionals in my network, I found out that most people don’t consider themselves as social media experts. During a presentation by Kris Huson, Marketing and Communications Manager for Children’s Cancer Research, given to the Public Relations Student Society of America she said, “There are no social media experts.” She also mentioned that it was important for our generation to leverage the fact that we are “social media natives”.
My internship allowed me to realize that although I was just an intern, I had still had a lot to offer. Because I was able to realize this early on in my internship it allowed me to be more effective. I was able to inform my supervisor of social media best practices. Because I was confident with my skills my supervisors looked to me as the social media expert versus just an intern.
With only a few weeks left of my internship it is nice to reflect back on what I have accomplished in the past few months. Although it is natural to reflect on you experience when it is over, it is also important to reflect on your experience throughout your internship.
It is important to reflect back on your experience so you are able to keep your resume and portfolio updated, as well as feel confident with the skills you enhanced in your internship. I updated my portfolio and resume once every two weeks. Since I have been going on several job interviews this has been extremely helpful for me.
Ways you can actively reflect on your experience is to have a conversations with you supervisor about your progress. Another great way is to keep a blog, so you can look back at your thoughts and accomplishments. A blog about your internship is especially beneficial to communications majors-- employers love to read your blog. By documenting your internship experience you are not only showing your future employer your writing skills, but also the new skills you enhanced in your internship.