Tips from a Professional Intern

If only you could make money from a title like “Professional Intern” because then I would be in a much better position.

Internships are supposed to be an integral part of the college experience. It offers real life experience with that safety net of college credit to comfort you and keep you from falling on your head if you’re not ready for the big leagues yet. Internships are supposed to be the gateway to networking and establishing your personal brand. It also helps you narrow down your career choices and/or helps you determine what you are capable/willing to do.

Alright. Well this pretty much reinforced everything my mother ever told me about the “real world.”

Number one:It’s not what you know, but who you know.” My mother was a wise lady. She also happened to work in PR (with no degree, grumble grumble) as a program manager for Good Schools for All. She was also a graduate of Leadership Buffalo in 2005. She also worked with The Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo (which pretty much works with every organization you can think of in Western New York.) Well now, Mrs. Nephew, you were right. (Also, the apple doesn’t seem to fall to far from the tree, eh?)

Number two:You never know until you try.” This was usually in response to denying a food choice of hers, but it’s applicable here, too. I might have never known how much I like agency life had I not interned at Eric Mower and Associates. I might not have known that I like working in college athletics had it not been for the Buffalo State Sports Information Office. And I might have wanted to go into graphic design or production, but now I know I don’t thanks to Time Warner Cable. It’s just not my thing.

Since my first semester at Buffalo State in 2008, the importance of internships was preached to me. Man, I tell ya, if I was a church-going gal, I’d be the example for holy living because I took what was preached to me and ran with it.

Why do I think I have any authority in this matter?

Well, I’m not saying I do. But after nine internships, I think I’ve got a handle on how to get the most out of one. (However, I continue to learn ways to get even more from them. That’s just learning, folks. It’s never-ending.)

For reference, I’ll tell you where I have interned but for privacy’s sake I won’t really go into what I did for them. Also, all opinions here are my own and don’t reflect that of a single one of these places listed. Okay? Let’s go.

1. Eric Mower and Associates

2. Time Warner Cable Sports Network

3. Buffalo Bills

4. Buffalo State College Sports Information Office

5. Roswell Park Cancer Institute

6. Buffalo Sabres/Buffalo Bandits

7. IIHF World Junior Championships

8. Elmwood/Bidwell Farmers Market

9. Buffalo State College Institutional Advancement.

Whew! Okay, now that that’s done. Here are some tips I have for interning. Be it you’re just thinking of getting one, have already had one, or are moving on to your 10th.

Consider this your so-many-months interview.

I haven’t gotten a job out of my internships, per se, but I have seen it happen. Quite a few friends of mine were hired at the completion of their internships for entry-level positions. This is huge! Especially with how hard the economy is. But just remember, even if you’re in a position like me where you didn’t get an offer sheet, they remember you! That is if you’re doing this right.

Be who you are and it is what it is, but remember this is one long first impression.

Don’t be rude, duh. Don’t be gross, duh. Remember to be funny, but never crude, duh. Your supervisor might only be two years older than you, but you’re not friends. (Not yet, anyway). Don’t try to be the person they wish you were. It’ll never work if you try too hard to be someone who will fit in at your internship placement if you really don’t fit in.If you’re a hireable person, you’ll come off that way. Relax and be comfortable 🙂

You get out of it, what you put into it.

My production internship lead me to realize that I don’t want to go into production. What I got out of it was what production is really looking for from public/media relations professionals. I built from that. I may not be able to create cool news tickers or anything like that, but I know what I’ll need to know when I need something from the media. Same thing from my stint as a journalist. I may not want the life of a journalist, but I know what they need from me. What’s better is that I understand WHY the need it.

There is no such thing as a stupid question!

Okay, well there might be some stupid questions. But if you’re not 100% sure how to build a media list or know what resources you need to build it, ASK! Clearly, if you’ve been hired as an intern, you’ve demonstrated the basic skills they require of you. They don’t expect you to know everything. Even if you feel like you should know way more than you do. Learning is an ongoing experience. You’ll see seasoned pros referring to their AP Stylebooks.

Go above and beyond.

There aren’t nearly enough fingers and toes around me to count how many times I’ve done something to show my dedication to my placements. Even if it’s something as simple as asking “Do you need anything else?” or just saying “If you need any volunteers, please let me know.” I’ve volunteered to do so many extra things on the side of these internships because A. they remember this and B. it’s extra experience to gain. It’s as simple as that.

Know your placements policy on social media. Don’t just sign the waiver. Understand it.

Yes, I had issues with over sharing on social media. Thankfully, it didn’t cost me my internship because if it had I might have become a devastated and disgruntled college student. Know what I say? Play it safe. Don’t really talk about your placement. Period. This is totally up to you, use your best judgment, but I’ve been basically living by this rule since my close call. Know what your employer wants. Have your own social media ethic. I became nearly obsessed with the topic since said close call.

You don’t have to like them, but you do have to work with them.

This one is courtesy of Mrs. Nephew. She’s been telling me that since my first group project in Kindergarten. She’s told me that I won’t like everyone I work with, that’s inevitable, but I will have to work with said people. Maybe I fumbled with this one at one point, which would have been to the dismay of Mrs. Nephew, but I never not worked with someone just because we didn’t get along. Those times I fumbled with working with others, not my proudest moment(s), but I learned. Again, that’s why we get internships before we enter the real world!

And last, but not least…

Have the time of your life.

I consider my entire college experience (academically and professionally) a positive one because of my internships. I’ve had so much fun with my different experiences. Working with sports professionals, media professionals, and some of the most influential people in Buffalo, has been a rewarding experience. To say it was just a rewarding experience seems to lessen how I actually feel about my internships.

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I’m pretty sure there are some more insightful things I could provide but I’m in between taping shows at my current internship. It’s almost time to get back to work.

Also, I won’t get to my 10th internship. I graduate in two weeks and my time has come and gone in undergrad.

Although, there’s always graduate school…

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Edited from my smartphone: Gotta love these things.

One of my favorite lessons I learned being an intern?

People are so incredibly helpful and willing to help a hardworking college kid. This area, Western New York and Buffalo, is full of the most amazing people who I’m proud to say I’ve worked for. Such beautiful souls and plentiful minds. Never be afraid to ask for help!

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