This time, our excellent intern Kelsey takes over, blogging about what makes a good internship…
From that very first morning, when 400 eager undergraduate business students bundled into the lecture hall, we were confronted with all the possibilities of our future. Our lecturer stood front-centre stage and preached about how important these next few years would be as a basis for our careers; that we should take advantage of every opportunity Edinburgh provided us; and most emphatically, threatened us with the consequences of failing to achieve that all-important… Internship!! *cue dramatic music
So you can imagine my relief when I heard that I had been accepted for a placement with Skylark PR. The prospect of having life-long unemployment was already starting to seem less likely! However, in the run up to my first day, I began thinking about what I actually wanted to take from this opportunity, other than an impressive paragraph in my CV and a couple of newly added connections on my LinkedIn page. It led me to wonder what the ‘ideal’ internship really is, and if you’re not lucky to have been offered this, how do you make the most of the work experiences you are given?
It wasn’t until I was in the car, en route to Skylark, that the nerves started to kick in. My dad, a businessman himself who has hired several interns over the years, began reeling off some basic tips for my first day: don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something; don’t be afraid to approach other employees and ask what their job involves; don’t be afraid to take the initiative and put forward your own ideas…All good advice, but all requiring me to overcome those fateful words: being afraid.
As interns we are terrified of letting our employer down; of being a disappointment. No matter how many times we are told not to worry, that ‘’everyone has to start somewhere’, we hone in on our own lack of experience and expertise.
Perhaps it is this fear that ultimately prevents us from making the most of our internships; that it is our job to create the ‘ideal’ internship, rather than the employers.
I must admit, as I walked through the entrance into Skypark, my expectations were fairly low and perhaps a little cliched. I did expect to gain an overall understanding of what PR entailed, with the hope of achieving some insight into other fields such as advertising and branding, however, in simple terms, I thought my role would be nothing more than a glorified errand runner.
Oh how wrong I was! Not one coffee or tea did I make, nor did I spend any time at a printer, copying pages and pages of press releases that I would have nothing further to do with. From the get-go I was considered part of the team, given a desk, a Skylark email account and a cute little Acer laptop to work with. In fact, I got a shock when I found out my first task was to write the introduction for an in-house magazine. In my last two years at Edinburgh University I must have written at least 20,000 words for various pieces of coursework; yet writing this 100 word summary of exactly what I had in front of me seemed nothing less than daunting. It was my first chance to prove it wasn’t a waste of their time taking me on, so in my mind this piece of writing must rival the wording of Dickens and the poetic flow of Shakespeare.
After the task was completed, the fear of failure began to dissipate and I was able to relax into my role. My days consisted of both writing and following up on press releases, as well as communicating with clients and various media outlets. It was when I attended my first corporate event that I noticed a transition from ‘playing PR assistant’ to actually feeling part of the team.
Alongside Pauline and Lisa’s kind and down-to-earth natures, I attribute the benefits I gained from this experience, to the fact that Skylark is a relatively small company. There was ample opportunity for one-to-one time, where I felt I could ask questions without being judged. Personally, starting off in a massive corporation along the lines of your PwCs or KPMGs, would have simply overwhelmed me; put me off even.
The office presents a calm and informal atmosphere. As it is open plan, there were a variety of different companies that share the space. I was told at times they collaborated with one another and that I could speak to the other employees to find out what they do, and ask for their advice. It is these sorts of introductions that are invaluable, and cannot be taught in a textbook. Being given the chance to make connections is worth so much more than simply studying the theory; after all, nowadays it seems that to get a job it’s as much about who you know as it is about what you know!
Looking back on my time at Skylark, it’s quite clear that my expectations of being a lowly errand-runner were somewhat different to my actual experience as their Intern. We want a chance to learn more about the areas that excite us in business; to have that ‘Aaaah!’ moment where we can tie in what we’ve learnt in our lectures and actually apply it to a real life situation; to communicate with experts in the industry that actually seem interested in helping us along the way…
Lisa and Pauline have proved that this is not too much to ask for!