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Making the Most of Your Public Relations Internship

By on Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Internships play a vital role in helping young professionals make professional contacts, improve their skills, and see the real world links between what they are learning in the classroom and the real world. Here’s some tips on how to make the most of your internship with a nonprofit organization or an association:

Talk with your supervisor about what you’d like to learn – emphasize skill areas, not just tasks. Understand that what the organization or association needs may be very specific and well-defined, but let your supervisor know the areas you are most interested in. Even if your role involves a lot of prescribed tasks, he or she can keep an eye out for opportunities for you to work on those special areas of interest.

Don’t be a prima donna. Public relations can be a lot of hard work – and even drudgery when we are sorting thru media lists, doing database entry, tabulating media totals, and fretting over the minutiae of an event. Yes, there are moments of glory when we get to be in the spotlight as PR pros, but more often than not, we are shining attention on someone else – be it a cause, organization or industry. Don’t expect to be interviewed and in front of the cameras yourself.

Embrace hands-on learning. Offer to help when it’s obvious there’s a need for extra hands. Be willing to pitch in and get yourself a little messy if needed. Many nonprofits and associations are fairly small and staff pitch in to help on many projects, even those outside their area of expertise.

Write, write, write. One of the best skill sets you can walk away from an internship with, is the ability to write well under pressure. Nothing builds that type of skill set better than the real world pressure cooker of deadlines in the workplace. Ask your supervisor to help you in this particular skill area if possible. It may be-newsletter copy, tweets, brochure copy or a news release – but try to write if you can.

Journal about your experience. Reflect on what you are learning and write at least one paragraph a week in a journal about your internship. Record your observations and note the linkages between what you are doing and what you hope to do as your career progresses.

Get a reference letter. Always ask your supervisor to write a reference letter when you finish your internship and if you can list him or her as a reference. This will help you when you want to apply for other jobs.

Maintain a portfolio. Keep samples of what you worked on during your internship. Screen shots of a website, blog or social media posts can be helpful. Copies of printed materials you worked on are also useful.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, a virtual and independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media advice, writing services, and creative design work for publications and websites (portfolio). Ami blogs frequently about media relations, social media, public relations and other issues. She also reviews books on her blog about public relations, nonprofit life, work-family balance and social media practice. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.

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