By Jess McNamara
1) How to interact with clients and media
This is an extremely important skill that you just can’t ever fully learn in a classroom. Interacting with clients and the media are the most basic components of a PR job, but they also can be the most intimidating. It’s likely that on day one of your first job or internship, you will have to talk to some sort of client or reporter, so it is something you need to get the hang of right away. Only first-hand experience can teach you how to appropriately talk to industry colleagues and develop a professional relationship. Even with the advice given in the classroom, you don’t really learn until you are on a phone call with a reporter who is on deadline and needs information in succinct soundbites.
2) Speak up and volunteer
Many college students will tell you volunteering in the classroom is a foreign concept to them. But new job requires active participation, especially while interning. It is vital that you speak up and volunteer at a job: ask questions when you have them and offer to do work that needs to be done even if not specifically assigned to you. In the real world there’s no participation grade, and volunteering shows leadership, work ethic and commitment. The more effort you put into your internship, the more you will be able to learn things that you can’t learn in class from your coworkers in the working world.
3) How to use a phone
Sounds simple right? It’s not. I’m not talking about cell phones; I I’m talking about land-line office phones, and if you are tackling your first real office job then this is definitely something you are thrown into on day one. Office phones are scary, they’re tricky, they ring a lot and they have more buttons than you can remember on day one. Mastering the office phone system is probably one of the most difficult things to learn, but you pick it up after a while. Personally, I am about two months into my Zimmerman/Edelson internship, and I still have a cheat sheet on my desk to remind me which buttons to press in each scenario.
4) It’s okay to make mistakes
Everyone will tell you this, but it takes actually making the mistakes to realize how true it is. In school, a mistake typically results in a bad grade, a direct consequence of whatever you did wrong. But in the real world people make mistakes and, believe it or not, other people tend to be understanding. You will make mistakes that you didn’t even know were mistakes, and you will make mistakes that instantaneously feel like the end of the world. As long as you own your mistake and do what you can to rectify the situation your coworkers will be understanding. After all, when you begin a new job you are still learning, just through real-world experience instead of through a text book.
5) The importance of listening
You will not understand how important listening is until you step out of the classroom and into a real job. Most students get into the habit of passively listening, scrolling through their phone, surfing the web or completing other work. But in a work environment, especially as an intern or junior staff member, listening is key. When you’re being assigned a task, you need to be paying attention to the details and noting all of the specific instructions. Although it is okay to go back and ask questions, it is far more impressive if you show initiative and that you can follow directions on your first attempt at the task. In the classroom the teacher is often there to help you. But as an intern, your goal is to help your coworkers, so try to make their day easier just by fully listening to the instructions you are given.