According to College Recruiter, more than 75 percent of college students, at some point, hold an internship. These hands-on learning experiences are critical toward professional development and may even form a pipeline to future opportunities and connections.

Why, then, do so many students and graduates find themselves wandering through professional limbo, sluggish, confused, and failing to take advantage of the opportunity at their fingertips? Ideally, it would have been great if there was a “How to be a Young Professional 101” course, but that isn’t the reality.

Internship programs aren’t the same but every intern has the hope to make an unforgettable and positive first impression. Let these 6 steps guide you up the professional ladder and make the most of your time in the (professional) spotlight:

1. Treat it like a real job

The concept of an internship is founded on temporariness and this makes it very hard for students to fully embrace and treat the opportunity as a real job. However, it’s vital that you demonstrate your commitment to the company and to your position early on.

Truthfully, you probably won’t be handed the most impactful assignments on your first day, but by building trust between you and your supervisor, you can work toward becoming a part of larger projects. You only have a few months to turn yourself from first-day newbie to valuable team member. Convince yourself that you’ve got something indispensable and then make sure your work shows it.

2. Take a step back from the hustle

Most people will say that the interns who stuck out were the ones who continuously took initiative and sought for more responsibility, but this is oftentimes misleading of what internship should serve as for students—a learning experience.

In PR, many of those you are working with have invested years into their connections and skillset, which means you have the ability to learn from the best. By learning how to take a step back, you demonstrate a desire to learn and improve, which will benefit both your development and productivity.

3. Practice good time management

Time management extends beyond deadlines. In PR, you are always racing to beat the clock—whether that’s developing a timely pitching angle, gaining necessary approvals for a press release, or snagging a reporter before a competitor gains their attention—everything you do works in congruence to your client’s overall image.

It may be extremely tempting to waltz into the office after a long lunch break and waste the rest of your afternoon scrolling through your Amazon shopping cart, but this time-wasting behavior will fail to provide you the experiences and connections needed to boost your career.

Throughout your internship, figure out the best system to hold yourself accountable, it could be a planner, calendar notification, or an atrocious amount of sticky notes splattered around your desktop. Whatever your method, discover what works for you and will help to deliver the best results.

4. Build relationships

Public Relations relies on strong and beneficial relationships. Externally, the relationship you have with your client, reporters, and fellow agencies will determine whether your project succeeds or falls short.

You must take advantage and create opportunities for yourself to really build those relationships with people in your office. Take lunch to the kitchen area, spend time with fellow interns, and ask to grab coffee with your supervisors. If offered and you are permitted, attend company events like happy hours and socials to spend time with people outside of an office setting.

In an industry filled with effective communicators and engaging socializers, company culture often reflects these values. Thankfully, this means you shouldn’t worry too much about having to sit at a desk silently for 8-hours a day, but figure out how to ensure the conversations you do have are impactful and leaves others with an idea of who you are.

5. Write it out

The PR industry relies on good communicators, and the ability to translate ideas and messages onto written documents can set you miles ahead of others. Especially while vying for entry-level positions, the ability to write can add serious value to your portfolio. Writing takes more than putting words together, it’s a strategic component of human interaction, and PR is all about strategy.

It’s more than simply knowing how to write but mastering the ability to adapt to various situations, clients, and formats. Think about it, you’re expected to deliver, and crafting content that catches the eye of the media, public, and even the client themselves allows you to do just that. Rise, accept the challenge, and write it out.

6. Be ready to not be ready

PR is wonderfully unpredictable and demands constant attention. Image is delicate and equipping yourself with the tools to define and secure a client’s reputation is only half the battle. There is no ‘right’ way to achieve results in anymore, with the public’s values and opinions constantly shifting. The most successful approaches rarely stem from old methods, often taking the form of creative solutions from those who were skilled enough to do the undoable.

You could be a pitching expert or maybe still struggle navigating a media list, but it’s critical that you equip yourself with an eager mind. Pay attention to ongoing trends, read daily news, and familiarize yourself with competitors. That way, even when the unexpected occurs, you don’t find yourself loss in the commotion.

You’ve been invited to take a seat and experience the action. You might not see your name in lights—yet—but versatility, adaptability, and dependability will bring you closer to center stage.

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Chelsea Bendelow

Chelsea Bendelow

Chelsea Bendelow is a PR intern at Sage Communications. Previously, Chelsea was a press intern in the U.S. House of Representatives and a public affairs intern for a DC-based marketing agency. Chelsea is a rising senior at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., majoring in journalism and mass communications and pursuing a minor in women’s studies. When she’s not working, you can find her cruising around in her Jeep Wrangler listening to the latest crime/mystery podcast.

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