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How to Survive an Advertising or Public Relations Internship

You hear your professors and peers say over and over again how important it is in the marketing, advertising, public relations and communications industries to get internships while attending college.

Internships not only put you ahead of your competition for the post-grad job search, but they also provide valuable insight into the industry in which you plan to dedicate your future career.

Taking you out of the classroom and placing you in real-life settings where your studies are brought to life, internships put you in action and let you see what roles are right for you.

Getting your feet wet at an advertising agency can really show you what your future career may be like.

So, taking this all to heart, you got an internship. Now what? As a seasoned intern, I have gained countless nuggets of wisdom practicing advertising and public relations for a variety of companies. Here, in this internship survival guide, I have collected some of my top tips acquired from my own personal interning experiences.

Observe Before You Act

In the first week of your internship, hang back to get a feel of the office culture. As a new intern, you are going to be very eager to please. Often times, this eagerness can lead to interns coming on too strong and accidentally becoming annoyances. Test the waters of your new work environment first before you throw yourself in.

Every company is different, as are the people who work within each one. While some businesses love fun, friendship and exuberance, others may enjoy a toned-down atmosphere. By using the beginning of your internship to absorb your office surroundings, you will soon learn how to best handle yourself and your position.

Advertise Yourself Through Your Wardrobe

This phrase is so overused that it pains me to write it, but always dress to impress. In some offices people dress very casually, and it will be tempting to follow suit. However, you never know when a special opportunity comes up that requires professional attire.

Once during a past internship, my boss invited some of my fellow interns to attend a client meeting with her. Seeing that they were dressed casually in shorts and tank tops, like a usual day at the office, she quickly retracted her offer.

You never want to miss out on a valuable learning experience, so always dress in a way that represents yourself and the business in the best way possible. Never be an intern that the company feels like they need to hide.

Be an Independent Thinker

Something that you will discover quickly is that your supervisors are very busy people. They will not always be available to give you projects to work on.

Know how to busy yourself, but in a productive way. When you find times that you don’t have anything to do, never resort to checking Facebook or goofing off. I promise you that the one time you let yourself browse your social media pages, it will be the one time your supervisor comes over to check on you.

Instead, think of ways to improve the projects you have already done. If you finished your goals for the day, don’t be afraid to begin tomorrow’s. Impress your superiors by using your free time to better the company. Look at their social media presence (their pages, not yours) and think of ideas of how it can be improved. No one gets mad at an intern for doing too much.

Remember an Internship is an Apprenticeship

Yes, companies often use interns as free labor, but remember that first and foremost your internship is meant to be a learning opportunity for you. Because you are still learning, don’t freak out if you mess up. It happens to the best of us, and you will probably learn more from that mistake than you will from doing everything correctly. Everyone in the office has been in your shoes before and made a few flubs.

In times of need or general curiosity, don’t feel like you are being a burden by asking questions. Your supervisors are here to help you and have a lot of knowledge to share. Show that your mind is pliable and jot down the things you learn in a notebook (that you should have on you at all times!) so that nothing goes to waste.

Also keep in mind that you have a lot to offer as well. Take on extra projects and volunteer special skills that you have outside of advertising or public relations. In another past internship of mine, I volunteered my photography skills to capture company events, instead of paying money to hire a photographer. My boss loved my photos and was both impressed and very grateful for my help.

Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!

Internships are amazing. The more you do, the more you learn. You will gain a lot of long-lasting professional and personal relationships that will help you navigate through your future career.

DSM may still have internships open for the fall semester! Email Jessica Panicucci at with your resume and cover letter if you are interested. Good luck!

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