Kelsey Mohring (’12)
The American economy is limping. The job market is tough. And new college graduates are feeling the pain. There is one tool at their disposal, however, that’s a great way to finesse a job. An internship, the proverbial foot in the door, provides an avenue to transform job prospects from discouraging to promising.
The advantage to an employer is clear: inexpensive and sometimes free labor, as well as the opportunity to see how a potential employee works and fits into the company environment. For the intern, the benefits are even greater — hands-on experience, the chance to hone basic work skills, demonstrate their value and, best of all, become strategically positioned for a great job. One clever JMU alumna, Kelsey Mohring (’12), a magna cum laude graduate in communication studies, is mastering the art of interning. While at JMU, she interned with JMU’s Office of Public Affairs. Now, she’s interning with CRT/tanaka. Recently, we caught up with Kelsey. She writes..
I did an externship with CRT/tanaka in high school, which led me to pursue an education in public relations at JMU. As an account coordinator at CRT/tanaka, I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of clients including Wilsonart, Cambria Suites, Air New Zealand, BISSELL, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers, the Partnership at Drugfree.org and Web.com. I work on research, social media, media relations, strategic planning and day-to-day tactical execution for our clients. One of the most notable projects I worked was conducting blogger and Twitter outreach for the Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Medicine Abuse Project, which launched in September. I garnered over 31 million impressions and secured tweets from Maria Shriver and Larry King in support of the five-year campaign to end prescription drug abuse among teens. At CRT/tanaka I have had the opportunity to learn from some amazing minds in the PR field and I have grown immensely from the experience.
Earlier this month, Kelsey published a blog post about how to handle that all-important internship. Reprinted with permission from CRT/tanaka Buzz Bin, here’s Kelsey’s best advice:
By Kelsey Mohring (’12) (@mohrinkd)
Quick disclaimer: What you are about to read is about the PR industry as well as the transition from college to the real world, making it in a new environment, discovering your strengths, weaknesses and passions and making some mistakes along the way. So, if you aren’t ready for a life chat, turn back now.
I have grown immensely in the past five months as a CRT/tanaka Account Coordinator. I was one of the lucky few who actually graduated from college with a job and was excited to enter the professional realm, feeling like my college career had prepared me to offer value to a team. What they don’t tell you in college is it ALL changes in the real world. Suddenly research that you did hundreds of times for papers needs to be more in-depth; pitching isn’t just sending a quick email, but actually calling reporters; a lunch break becomes nonexistent (despite what Applebees might want you to believe), so you have to become skillful at eating and typing at the same time; and you now have to carry the weight of worrying about finances. Oh, and all of this is occurring at a pace you never experienced safe within your college bubble. The good news is, once you get the hang of it, you’re able to reflect on what you’ve learned and accomplished and can look back and say, “Take that, Real World; I made it!”
Here are my top 10 takeaways from my experience thus far:
1. Be humble
You may come out of college as a straight-A student, thinking your skills and excited attitude could add a lot to a company, and you’re probably right. Even so, your work and your attitude should be able to speak for themselves. Confidence is important (this industry would beat you down without it), but cockiness is unnecessary, and frankly kind of annoying.
2. Be a sponge
Listen in on as many client meetings, brainstorms and ordinary office conversations as you can. This is your chance to learn about the different facets of the industry, experience various clients and assist in multiple and varying projects. Soak up the knowledge of the talented people around you.
3. Be slow to speak
If you have something valuable to offer, by all means do so. But, carefully think about when you want to speak up and when it may be better to listen (while furiously taking notes). This is an important skill, because when mastered, people know that when you speak it is going to be good!
4. Be kind
You would be surprised how far this can get you with colleagues, contacts and clients. In an office environment, constructive criticism is important, so, yes, you have to learn how to take it. However, we should also start trying to catch people doing things right. In relationship psychology, they speak about the 5-1 rule, meaning you should have 5 positive things to say for every 1 criticism. The type of positive work environment resulting from this practice might just make for employees who are more passionate and productive.
5. Be social
This is applicable in a few different ways. Firstly, maintain a social life of some kind. Going home on Friday night and sleeping until Monday morning is just not acceptable (even though it sometimes feels necessary). Make the effort to get out. Secondly, if you aren’t already being social online, start. Read blogs, make comments, tweet, re-tweet — do whatever you need to do to start building connections in the PR world. You never know when that food blog you have been following for years may become your next pitching assignment (trust me, it happened).
6. Be positive and stay strong
Once all of the stress of being a grown-up hits you, this one becomes difficult, but is essential. There are days when you might get yelled at by an angry blogger for asking how he was doing (also happened), you run a Vocus search and get booted off just as you complete your 200-person list of contacts, you are starving because you haven’t mastered the eat-and-type, then a client calls on Friday at 4:59 p.m. with a last-minute request. It sounds cliché, but try to keep your chin up. First, because poor posture will give you a back ache on top of a bad day. But second, because you are going to have lousy days; it’s is just part of the real world. Remind yourself you are capable, smart and valued and that tomorrow will (hopefully) be a better day.
7. Be open
I came to CRT/tanaka with no strong indication as to where my talents and passions in PR lie. As a result, I tried to look at any project that was thrown my way as an exciting opportunity. This helped me discover that I enjoy conducting formal research and I can skillfully run a social media audit. I would never have known where my true interests lie if I wasn’t open to every opportunity.
8. Be overly helpful
Make the extra effort. When I first started here, my mentor told me, “Your job is to make the person who’s next in line’s job easier,” which I think puts it perfectly. This means researching a blog’s unique monthly visitors before suggesting a client team respond to their ProfNet inquiry. Even when creating an informal document, make it neat and easy to read (Hint: provide an executive summary to make it even easier to digest). And, in any meeting, take detailed notes, even if no one else in the room is. You just may be the person they turn to when they forget about that brilliant idea someone had but they never wrote down.
9. Be able to pitch, develop a media list and conduct research
These tasks are never going away and they are crucial tactical skills for our job, especially upon entry into PR. Also, learn how to provide social media content, and learn about monitoring and measurement tools like Cision, Vocus, Radian6 and Traackr – you’ll be more valuable to your team.
10. Be ethical
Never compromise your personal morals for your job. What’s even more ideal is finding a job that shares your values and a company culture that fosters your ethics. I chose CRT/tanaka because of their “Shared Values” which I felt matched perfectly with my personal attitude towards life. Find a place that you feel does the same for you.
I’m not going to say the real world doesn’t still scare me, or that I have somehow mastered this “grown-up” transition period, but I will say that “I made it!” and I learned a lot along the way.
Are you wrapping up an internship in the PR industry? What has your position taught you about yourself and about life?
Nice piece, Kelsey. How would you answer Kelsey’s final questions? How has an internship changed your future?