You don’t know what you don’t know; never was there a truer piece of advice spoken.
Strangely enough, since I first heard the words at a conference in high school six years ago, I have lived by this advice, passed it on, and used it as a mantra. In work, I have supervised staff members and urged them that when in doubt, all they need to do is ask. In school, I challenged my classmates’ theories and ideas simply because I didn’t know differently and I was open to their perspective. In my personal life, this advice pushed me to grow and focus on leadership development in ways I would have never predicated.
Little did I know, I was going to use it every day in pursuit of a career as a Denver public relations professional. I strongly believe there has never been an instance in which I have applied it more than when I was at my internship with Pushkin Public Relations. In the end, school can only teach you so much, but my internship gave me an in-depth, hands-on experience that will stick with me throughout my career.
As a strong believer of passing on the wisdom that is passed on to me, I wanted to create a handful of tips for anyone who is at an internship, seeking one, or getting out of one. These are just few of the lessons I learned and I hope they can help you.
Always ask questions – My professors, parents, and friends weren’t lying when they said there is no such thing as stupid question. There isn’t. Sometimes all we need is clarification. If I didn’t ask questions, I would have never gotten the answers I needed or realized what else I didn’t know.
Make your goals known –When I first met with my supervisor, we talked about goals and what we each hoped to gain from this internship. Admittedly, voicing my opinion to him for the first time was a little intimidating. He knew and had done more than I ever did! One of my goals was to try everything I could and I was only able to accomplish it because my supervisor empowered me ito do so.
Supervisors don’t read minds – When I was first invited to help with media relations at Denver’s annual PrideFest, I was beyond nervous because I never dealt with journalists face-to-face before. I was plagued by the concern that I would mess up somehow. Because I asked my supervisor questions and admitted that I was nervous, he was able to offer encouragement and train me for success in my role. He wouldn’t have known I needed unless I told him. The best thing to do is speak up.
Voice your opinion – This helped me grow in my presentation skills, my confidence, and my certainty. As interns, we come with new and fresh insights about the public relations field. We can offer ideas that someone else who has been in the industry longer may not think of. Offer your opinion when you can; you never know, it may be the missing piece the company needs.
Create boundaries – As an intern who had the opportunity to work from home on occasion, boundaries were essential. I created them with work, family, and friends. For anyone considering the remote digital nomad route, be sure to create boundaries, even at home. It can be as simple as saying that when you are working, don’t disturb you or ask you to run errands. Otherwise, work can bleed into your home life and vice versa.
Never stop reading – Public relation professionals are expected to be up-to-date on news and best practices for their clients. The bonus is that all that reading can also be used for your own professional development. As a young professional, there are plenty of areas for growth and to narrow down your specialty. Keep reading and learning, so you can keep growing your knowledge and skill set.
Finally, accept critique – Honestly, I couldn’t live without it. Honest feedback, positive or negative, has helped me grow as a professional and as a person. I have learned that critique is simply pointing out areas for improvement and skills that can be developed. It isn’t an attack at who I am. This doesn’t mean it’s always easy to hear, but we all have areas to improve on professionally. Accepting and considering critique is one of the best things we can do for ourselves.
Internships are a time to push yourself. My fellow interns, go out there and give it everything you have. Don’t be afraid to fail. In the end, you grow from failure too. I’ll always be thankful for my internship with Pushkin Public Relations and I can only hope that what I learned and have passed on will help you grow too. Good luck!