9 things to do at the end of your internship

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Jeremy Porter

Internships are 100 percent the No. 1 thing you’ll need on your resume to get that first job after college. The No. 2 thing you’ll need is proof you can write. Guess where you get that writing experience? Yep—internships.

To round out the list—and some will disagree with me on this—the No. 3 thing you need to land a job after college is connections. Again, if you play your cards right, you get some through internships.

If you did just put your internship to bed, or you’re about to, there are a few things I’d like you to do on your way out the door:

1. Say thank you.

Personally thank everyone you’ve worked with this summer. A handwritten note is my preference, but a sincere, verbal “thanks for the experience” is the minimum requirement. Provide specifics and leave the door open for future contact. For example: “I really wanted to thank you for the time you spent with me this summer. I know my knowledge on X, or what you taught me about Y will be useful in my career. I look forward to staying in touch as I continue my education or begin my search for my first job.”

2. Get connected.

Make sure you have people’s business cards. Make sure you’re following everyone on Twitter (or are subscribed to their blog). And for Pete’s sake, make sure you connect with them on LinkedIn. Turnover is high in PR and journalism; LinkedIn goes with people from job to job. This is how you’ll build your network over time. It’s important.

BONUS: If you did a great job in your internship (be honest, you know if you did or not), ask the highest-ranking person you worked with to recommend you on LinkedIn. Don’t be shy about this—endorsements on LinkedIn can save you time later on when you need references. Make it easier for the reference writer by giving them some starter points. 

For example: “Would you please write a recommendation for me on LinkedIn based on the work I did this summer? It would be great if you could comment on the work I did on project X or your satisfaction with the writing I did on Y.” 

Whatever it was that you did, having somebody comment on your work does a couple of things. It draws attention to you in their network, and it sticks with your profile for a long time.

3. Get your samples.

I hope you’ve been collecting copies of the work you did this summer. In most cases, the work you’ve done at your internship is the legal property of the agency or its clients. Make sure you ask your supervisor for permission to use those work samples in your portfolio. You’ll want electronic or hard copies of all the work you did this summer, because there’s no guarantee you can access this stuff later. Websites get replaced. Blog posts get deleted.

You might not think some of the things you worked on are relevant, but believe me, they will be. Save them all so you can customize your portfolio for each interview you do when you start your search.

4. Get coached.

You might be awesome. You might not. Regardless of what you think about yourself and your performance in this internship, ask your supervisor to suggest three areas you can improve on, based on his or her observations this summer. Tell them you want them to be brutally honest with you, because it’s the only way you’re going to improve. People would tell me how great my writing was in my internship, but when I look back a lot of it was sloppy and littered with errors (you know, like a lot of my blog posts). I wish they would have told me to keep working on my writing and editing, and that attention to detail is important.

5. Keep working?

Is there something you’ve done so well this summer that everyone is talking about it? Are people sad you’re leaving, because you don’t be able to do that thing anymore? Suggest to your boss that you keep doing it as a freelancer while you go to school. When I did my first internship in New York, I put together monthly clipping reports for clients (copies of all the press mentions for the month). They were a lot of work back then. I suggested I do the work from my dorm room in upstate New York. The company bought me a computer, leased a copier, and paid me a very good rate to do the reports each month. 

This type of opportunity is not the norm, but if you do something exceptional, you might be able to gain valuable work experience (and make some money) while you finish your coursework.

6. Stay in touch.

If you don’t keep working with them, be sure to stay in touch. Keep the lines of communication open. Let people know what interesting stuff you’re learning in school. Attend local Public Relations Society of America or press club events so you can socialize with former co-workers. Interview your co-workers for class projects (or consider inviting them to speak to one of your classes). Of course, if you’re following them on Twitter or Facebook, you can interact on a regular basis through those channels as well.

7. Say only good stuff.

There’s a chance you didn’t have a good experience this summer. Don’t talk about it publicly; it will get back to the agency. I’m not suggesting you lie to anybody, just don’t go around bashing the company that gave you a shot. (It will make people wonder what you say about them when they’re not around.) It’s OK to warn future internships professionally about what to expect, but keep it professional. Along the same lines, keep proprietary information confidential. Don’t talk about the new products clients are working on or their secrets to getting coverage in The New York Times. This will strengthen your own reputation over the course of your career.

8. Don’t burn bridges.

As an extension of No. 7, I have one “don’t” for the end of your internship. Don’t burn bridges. Even if you hated working with somebody with every ounce of your soul, don’t tell that person off on your last day. Don’t decide you’re never going to talk to that person again. It’s a mistake. If you follow the suggestions early on in this post with everyone you worked with this summer, you’ll establish a firm foundation for your network to grow in the future.

9. Share your experience.

You learned a lot this summer. Don’t keep it all to yourself. Blog about it. Talk about it in class. Encourage other students to pursue the same opportunities. Use that experience to fuel you. Learn more, keep practicing, and you will succeed. Share your experience and others will succeed with you—and that’s what it’s all about.

9 musts for every communications grad

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Robin Farr

In a recent post, HubSpot blog listed 20 things every marketing student needs to know. Great advice, so we’re going to spin that for all you communications grads about to hit the streets.

Here are nine things every communications grad should know (or do), broken down into stuff for right now, for when you start your new job, and for the rest of your life.

Right now

1. Learn basic HTML. Seriously, it will help you. You’re going to have to build content at some point, or at the very least fix something that’s gone sideways. Years ago, before I even planned to work in communications, I asked my husband to teach me how to make a website. He was a grump and made me learn HTML instead of using whatever website-building program was big at the time, but it’s been a very handy skill to have in my communications work. (Just don’t tell him I said that.)

2. Get active on Twitter. Chances are you’re well acquainted with Twitter already, but if you aren’t, get on there. You’ll find great connections and tons of resources and learning opportunities. A degree in communications from Twitter University is the best pretend degree you’ll ever get.

3. Having a blog isn’t really experience. Having a blog is great for a lot of things—writing, staying up to date on social media trends and technology, making connections, etc.—but developing and promoting your own content isn’t the same as being the voice of an organization.

When you start your first dream job

4. Communication is about more than writing. You have to be a good writer, which I listed as an essential skill for corporate communicators in an earlier post. But I’ve known too many communications newbies who think that working in corporate communications is all about writing. You also have to be able to develop a solid communications plan. You have to roll it out effectively. And being able to handle issues management doesn’t hurt either (see No. 7). Communications is also about more than sharing information. It’s about engagement, dialogue, building trust—all those warm fuzzies.

5. You’re going to hear “no.” And you thought the B you got on your final project was bad. Part of communications is being able to plan (see No. 4), and sometimes your latest brilliant idea will land with a resounding thud when it gets to the desk in the corner office. Sometimes people won’t want to word things the way you do. Sometimes (gasp!) they won’t want to communicate something when you know it’s important. Just expect it (and try not to take it personally).

6. Meet the important people in the company. That doesn’t necessarily mean executives. When you start, figure out who knows what’s going on, who can get things approved fast, and who is a communications champion. These are all very helpful people to know.

7. Proofreading is good for the soul. This is true whether it’s your own writing or someone else’s. Just do it.

For the rest of your life

8. You can never really know how people will react. This ties into the aforementioned issues management part of the job (see No. 4). Companies do things all the time that their audiences—whether employees or customers or the general public—don’t like. The message can be taken the wrong way even when intentions are good, so here’s my advice: Be clear. Be thorough. Be prepared to respond.

9. Don’t be afraid to be creative. I’ve seen way too many communications efforts that are so dull you’ll wish you were back in the lecture hall. Please, please don’t contribute to that. Creative is good, trust me. So there you have it. Whether or not you’ve walked across the stage yet, you’re officially ready for your career in communications. Congratulations, and good luck out there.

My millennial sister is moving to Texas

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Jessica Levco

I’m celebrating my four-year anniversary of living in Chicago.

This year, I’m turning into an adult—a real person, with real responsibilities. I bought a condo. I water my plants. I’ve run two half-marathons.

But it wasn’t always this way.

Four years ago, when I moved here, I had no idea what I was doing. I had no job, no friends (OK, OK, maybe one or two), no money, no food, nowhere to live—nothing.

But it’s amazing that over time, all those “no’s” have turned into “yes’s.”

Now, it’s my sister’s turn to make some “yes’s” of her own.

She graduated from college last May. After realizing that living with mom and dad isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, she’s moving to Austin, Texas this week with a friend of hers from college.

She keeps asking me for advice on how she should be living her life.

How do I buy a car? How much should I spend on rent? How do I get a job? How long should I boil water to make  spaghetti?

Millennials face an endless amount of questions when they first start out. Unfortunately, I don’t have an endless amount of answers.

But maybe you do. Readers: what advice would you give to my sister? 

Post-grad millennial life – or what I miss most about college

Lauren Yanow

It finally hit me.

I am not going back to college.

Everyone told me this would happen, but I figured I had adjusted well to post-grad life and might not even notice.

This summer felt like every other summer I’ve had for the last four years. I got an internship and was working on building my resume, instead of building my tan.

Nothing seemed different or out of the ordinary.

Of course, my diploma arrived and the photos of me in a cap and gown were on Facebook. But it just didn’t seem real. My internship became a full-time job and I now have entered the lifestyle of working 40 hours a week.

Now, I see pictures of younger friends attending tailgates and hanging out at my favorite college town bar.

I’m not there.

Instead, I am living the post-grad life back in Chicago.

Here is what I miss the most:

1.     Sleeping

I’m not embarrassed to admit that I always chose classes based on what time of day they were offered. There is a reason I never had a class before 10 am. Oh, and naps. I miss them, too.

2.     Walking

Walking around my college campus to get to class was the most aerobic activity I did over the last four years. Now, I just take the elevator downstairs to get lunch.

3.     Weekends starting on Thursday

Enough said.

4.     Free stuff

My closet is stuffed with free T-shirts I collected in college. Now that I’m a professional, I need to make room for some blouses.

5.     Cheap drinks

Living in Chicago is not cheap. And neither are the beers. In my college town, you could get a full price beer for $3, but now I am lucky to find one under $6. Oh, well. Guess that’s what my paycheck is for.

What do you miss about your college?

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10 ways to act like a dream intern

Jessica Levco

When you’re in college, nobody tells you how to be an intern.

 That’s too bad.

 Because once you land your internship, your employer wants you to act like one.

 Recently, the career development representative at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) invited me and a bunch of A-list Chicago journalists who’ve made it to their tops of their careers in newspapers, magazines, and PR for dinner to pick our brains about how we could help turn J-school students into dream interns.

 Here’s what we came up with:

  1. Work later than everyone else. One woman said she turned her internship into a job because she would stick around until 7 p.m., willing to help anyone do anything—even if it was something as simple as mailing a package.
  2. Ditch the millennial crowd. It’s great if there are young people at your office, but don’t be an ageist. And let’s face it: Those older, mid-level managers are the ones that are going to hire you, anyway.
  3. Pick out an office role model. If you’re unsure of how to “act” at your first job, follow this person’s lede (pardon the pun).
  4. Invite someone out for coffee. Take the initiative to learn as much as you can about the company you’re working for.
  5. Learn new skills in social media. Whether you’re tweeting or adding people to your Google+ Circles, you need to be willing to adapt to change.
  6. Keep up with your selected industry. For budding journalists, one woman at dinner quipped: “They should know Romensko.”
  7. Don’t just be an intern. Be the intern. Especially if your office has a lot of interns, don’t get lumped into one category. Get noticed.
  8. Wear appropriate clothes. You’d be surprised by how many people ignore this clichéd advice. Don’t dress like you’re boozin’ it up with friends on a Saturday night. Class it up.
  9. Interact. Don’t isolate yourself by sitting in your cube all day, listening to Arcade Fire on your iTunes. It’s OK to chit-chat with co-workers who sit next to you.
  10. Say goodbye. Don’t watch the clock and bolt out the door at 5 p.m. Stop by your supervisor’s desk and say, “Hey, is there anything else you need from me today?”

Do you have any tips you’d like to share from your internship experience?

Where will you be in five years?

Lauren Yanow

When I got home from work yesterday, there was a letter on my bed.

It was from me.

The return address read Homewood-Flossmoor High School, where I graduated from in 2007.

I ripped open the envelope and found a typed letter in my favorite century gothic font. The date in the upper right corner said August 22, 2006.

Lauren,

Today is the second day of your senior year of high school. Congratulations.

As I continued to read, I realized this was a letter I wrote to myself in my senior year creative writing class.

The assignment was to write yourself a letter, put it in a sealed envelope, and write your parents’ home address on the front.

I opened mine to find a meaningful and funny letter to myself. I wrote about my passions, friends, family, goals, and dreams. But the last paragraph stood out the most.

When you were 17, you hoped that in 5 years you would be done with college and either looking for a job or hopefully already have one lined up. If you are lucky enough, you have already landed a job with a fashion magazine working with layouts because when you were 17 that’s the only thing you could have imagined yourself doing. If not, keep working at it. You know what you are good at and you should inspire to do whatever your heart desires. Good luck with your future endeavors.

OK, OK, so I’m not working at a fashion magazine, but it’s safe to say that I work at a job worth dreaming about.

When I wrote that letter five years ago, the economy was better. There was no reason to think I wouldn’t have a job right of college. Reading it now, I realize what an accomplishment it is to have a job two months after graduation.

So, what did I learn from reading my letter?

Setting goals is important. But what’s even better is being able to look back and realize you accomplished the goals you set for yourself. Now, five years later, I’m getting ready to write myself another letter.

I hope that 27-year-old Lauren enjoys it as much as 22-year-old Lauren enjoyed this one.

Your first real job: 4 tips from a millennial

By Kristin Piombino

Congratulations to all the new college grads out there!

Toss your tasseled hat into the air; take last-minute pictures of all the campus landmarks; and stay out all night with your friends at your favorite bar because in a few weeks, you’ll be sitting behind a desk with a Real Person Job.

But don’t worry.

As a May 2010 grad, I can assure you that joining the workforce as a millennial can almost be as much fun as college.

Almost.

As one of the newest millennials to join Ragan’s Millennial Mafia, I wanted to share what I learned during my first month on the job.

1. Seize opportunities, even if it’s not ‘work’ related

If someone invites you to lunch, go. If there’s a networking event on Friday night, go. If the person in the neighboring cubicle asks you to join the workout group after work on Wednesday, go.

Get to know the people you’re working with. Not only will you have friends and enjoy going to work every day, you will feel more comfortable around your co-workers and be more inclined to share your ideas.

The faster you can start contributing, the better.

2. Don’t turn your work in late

Keep track of your to-do list, meeting schedule and upcoming projects. Why? If you don’t get something done on time, other people’s projects could be affected. This is much worse than getting docked a letter grade.

Also, communicate openly with your boss. If you have a long-term project, let your boss know your progress and when he or she can expect it to be finished. This shows that you’re reliable and hard working.

3. School’s out! But the learning never stops

No matter what the job is, you won’t know all of the material you’re going to need on day one. Be prepared to learn. As a writer and editor, I’m currently learning basic HTML. Maybe you will have to learn a new technology or another language. Whatever it is, be ready to take a lot of notes, ask questions and master it.

4. Go beyond the first impression

Your first impression doesn’t end when you ace the interview and accept the job offer. The first few weeks on the job are essential for proving yourself. Show that you’re excited to be there and that you’re willing to work hard. Take initiative on extra projects, work quickly and be friendly with your co-workers. You’ll prove that you’re dependable and hard working, and quickly gain more responsibility and interesting assignments.