Should interns be required to fetch coffee?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Sep 14, 2009 in Internships

I just read, “The new Gen Y employee refused to get coffee!

It makes me wonder what Gen Y public relations interns think about this. Feel free to comment anonymously if you’d like, but I’m really curious. Do you think it is OK? Or, is it unfair?

I have mixed feelings about it. As an intern, I expect to get less-than-glorious work on occassion. I don’t show up at an internship expecting to be counseling clients and pitching to CNN. Have I been asked to get coffee (or something similar)? Certainly.

But, in both cases the person asking me was nice and respectful about it. They didn’t act like it was my responsibility because I was the intern. In one case, it was lunch needed for a client meeting. In another case, it was for the students helping out with an outdoor commercial on a very chilly day. I didn’t mind at all.

But, I’m not sure how I would feel about being asked to fetch coffee daily because I was the intern. I don’t even drink coffee, so I don’t understand why people will wait in long lines to buy an overpriced coffee from Starbucks (just my opinion on Starbucks).

For me, it would depend on the internship experience. If I am learning a lot and growing my skills, I don’t think I would mind. If you are busy working most of the day, it’s kind of nice to step out of the office for a few.

But, if I were only given assignments such as fetching coffee, sorting mail and making copies, I might be disappointed in the internship experience.

What do you think as a Gen Y intern/employee? Or, what do you think as someone who manages Gen Y interns/employees?

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10 Things I’ve Learned During My First Month at an Agency

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jun 16, 2009 in Fahlgren Mortine, Internships

I’ve been working at Fahlgren Mortine for a month now. Here are 10 simple things I’ve learned so far:

  1. Double check everything. And then check it again. Then, just to be sure, check one more time.
  2. Turn in work “client ready.” Make sure everything is in the right font, color and size. Check on text wrap and images.
  3. Someone is watching you…so be enthusiastic in everything you do and be memorable.
  4. Network.
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  6. Take extra opportunities (like going to that optional meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m.)
  7. Pay attention to company culture and politics.
  8. Jump at any opportunity to get experience.
  9. Don’t be afraid to come in early or stay late when needed.
  10. Realize you’ll probably make a few mistakes. Own up to them, learn your lesson and don’t obsess about it too much.

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Agency Life: Tracking Time

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 28, 2009 in Career, Fahlgren Mortine, Internships

This is the first part in an ongoing series about working at an agency.

Even though it’s a very small part of working at an agency, tracking your time is very important.

For each task I do for every client, I must track how much time I spend working. I’ve discovered that this actually makes me more productive. At the end of the day, I have a quantifiable record of what I accomplished.

Tracking time also gives you a better idea on how long it takes to complete a particular kind of project.

Here are a three tips to make tracking time easier:

  1. Write down the start and stop time of each task you do. It’s not likely that you’ll be able to remember the times an hour or two later, let alone at the end of the day.
  2. When you complete the task, quickly calculate the amount of time you spent on the task. I hate doing a lot of math, so doing this saves me time and aggravation when it comes time to enter my hours in the program.
  3. When entering time and tasks into the program, highlight each task after you’ve entered it. This will keep you from entering it twice.

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Inked up: Are tattoos and piercings acceptable in PR?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 26, 2009 in Career

My recent post about wearing jeans brought up another thought related to perceptions and professionalism: tattoos and piercings.

Although I don’t have any tattoos and only have pierced ears, which never wear earrings since I seem to be allergic to most, I am still curious about how professionals and interns feel about this.

There are many inked professionals who keep their tattoos hidden. But what if you have it in an open area–like your neck, hand or even your foot? Are you concerned about how employers and coworkers might perceive you?

With piercings, what would an employer think about a nose ring? Or a tongue piercing? Or even an eyebrow piercing?

Although I have my own opinions, I’m more interested in hearing what you think.

Are tattoos and body piercings acceptatble in the public relations field? Have you ever not gotten a job because of your visible tattoo or piercing? If you are a professional, how do you think having a visible tattoo or piercing might affect potential interns or employees in your workplace?

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How do you dress for Friday’s?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 22, 2009 in Career, Internships, Public Relations

I wore blue jeans to work today…

Now before you go off in a big lecture about how I should always dress professional and dressing unprofessional could kill my career, let me get to the details.

First of all, I think professionalism and how you are perceived in the workplace are very important. There are many things I would never wear to the office, such as a tube top or mini skirt (especially considering I don’t own any!).

I’m not a style diva, but I am a cautious shopper. I even go as far as trying to buy closed-toe heels because a conservative employer might see it as “too much” and avoiding too much pink so I don’t come off as one of those girls who have no brains (have you seen Legally Blonde?).

On my first day of my internship, I wore a black suit. The next day I wore dress slacks and a button-up. But then someone said they generally “wear jeans on Friday.”

What!? Jeans? In the workplace?

This morning I had a serious debate with myself about the situation.

Should I really wear blue jeans? Will I be judged as a “lazy Gen Y intern” or sloppy? Is it really acceptable?

After going back and forth, I put on a pair of dark jeans with a nice shirt. Driving into work, I kept second-guessing myself. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn jeans, I thought to myself.

I didn’t relax until I counted several others wearing jeans.

What do you think is most appropriate for an intern? Is it acceptable for an intern to dress casually when the other employees are? Should an intern always dress business professional, even if they are told jeans are acceptable?

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If you’re a PR intern, what are you doing right now?

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 21, 2009 in Internships

It’s always hard to unwind after you’ve had a great day. I absolutely love working at Fahlgren Mortine. I also attended a PRSA Central Ohio mixer after work.

One of the greatest things about PR is the variety of things you can do on the job. Today, I was able to work Twitter-related things for a client. I think it’s great that this client wants to start tweeting to reach its audience.

I also will be working on a media monitoring project, all the way from outlining how I will monitor traditional and consumer-generated media, to doing the actual monitoring, to writing the reports.

If you are a PR intern, what are you doing right now? I’d love to hear about and learn from your experiences.

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First Day Tips for PR Interns

Posted by Rachel Esterline on May 20, 2009 in Internships, Public Relations

I started my internship at Fahlgren Mortine today. I learned how to use tools like Cision and Factiva. I also edited a media list and worked on researching editorials for a client. First days can be intimidating, so here are a few tips for your first day at a new internship. Nick Lucido also has a few reminders.

1. Be proactive about working from day one. If you’re not doing anything, review information about your clients, look through the manual or ask if there is anything you can do.

2. If you’re in a new city (or state, like I am), leave early in case you get lost or stuck in traffic. I actually drove to work before my first day so I would know the route and left very early in the morning to avoid the rush.

3. Ask questions. They expect that you won’t know what you’re doing. It is better to get things straight than to ask about simple things a month later.

4. Bring necessary information for HR. Sometimes they will need a copy of your social security card or your driver’s license.

5. Be excited. You’re an intern! You are one step closer to being a professional.

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Fahlgren Mortine Award: 5 Things I Realized When Applying

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 18, 2009 in Internships, Public Relations

I recently applied for Fahlgren Mortine’s Founder’s Award, which provides a paid summer internship and a $1,500 scholarship to a sophomore or junior. I had to submit a cover letter, resume, application form, two letters of recommendation, two writing samples and several completed assignments.

First of all, this was the most intensive internship application I have ever seen. To be totally honest, it was more work than some classes I have taken.

But, believe it or not, I had fun working on the assignments. The assignments enabled me to show the professionals at Fahlgren Mortine how I used my research, writing and PR skills.

Here are five things I realized (or was reassured about) when applying for this award:

1. Tweet to connect. Through Twitter, I found a news anchor who worked for the channel I wanted to pitch to. When researching, I was having trouble figuring out who exactly I would pitch to. I explained what type of client I was working for and what the pitch was about and she gave me several ideas of who I would contact, if this were a real pitch. Twitter once again is proved as a useful tool for communicators.

2. Brainstorm for ideas. One assignment was to create an event agenda.  I think I could have written a conference agenda with my page-long list. But, by brainstorming a lot of ideas, I was able to pick out the ones I thought worked best.

3. Crazy creative. I can’t completely suggest to be crazy creative, I guess, because I haven’t heard back about the internship. But, I created a logo for the client. The assignment didn’t say I needed to, but I felt the project would look better if it had one. Hopefully they don’t think I’m crazy for putting in the extra work.

4. Research, research, research. When creating the event agenda, I didn’t just choose speakers and activities that I thought would be good. I also researched venues in the city.  I was even able to choose which rooms I wanted to use for my event.

5. Paper matters. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I felt better putting my materials on nice, thick paper. It looked professional and clean. It might cost more money, but isn’t your career worth it?

Challenges inspire me. I’m not sure if it is because I like hard work, or if I just want to prove something, but I love a good challenge. The Fahlgren Mortine application was challenging, but I saw it as an opportunity to improve my skills. And, maybe I’ll even get an internship out of the deal! It was a great learning experience.

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Crafting Winning Cover Letters (PRofessional Development Week)

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Mar 6, 2009 in Career, PRofessional Development Week, Public Relations, Resume, Writing

This post is a part of PRofessional Development Week. This special week, originally to last from March 2 to March 6, will be extended until next week. If you would like to contribute to this special week on A Step Ahead, e-mail Rachel.M.Esterline {at} Gmail.com.

Heather R. Huhman is the entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com and the media relations manager at a national health care professional association.

You’ve heard it before, but I’ll say it again: Landing an internship or entry-level job is about who you know, what you know and how you show what you know. Your cover letter is a good tool for showcasing all three.

Hiring managers typically read your cover letter first. So, you really have to have them at “hello,” or the hard work you’ve put into your résumé won’t even matter.

· Use Arial or another sans-serif font. The size can be anything between 10pt and 12pt.

· Make sure your cover letter looks like a letter. You should develop a “letterhead” at the top that includes all of your contact information (including links to any professional, relevant social media profiles or blogs), followed by the current date and the organization’s name and address.

· If possible, address your letter to an actual person. Search the organization’s Web site, do a Google search, sweet-talk the receptionist, etc. If the position ad says not to call, that simply means the hiring manager does not wish to receive calls. So, when you reach the receptionist, do not ask for the individual—just his or her name and title. If you cannot track down the hiring manager’s name, personalize it as best you can—“Dear Public Relations Department Hiring Manager.”

· Believe it or not, your cover letter is about the company, not you—what you can do for the company and why you make a good fit for both the position and the organization.

· In your first paragraph, begin to tell your story, but don’t forget to include some vital information—what attracted you to that organization, the position for which you are applying and several characteristics/skills that make you the ideal candidate. Did an internal contact refer you to the position? Excellent—mention that here.

· Your second and third paragraphs, really show the employer (again, in a conversational, yet professional tone) that you can bring results. Using one example in each paragraph, outline a past accomplishment, why it was important at the time and why it would bring value to this position/organization.

· When sharing your accomplishments, try to be objective. There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. You should share what you did in a way that showcases your strengths, but doesn’t give the impression that you think you are a superstar who doesn’t need any help or can’t see that your success is dependent upon others.

· Your cover letter should be crisp, clean and have plenty of white space. That means not a lot of adjectives describing you. Stick to the facts. Use statistics, percentages and numbers to quantify your experience.

· In your fourth (and final) paragraph, indicate you’ve enclosed your résumé (and any other requested supporting documents) for review. This is also where you’d list your salary requirements if mandatory.

· If you’re applying for a position not located near your “local” or “permanent” addresses, indicate that, while you currently reside in another area, you are extremely interested in relocating and will do so at your expense. Do you have an aunt or a friend that lives there already? Even better—mention local connections.

· Provide a phone number and e-mail address where you can be reached. Don’t make them hunt for it in your letterhead.

· Include a sentence about your plan to follow-up—and actually do it! For example, “If I do not hear from you beforehand, I will follow-up in one week.”

· Thank the hiring manager for his or her time and consideration, and close your letter with “sincerely,” “best,” etc. and your signature.

· When you are done, ask yourself, “Did I sound interesting, or did I sound like a taped message?”

· Always e-mail your cover letter as a PDF attachment, not in the body of your e-mail.

· If you are submitting your application via an online system, include your cover letter in the same document as your résumé. Don’t leave it off!

Heather R. Huhman is the entry-level careers columnist for Examiner.com and the media relations manager at a national health care professional association.

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MWW offers internship & $5,000 stipend for an outstanding essay

Posted by Rachel Esterline on Jan 24, 2009 in Internships, Public Relations

Check out the latest guest post on PRos in Training about an internship with MWW.

The perks are:

  • Three-month long internship
  • $5,000 stipend
  • The opportunity to earn an internship with a 100-word essay

Go to http://www.mwwpr.com/change.

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