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.

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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.

4 ways thinking like Kim Kardashian can help you score your next job

Meredith Coburn

Say what you want about Kim Kardashian, but girlfriend knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to go after it. From TV shows, clothing lines, perfume, jewelry, tanning products, and other paid endorsements and appearances, there aren’t many places you can go without seeing her.

You might think she’s all fluff, but what if I told you that reality TV queen Kim Kardashian could actually teach you a thing or two about the best ways to market yourself for your next job?

Here are four things I’ve learned by keeping up with Kim:

Brand yourself

Branding is complicated, but when executed correctly, it’s one of the most powerful marketing strategies. One of my professors at DePaul University told me that branding is simply how people perceive you. They’re not objects you can pick up; rather, they’re intangibles (perceptions, reputations, personalities). The best branding strategies are so seamlessly executed that most of us don’t even realize they exist.

Kim Kardashian has turned herself into one of the most successful and profitable brands in the country. The women who buy Sketchers Shape-Ups or clothes from the Kardashian Kollection at Sears this fall aren’t buying the product—they’re buying the chance to look and feel like Kim. So, start thinking of yourself as a brand. How do you want people to perceive you? What makes you stand out? When you’re up against a lot of candidates for a job or internship, your answers to these questions will set you apart from the rest.

Message, not medium

Whether she’s on TV or Twitter (she earned $25,000 from Armani for a single tweet), Kardashian is always a part of the conversation. While most brands struggle with this aspect of their image, KK has got it down. And because she’s put her stamp on everything from Carl’s Jr. to a really terrible pop song (sorry Kimmy), her brand is ubiquitous. She’s always part of the media’s cultural conversation. It’s no wonder that the products she endorses enjoy frequent success and almost instant publicity.

You need to be actively involved in today’s competitive job market. The company you’re dying to work for? Follow them on Twitter, “like” them on Facebook, and join the conversation (but remember, privacy settings are your best friend: that picture of your perfect keg stand is not an ideal way to set yourself apart).

Expand your social network

Today, networking means many different things, and to set yourself apart from other millenials, you’ve gotta put yourself out there—in person and online. Attend networking events in the city. If you’re a college student, your university is probably flooding your Inbox with internship and career fair opportunities every week. Also, look for updates on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Our girl Kim K is queen of social media, and whether she’s chatting about her latest workout or asking her followers for their advice or feedback (all 10 million of them) she makes sure she’s a part of the conversation.

Kreativity is key

Brands need to market themselves in many different formats. Just because your TV ads were once wildly successful, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore other options. Marketing goals are often structured around a single question: “Are we bringing in the desired amount of sales?” If the answer is “no,” changes need to be made. Kim was certainly creative in marketing her summer 2011 nuptials: People Magazine reportedly paid $1.5 million for exclusive rights to Kim’s wedding photos, while E! received an undisclosed amount for the video footage (which will air in October as part of a four hour, two-part series).

While you should definitely network through the “assumed” channels (LinkedIn, career fairs, networking events) think of new and different ways to get yourself out there. Start a blog about your internship this summer. Go to networking events in the city. Take your favorite professor out for coffee. At the very least, you’ll learn more about yourself and be that much more prepared to enter the workforce.

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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.