The Good Intern
New Year, New Goals
The First Day
Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

The few weeks right before school starts back up can be a hectic and exciting time for lots of students.  On one hand, you're excited to soon be reunited with friends you haven’t seen all summer, but on the other hand you're sad to say goodbye to those summer nights and having free-time, and for some… you're freaking out because you still haven’t managed to land a fall internship.

Although time is limited, it’s still not too late to find that perfect fall internship as long as you kick it into high gear starting NOW.

Be Prepared

Have an updated resume and writing sample ready to go; cleaning up all of your social networking profiles doesn’t hurt either.  

Use Who You Know

The people you know are one of the best resources for finding an internship.  The saying “it’s all about who you know” didn’t pop-up out of nowhere.  It’s not only about who you know, but who they know as well.  Call up your friends and acquaintances and let them know what kind of internship you’re trying to find and ask if they know of anyone in that field they could refer you to.  I once had a professor, who was also an attorney, and simply asked if he knew of any attorney’s in my hometown who might be looking for interns… he not only gave me an attorney’s contact information, but called to put a good word in for me.

Search the Web

Do a Google search for the type of internship you’re looking for and your area.  It can be as easy as searching “public relations internship + St. Louis, MO” and just seeing what pops up.  In the past when I have done this while trying to find an internship, I was surprised to find that a lot of local schools (that weren’t mine) had internship listings that I was able to see and utilize.  Some job search websites now have listings for internships as well.

Do Your Research

When you find a business that you're interested in, do your research before contacting them so you know the essentials such as what they do, who the owner is, etc.  You don't have to memorize the name and face of every employee listed on their website, but put in the effort to let businesses know you are serious about finding an internship.

Just Ask

These two simple words are the best advice I can give anyone trying to find an internship and are the reason why I have gotten almost all of my internships.  It sounds silly, but this piece of advice is also why I started this blog- smart and straightforward.  It can never hurt to call or email a business and politely ask if they are considering hiring an intern for the upcoming semester.  Some businesses may have never had interns, but wouldn’t be opposed to taking one on if you’re offering (at this point when larger or more well-known business might have already hired their interns, smaller businesses are a good bet and can offer just as much experience).

NEVER send out a mass email to multiple companies; this is a huge no-no and will pretty much guarantee you won't get an internship with them.  If you decide to email, keep it short and sweet, but personalize the message to describe why you would be a good fit for the company and show that you did your research.  Attach your resume and a writing sample (if applicable) and keep an Excel document of who you called/emailed and what they said to keep track.

Follow Up

The feeling you experience after calling and emailing so many businesses to find an internship can be nerve-wracking to say the least, especially if you’re in a time crunch.  Use the Excel sheet you created to follow-up with those you left messages for, emailed, or who asked for you to send additional information.  That extra effort it takes to follow-up with a company, shows that you're dedicated and have a good work-ethic.

Don’t Give Up

If after all of your hard work you still can’t manage to find an internship, don’t get too down in the dumps.  Once you're actually at school, you will have more access to professors and people who may have connections for you to utilize.  When you're back on campus, hit up your school's career center and the dean of your respective college to see what resources they have available for you to use.  Some businesses contact schools when they have intern positions open up.  If you absolutely can't find a fall internship, focus your energy on a part-time job, student organization, or your school work, and start early on the internship search for the spring.
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

As the end of summer approaches, many students are preparing to wrap up their summer internships and head back to school or onto different ventures.  An important thing to keep in mind before packing up your desk and running for the door, is that how you leave an internship can be just as important as how you start one.  Although your internship may be physically over, you will still be relying on the relationships you formed for some time as you embark on your career; so walk, don't run for the door, and use these tips as a checklist to make sure you leave your internship on the right note.

Be Gracious

Consider your internship a learning experience which you were lucky to have.  Make sure to express your gratitude by at least saying thank you to your boss and any other people you got to know while working for the company.  A thoughtful gesture- that is pretty much mandatory these days- is to write thank you notes for various people at work before leaving.  They don’t need to be fancy, just a simple card with a (preferably handwritten) note describing why you are grateful for having participated in the internship and detailing how the person you are writing to helped you in the process.  Buying a small gift or giving baked goods is another option for showing appreciation to someone you became especially close with during your internship, but is definitely not required or expected.  If you do decide to give a gift, be discreet as to not offend anyone you don’t decide to give something to.  

Keep in Touch

Before making your exit, make sure everyone you work with has your "personal business card" (which should include your address, email, and phone number) so that they can easily stay in touch with you.  Also, be sure to ask for their business cards so that you can contact them for recommendations, references, or just to touch base occasionally.  For some coworkers I like to send Christmas or birthday cards, but I only do this for those I became very close to and consider a friend.

Update Your Resume

Although this task can wait until your internship is actually over, it shouldn’t be put off for too long after.  Updating your resume while what you actually did during the internship is still fresh in your mind will help you avoid writers block when trying to describe your job duties and experiences later on.  It will also allow you to have an accurate resume ready-to-go just in case you need it.  Update you LinkedIn page while you’re at it with the same information, and connect with your coworkers if they have profiles.

Ask for an Evaluation

Even if having an evaluation completed is not required, asking your supervisor for one will help you figure out what skills you need to work on for your next internship or job and which areas you are doing excelling in.  You might be surprised by the answers.

Organize Your Portfolio

Save information on any projects you worked on during the internship to your personal flash drive or computer.  This includes press releases, fliers, emails, etc.  Something you might not think is meaningful now, may be beneficial to have later as proof of the different projects you completed.  I also like to type up a short summary of my internship experience (such as any difficulties I experienced, what I am most proud of, etc.) just to have as a reference for future applications or essays.

Ask for a Letter of Recommendation

Giving your employer a heads up that you would like a letter of recommendation, as opposed to waiting several months to ask, is considerate.   This way, they will not have to strain to recall your job performance when composing the letter.  Politely ask if they would be willing to write a letter to support you in your future endeavors, and give them all of the essential information such as when the letter is needed by and what it will be used for (such as for grad school, job applications, etc.).

Finish What You Started

Try your best to finish all the projects you started during your internship, and if that’s not possible, make sure you take the proper steps to help the person who will take-over the project by leaving detailed notes and files.  Also do some general housekeeping like making sure your desk is clear and that there isn’t a picture of your dog as the background on the computer; the next intern will appreciate it.
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 1 comments

If you've ever participated in a political internship, by the end of the internship you were probably an expert at talking to people on the phone (speaking to constituents is usually a major part of most political internships).  I've learned that you end up speaking to a wide range of people with all types of different issues and emotions, and while the experience can be daunting and challenging at first, it’s actually excellent practice at communicating with people.

Answering phones is notoriously one of the most basic intern duties, and although the task gets a bad rap as being boring and mundane, it can actually be really positive if you keep the right mindset... and refrain from hanging up on that person who ends up just wanting to chat about their cat.

Here are some do’s and don’ts for answering the phone at your internship:

DO be familiar with how the phone system works.  This is essential.  If you don’t understand how to do basic functions, such as transferring, ask someone ASAP.

DO ask your employer how they want you to answer the phones, if they didn’t tell you upfront.  Many places have standard greetings they want employees to use.

DON’T be rude to the person you’re talking to… EVER!  I have been cursed and screamed at by countless disgruntled people on the phone, but it’s so important to stay calm and be the bigger person no matter what.  If the person is becoming verbally abusive or threatening, have them hold and get a supervisor who will tell you what you should do.

DO be confident.  Of course you probably don’t know the answer to every question someone might ask, but you can find out easy enough.  When calling a company, people generally expect to talk to someone who knows what they’re doing and can help them, so speak with a self-assured attitude even if you aren’t entirely confident.

DON’T let your emotions affect the conversation.  No matter if you’re tired, emotional, or it’s a minute away from when you’re supposed to get off work, try to maintain that positive attitude and keep your mind focused on the call.

DO speak clearly.  It may sound silly, but it's important to make sure you are speaking clearly and are easily understandable on the phone.  Most people probably don't think about how they sound on the phone when chatting with friends, so next time you're on a business call try to be attentive to how fast, loud, and clearly you speak so you will know what to work on.
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

It seems as if the Undecided major is becoming more and more popular with students these days and it’s completely understandable why.  With potential areas of study ranging from comic book art to bowling industry management, the possibilities of what to study can seem endless (bowling, eh?).  Although it’s great to have so many majors available to meet everyone’s unique interests, if you are someone who is questioning what you want to do in life, it can be a major obstacle.  Even students who have already decided on a major surely sometimes wonder how it will translate into a rewarding career.

Here are a few tips for deciphering what you really want to pursue in college and beyond because surely no one really wants to take that victory lap and be around for a 5th year of college.

Pick Your Passion

Take a minute to think about what your real passions are and brainstorm how they might be turned into a career.  Whether it’s video games, traveling, etc., you might be surprised how what you thought was a hobby could possibly become a fulfilling career. 

Be Realistic

What you study in school should have at least something to do with what you want to pursue after graduation, whether it be a career or grad school.  Just because you’re a marketing major doesn’t mean you will have to find a job in marketing, but your major should provide you with knowledge or skills that will help you pursue your desired career-path, so keep that in mind.

Get Some Experience

Internships are a great way to experience different fields and figure out what you truly want to pursue.  A lot of internships don’t require a lot of prior experience specific to the field, so testing out different areas while you’re still in school is a good idea.  Even if you’re fairly certain what you want to pursue for a career, diversifying your internship experiences could make you appealing to future employers by making you appear well-rounded.

Talk to People

Call or email some of your business contacts and ask for a few minutes of their time to chat about what they do.  Be prepared with a list of questions you want to ask so you don’t end up with awkward silence during the conversation.  People currently doing the job you’re interested in can offer an interesting perspective on how they got there, what some of the challenges have been, etc.  If you don’t know anyone in the field you’re interested in, ask around for contacts or utilize your professors or school’s career center.  
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

When you land an internship chances are you go into it wide-eyed and full of enthusiasm, ready to take on the world.  The fact is that internships can sometimes be one word… boring. 

At first, the new environment and all of the responsibility is exhilarating, but occasionally the novelty wears out.  This is especially true for internships that involve large amounts of data entry or filing.  Sometimes there simply might not be anything to do.  

If you are constantly sitting idly, you are facing a more serious problem; you're there to learn and be an asset to the company, not to take up space or nap in your cubicle (although it can be tempting). 

My suggestion for interns who feel useless is to take the initiative to talk to someone ASAP about your desire for more responsibility, whether it be an internship supervisor or your boss.  Your boss might end up being impressed by your straightforwardness and apparent work ethic which means brownie points for you!

Interns who are constantly bored at work are at risk of becoming apathetic and unmotivated which will give the people you work with an extremely negative view of you; have the courage to speak up before your boredom becomes a liability.

Especially with companies who have never had an intern or employees who have never been responsible for one, you might feel a little useless at times because they do not know how to properly utilize you.  They often don't have concrete rules and responsibilities prepared for new interns to follow which can be a challenge for everyone.  Help them to establish a routine by asking plenty of questions about what the expectations of your position are, and how you can help the business.

Whatever the case, never let anyone know that you are bored out of your mind. 

Here are some tips for avoiding bore-dumb:

Make something to do
If you find yourself at a loss for something to do, ask around to see if anyone else in the office has something they need help with.  This should be the first step before moving on to anything else to pass the time, and is a great way to get to know your coworkers... not to mention it makes you look good.

Savor breaks
Looking forward to lunch can be one of the most exciting times of the day (and not just because I love food).  Use break times as something to look forward to and keep you motivated.  Once you're on break get outside and get some fresh air; take a short walk and get your blood pumping.  There is nothing more depressing than sitting at a desk under fluorescent lighting all day.

Stay current
In college I made an oath to stay up-to-date on current events and I've never regretted it.  Browsing news sites during your down-time can make you feel more knowledgeable and productive.  There are types of news to meet everyone's interests, so reading the news shouldn't add to your boredom.

Browse the web
Be careful with this one...  don't get in the habit of perusing Facebook and Twitter if no one else in the office does so.  It's usually pretty apparent after a while what sites your coworkers frequent, so watch and learn before you browse.  Better safe than sorry!

Cross off your to-do list
I'm a "list-person" so I always have my to-do list handy and ready to be checked off.  I like to send emails and work on my schedule when I have down-time at work.  I also use any spare time to brainstorm ideas for my student organizations, blogging, etc.  Try to keep your mind active to avoid falling into a bored stupor.

Do school work
This is probably one of the most obvious ones.  If you're in school while doing an internship, I think most employers would be okay with interns doing school work when they're not actually working.  Just make sure the internship work comes first!
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 0 comments

Let me share with you one of the most important lessons I have learned through my experience interning- get in good with your coworkers.

I'm not just talking about the other interns, I'm talking about the boss' secretary, the IT guy- basically everyone in the office who will talk to you (without being creepy).

Don't go over-the-top
Nobody likes a suck-up.  Period.

Make an effort to get to know everyone and their individual personalities
Once you get a feel for what each person is like, you can decide who to joke around with, who to ask about their kids, etc.  Simply observing is one of the best communication moves you can make.

Ask questions
People love to talk about themselves, so even just asking questions and listening to their responses can put you in their favor.  Use this technique when you are at a loss for something to talk about with someone, especially during the first few weeks of your internship.

Be sincere and professional
These people have most likely been around longer than you and are closer with your boss, so don't cross any lines that might jeopardize your internship.  This means no telling dirty jokes or describing in vivid detail your most recent night at the bar.

Make getting to know your coworkers a part of your job description
If you consider getting to know your coworkers a vital part of your job, you will feel pressure to actually follow through.  A lot of times, by keeping in touch with the people you meet, you could get helpful career advice or letters of recommendations which will help you out in the long-run.


Sounds simple enough, right?  Let me tell you a story.  

At one of my internships, I ended up having problems with one of the new hires who, coincidentally, was best friends with my boss.  Could there be a worse scenario?

I'm a pretty easy-going person and I don't like to cause trouble so needless to say, I was majorly distressed by this.  I didn't want to be visibly upset and put my good-standing with my boss at risk, but I was always stressed by this person and I worried it was going to hurt my job-performance.

I ended up speaking with the office manager whom I felt I could trust (and later became a close friend), and she kept an eye out for me from then on, even calling out certain behaviors exhibited by my coworker which weren't appropriate without putting me in the spotlight. 

Although I was scared I would look like a drama-queen, I'm glad I told someone in private.

If you are experiencing problems in your internship, go to someone; whether it be your internship supervisor or someone in the office who you can trust.  Internships are a learning experience, and it's definitely not worth being miserable the whole time.

If the problem is minor, try dealing with it yourself by focusing on other things, or by casually avoiding run-ins with the person.  Sure, lots of people have annoying hang-ups that will get under you skin from time-to-time, but that just comes with the territory of working in an office.

Just remember, that the relationships you form during an internship can last much longer than the duration of your time there, and that every positive relationship you form may be an asset to yourself and your future.
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Posted by Michelle Pence - - 1 comments

I'm going to assume that all of the interns or college students reading this are familiar with social networking sites- if you're not, you should be.

Not only are sites like Facebook and Twitter great for keeping up with friends and satisfying your inner-narcissist, but they are also great tools for promoting yourself and networking with professional contacts.

My personal advice for anyone using social networking sites is simply- BE SMART!

I have too many friends who use their Facebook accounts to post drunken pictures of themselves and their friends for the whole world to see.  Now I have to admit- at one point in time I might have been pretty lax about what all I posted on my Facebook page, but I have since changed my ways.

When I started working and doing internships I found out that the majority of people I worked with were on Facebook too, and I was 99% sure they weren't interested in seeing pictures of my friends doing keg-stands last weekend.

When they added me I was faced with the dilemma- do I deny them and lose a chance to network or accept their invitation and give them full access to my personal information?

My decision?  Add them (who wants to pass up a good networking opportunity?), but get familiar with Facebook's privacy controls so I decide who sees what on my profile.

General Privacy Settings

If you don't take advantage of the privacy settings, you're not making a very smart decision.  Seriously- there are so many creeps on the web; why would you want to inadvertently give a stranger info like your full name, birthday, what you're doing right now, etc.?

Wising up is as simple as logging onto Facebook, clicking on "Account", then "Privacy Settings", and customizing away (I would recommend at least making everything "Friends Only").

Congratulations- you're one step closer to gaining yourself some privacy.

Limited Profile List

After a nightmare of a situation during one of my internships where one of my coworkers had a habit of telling my boss virtually everything I posted on Facebook, sometimes in front of me, (even if my posts weren't inappropriate, it was still awkward) I learned to use the Limited Profile Friends List ASAP, and have never looked back.

At first, it was a pain; I went through all of my existing friends and placed on the list anyone who I knew through work, politics, or other professional settings (oh, and family members- ugh everyone is on Facebook these days).

I then changed my privacy settings so that people on my Limited Profile Friends List didn't have access to my pictures, my status updates, and things my friends posted on my wall; basically my professional contacts can only information that is also available on my resume.

To create your own Limited Profile Friends List, go to "Account", "Edit Friends", and "Create New List".  Then, when you go into your "Privacy Settings" (like I described above) you can customize the settings so your Limited Profile can/can't see certain things on your profile.

Now you can still post drunken pictures and post crazy status updates and only your actual friends can see them!  Genius, right?

(On a side note, I would personally recommend not posting any pictures that might be construed as inappropriate because it's really not that cool and can still get to the wrong people, but... to each their own.)

Just use your head and think twice before posting or allowing other people to post something on your page- your boss could be watching!
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