An internship was once seen as a way to “get your foot in the door” in your particular area of interest. They were unpaid, rarely competitive, and consisted of mundane tasks such as getting coffee and making photocopies. If the opportunity didn’t present itself, one entered the career search with only a degree in hand and an “eager to learn” personality, and it usually all ended up working out in the end.PR_jobs

Today though, it is a completely different ball game. An internship is not just a resume builder but rather it is a resume necessity. If you can make it through your four (or more) years of undergraduate studies, graduate, and land yourself a job in your desired industry/field without having completed an internship, then I applaud you and ask you what your secret was?

The communications industry, specifically public relations and marketing, is one field where an internship – or several – are absolutely necessary and finding an internship can be just as competitive as finding your first full-time job. In many cases, a college degree holds little value to firms when there is not any relevant experience complimenting/accompanying it. I have had several internships in the communications field over the course of my undergraduate career and although inevitably not all of them have provided particularly enjoyable experiences, I roughed them out. They have all been exceedingly helpful in building my resume and giving me hands-on knowledge that I could not have gained in a classroom.

An internship has the potential to lead to a full-time career and if not, it can undoubtedly give you exceptional references that will hold extraordinary value to a recruiter and who knows who you could meet along the way? An internship is what you make of it and to make it successful, you must be willing and able to make a lasting impression on the organization or company. Coming prepared is vital and many of these preparations can be done before you even walk through the door on your first day.

Know the Company

Getting to know the background of the company, their mission, goals, team members, clients, and previous work is an extremely imperative aspect before starting any position. To be certain you even have a chance past the interview stage, one should – and must – do this research before the interview. Nothing makes an employer more certain that an individual is not fit for the position than if they do not have any prior knowledge of the company. Check out the website and read the copy thoroughly. Become familiar with their social media presence, and even read their blog posts. By doing this, you will be able to engage in a deeper conversation with the interviewer- or co-workers if you have landed the position- about the company and will appear interested and eager to be a part of the team.

Become a Social Media Guru

The world of public relations and marketing has moved way beyond the traditional printed publications. The Internet as a whole has even become secondary when it comes to branding your company and/or client. Social media is now HUGE and to be successful in this field, you must know every type of social media channel like the back of your hand and how to appropriately tailor your message and build your audiences. Simply knowing how to use them though will not suffice. Research into how competitors or other organizations have utilized specific sites or how particular sites are more relevant to different aspects of the work. Your employer will be impressed that your knowledge in social media goes beyond posting a wall post or sending a tweet and goes deeper into the branding aspect of these channels.

Create an Online Personality for Yourself

A resume will always be a timeless piece of information when it comes to applying for jobs, yet as our technologically advanced society continues to grow, so are our primary methods of getting to know others. Professionals in the communications industry, specifically with public relations, marketing, and advertising are not just going to read your resume; in fact they may not even read it first or second. It is your Twitter, Facebook, and blog sites that are going to be the first on their list to visit. While this has been used as a “filtering” tool in the past, companies are now using it to get to know your online personality, how you currently utilize these sites and if your usage and style could be beneficial to the company. If you don’t already have a Twitter, get one. Give it your own flair and personal touch with personality, but also try to include a decent number of relevant tweets and retweets regarding PR, marketing, or social media strategies. If you have a knack for writing, choose a topic that you enjoy and start a personal blog on it. Blogs are great material for writing samples and also give you an entire website to showcase an online personality that may stand out to a potential employer. Don’t forget to create and update a LinkedIn profile outlining all of your professional experience and accomplishments.

Learn the “Simple” Tasks

The job description of an intern will always come with simple tasks that need to be done by someone in the office, and that someone is usually the intern. Therefore, to make yourself efficient and impress your co-workers early on, learn those simple tasks beforehand. Figure out how to make double sided copies in an industrial sized copy machine, learn how to send a fax – yes, people still fax things today, knowing the ins-and-outs of Microsoft Office, familiarize yourself with how to update website content management systems, and definitely learn how to work a Keurig. All of these are tasks you will most likely take on without giving it a second thought, but speaking from experience you don’t want to subject yourself to the embarrassing question of how you work the fax machine.

Rather than think of an internship as solely a stepping-stone into the professional world, it is better to think of it as an extended and extensive job interview. Even if you find yourself as an intern with a company you do not see a future with, it is important to work just as hard and be that outstanding intern that the office talks about, as these are the people who will be providing references for that dream job. Use interning as not only a way to build your skills, but to network yourself as well, because you never know the potential benefits professional relationships can have for you in the future. The life of an intern is what you make of it, but if you properly prepare and continue to execute your very best work throughout your time and have fun, you will find immeasurable success