Second post of the week. So far, so good. Just three more days to go!
For this one I thought I’d write about how to make the most of your placement year, because I definitely tried my best and in result, had the best year of my life. If you’re about to embark on a placement year, considering doing one or even if you’re just interning for a short period of time, here’s a few tips on how to make the most of your time at your internship/placement:
1. Have the right attitude
Hopefully whichever placement or internship you have chosen to embark on, it will be in an industry that you are passionate about and also within a sector that you hope to work in, in the future. Otherwise, why are you wasting your time?!
For anything you do, you should have a positive and hardworking attitude from the get-go. Before you start, you should think about what you want to achieve by the end of the placement. For me, my goal was to be the best intern the PR team had ever had. Whether I achieved that? I will leave that up to my team. But I know that I worked as hard as I could to be as good as I possibly could and I’m happy with how the year has went. For everything you set out to do, always have an end goal in mind.
If you show up with the right attitude every day, you’re 90% of the way there. The other 10% is maintaining that attitude right through until 5pm. Keep positive, take everything as it comes, know that nothing is the end of the world and that tomorrow is a new day to start all over again.
2. Take every opportunity you can
This one I tried my best to do. Every invite that made its way into my inbox, I was on it within seconds, replying with ‘ME PLEASE’ for every event that I could get involved in. I could have chosen to spend my nights at home, not bothering to travel into central London or just let certain opportunities pass me by due to comfort.
Who would have known that when I signed up for the Nasty Gal pop-up store opening that Ed Westwick would walk into the shop while I was stood by the entrance? That I would attend an intimate private screening of a movie and Woody Harrelson would show up to do a Q&A? If I didn’t take any of these opportunities, these life-changing events may never have occurred. Yes, seeing Ed Weswick in the flesh was life-changing. Do you know how addicted I was to Gossip Girl?!
Take every opportunity you are offered (within reason of course) as you never know when you’ll get an opportunity similar. Plus you never know what kind of wonderful surprises could pop up, the people you could meet or the connections you could make.
3. Be prepared to go the extra mile
Today I left the office at 7pm. Not an uncommon event over the past few weeks, but I’ve had a lot to get through. When I know that I have work to do and want to give myself a head start, I’ll stay an extra few hours to get through it. Or I’ll take my laptop home and do the work while I watch Love Island. There are many days when I work over my lunch break and just eat at my desk, but there are also days I take my full hour and do a gym class during my lunch. You will have to anticipate your own workload and whether you want to keep firmly on top of it.
If you’re working in the PR industry, it’s very likely you will have events to work at or attend past working hours or even at weekends. If you love your job, this shouldn’t be a problem. But just know that it’s likely.
4. Network, network, network
You’re in an industry full of professionals. Use your time wisely and ask as many questions as you can. What’s your manager’s career background? What’s their most and least favourite parts of their job? Is there anything they wish they had done differently in their career? What do they look for in the perfect intern? (Just hope they say you!)
From working in London, I’m surrounded by so many internationals and people that have so much experience in various fields. Ask questions so you can learn from them. Ask about their job and why they chose that career path. Connect on LinkedIn. Make as many connections as you can, whether personal or professional. Let them know about your interests and plans for the future as everyone knows, it’s a small world and they may just know the right person to help set you on your way.
5. Don’t take your position for granted
Like I said in my last post, this entire year has been a whirlwind. If you’re undergoing a placement year, remember the competition you fought off to be granted the placement position. Prove to your team that they made the right decision, but be careful not to get too big for your boots. You may feel like part of the furniture after a few months but always remember you are still an intern and this year is for you to learn. If there becomes a point when you feel like you have nothing left to learn, it’s time to move on. That, or you’re doing something wrong.
You are in such a valuable position, being able to get work experience for a full year and then the beauty of being able to return to university for final year so that you can decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You have a full year to learn as much as you can, do as much as you can and gather as much information and knowledge about your chosen sector that you can.
6. Get involved in as much as you can
Whether it be meetings, training sessions, ideas you suggest to your team – just get stuck in. Show your enthusiasm by asking to get involved with as much as possible. Take on as much responsibility you think you can handle. The more you get involved with, the more you will have to show for your year of working and the more you can talk about in interviews in the future.
Offer to help on as many things as possible. Never be sat with nothing to do. I can’t stress this enough. There’s nothing worse than an intern or work experience student sat doing nothing but also saying nothing. At placement level, hopefully this should no longer be the case. Hopefully.
7. Small jobs aren’t for small people
The shit jobs may be shit, but someone’s got to do them. And as the assistant/intern it’s your job to do them. Whether it be unboxing stock, tidying up the work area, counting stock, printing hundreds of press releases, packing bag after bag – it has to be done. Every person that has worked in PR has started off doing the exact same jobs and you won’t be any different. I wasn’t either.
But one thing I loved about my team was that when there were a lot of bags to be packed or boxes to be put away, they helped. Even at manager level, no job is too small. Your team is your unit and will never see you struggle or overwhelmed.
You may curse the small jobs at the time, but you learn the ins and outs of your job by doing these tasks and everyone in your position before you has had to do the exact same thing. It’s basically a ritual in PR. The PR girl with her head stuck in cardboard boxes.
8. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK QUESTIONS
The worst thing you could do during your placement is be unsure about how to do something and say nothing. No one will know you’re struggling if you stay silent. You are there to learn and to perform well, and your team is there to help you along the way. If PR is your chosen industry, communication skills should be in your top three.
When you first start out, everything will be very new and it will take a while to get your head around certain things but never suffer in silence. Even if you don’t have the confidence to vocally ask your manager how to do something, send them an email asking for five minutes of their time. No question is a stupid question. Except if you’re 11 months in and you ask what a press release is. Then you’re in trouble.
9. Write things down
Your placement year might fly in or it may feel like it’s dragging on for a lifetime. Either way, we both know that when it gets to the end of your placement, you won’t remember every project or task that you got involved with, every event that you attended or every significant thing that happened you during that year. For me, I basically made an online journal. I posted monthly round-ups on here about everything I had gotten up to in that particular month. Now I’m able to look back at any month and be instantly reminded of everything that happened. This also came in really handy for writing my placement logs, so you may want to do something similar.
Make a note of things so that you will be able to talk about them in future interviews, add to your CV or even add to your LinkedIn. Whether you got great coverage (did I mention that Vogue piece?) or an organic Influencer post or maybe even a presentation that you had to give to your whole department. Whatever it is, make a note of it.
10. Give it your all
How to make the most of your placement is to give it everything you’ve got. Be passionate about your work, walk in with energy every morning and do your job to the best of your ability.
Whatever you do, don’t let it pass you by because it will be over before you know it. How I only have three days left, I just don’t know. I would give anything to go back to July last year so I could re-live it all over again.
Give yourself a purpose. Remind yourself every day why you chose this industry and why it is you love what you do. Remind yourself of the end goal and work every day to achieve it. Embrace your placement and make every day count.