04.25.2017

By Sarah Travaglini

Graduation and summer internship season is upon us. Can you believe it’s already here?

When I think back to when I was an aspiring PR intern, I remember the mix of emotions – excitement, anxiety, and eagerness (to name a few). Was I saying the right things in interviews? Did I have all the necessary skills to make it in the “real world”? Which position would be the right fit for me? I may have been a bit of a worrywart, but I’m assuming a large majority of our Silicon Valley PRSA members had similar experiences.

Now that I’m in the position of being a leader in my agency’s internship program, it all comes full circle. It’s made me think long and hard about what types of candidates to look for, what skills are needed, and what we as PR professionals can do to help uncover the talent of the future. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

How to spot stellar interns

Just like when hiring for full-time positions, there’s a process for weeding through resumes, conducting interviews, and determining if there’s a potential for a future with your company. While it can be tough to sift through the stack of resumes to determine who would be the best fit for your team, here are a few attributes to look out for:

Hand-raisers: No matter what type of previous internship or PR experience the candidate has, having the drive and desire to raise a hand and jump in headfirst is key. I think we all can attest to the power of being proactive. Whenever you interview an intern candidate, be sure to keep this in mind – your teammates will thank you later.

Team players with a willingness to learn: This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s an important element not to lose sight of in the interview process. While it’s important to look for candidates with confidence and public speaking abilities, it’s just as important to look for that team player mentality. Being able to collaborate with colleagues of all levels and backgrounds is essential to the work we do. Team players with the willingness to learn from others are the candidates that will stand out.

 PRSSA participation and engagement: Is the candidate an active PRSSA member? This is always something to keep top of mind. For those who come with PRSSA experience, you can be assured there’s a strong foundation in PR fundamentals already in place. Through PRSSA chapters, students are able to learn the basic skills to succeed in the PR world – and internships offer the chance to put these skills into action. Becoming a mentor to PRSSA members is a great way to network with rising PR stars too!

Internships are two-way streets:

Here’s how to get the most out of the experience (for you and the intern!)

We all know that internships are the stepping stone to full-time entry level positions. It’s with this in mind, we should all remember that we aren’t just trying to hire an intern for the summer, but hoping to ultimately hire a junior level team member. The amount of effort you put into managing the summer intern is just as important as what the intern puts into the experience. Here are a few tips on how to make the most of the internship experience for everyone involved:

Mentorship is key: Think back to when you were an intern. Did someone take you under their wing? I’m sure you can recall a manager that helped guide you in the right direction. This level of mentorship is critical to intern success. Having a support system in place for interns to feel comfortable raising their hand to ask a question or seek advice from a trusted counselor is something we as managers shouldn’t take lightly. I know you have 1,000 emails in your inbox to read, endless meetings to attend and your own ever-growing to-do list – but being a mentor to your intern needs to be a priority. You’ll both get so much more out of the experience if you do.

Networking requires practice: While the power of networking is emphasized in PRSSA, it’s really something that requires practice and patience. I’m not sure any of us feel TOTALLY comfortable doing it. But isn’t that the point? Putting yourself out of your comfort zone, learning how to professionally engage with others and building your personal brand all come with time. Encourage your interns to embrace the fear. Invite them with you to a PRSA networking event. Practice makes perfect.

The value of out-of-classroom perspective: While college might feel like ages ago for most of us, we have to remember the eye-opening realization that life out of the classroom is a whole new ball game. Internships offer that real world perspective that interns probably haven’t ever experienced before. When an intern doesn’t know something, use it as a teaching moment – and test yourself on how well you can apply your skills to being a teacher. Interns will need a coach to help them navigate the unchartered waters. And I know you are all capable of taking the time out of your day to shed some wisdom and knowledge on the future PR professionals of tomorrow.

So, now you know what to look for in stellar candidates – and how to make the most of the internship experience! Get out there and find the talent of tomorrow.

About Sarah Travaglini

A storyteller and PR expert, Sarah is a Senior Account Executive at FleishmanHillard, specializing in corporate reputation and media relations.

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