How to Make the Most Out of Your Summer Internship

School is out and summer internships are beginning. Internships are a proven way to expand knowledge, sharpen skills and gain real-life experience while establishing lasting connections in the industry. Plus, your new gig is also a way to get your feet wet and find out if a specific field is something you could see yourself doing full-time after graduation.

Summer internships can be highly competitive, but often provide more opportunities to work full-time without the stress of taking classes at the same time.

Now that you’ve landed your dream internship at a company you can see yourself working at full-time in the future, it’s time to focus on how you can make your internship experience the best it can be. Here are six ways to make the most out of your summer internship.

Make a strong first impression.
It’s all in the little things! From showing up on time and introducing yourself to your new team members to following your office’s dress code might seem like simple tasks, but these details are crucial for making a great first impression. A little bit of effort to help others can go a long way, even with tasks that fall outside of the typical intern to-do’s, such as helping to keep the kitchen clean or restock snacks.

Treat every day as your first, keeping a positive attitude and making yourself readily available for others to make a long-lasting impression.

Build your professional network.
An internship is a great time to build up your network of references, contacts and professionals who may one day help you get to where you want to go. Reach out to your new coworkers and the leadership team to grab a coffee or go out to lunch. Ask them about their career path and listen to their answers for ideas on how you can leverage their insight in the future. Building your network can include fun things, too. Consider joining the office book club or attending other social events in order to get to know your coworkers outside of the office.

Internships are one of the best ways to find out if an industry or company is the right fit for you, and the connections you make now could help you find a job in the future.

Stay organized.
One of my favorite tips is to keep a running to-do list or spreadsheet of projects and activities you’re working on. In some cases, you may be asked to share a weekly project update with your internship director, or you may need to submit a report for college course credit. Plus, keeping a log will help you recall what types of projects you’ve worked on over the course of your internship and better capture what you did on your resume.

Strong organizational skills will help to demonstrate to your new team that you’re ready for the real-world and can be trusted with important tasks and projects.

Develop your skills.
At the start of your internship, identify two or three skills you do not currently possess or that need improvement. Address your growth goals with your internship director and work on developing them further before the end of the summer.

If there are any opportunities for you to improve by attending a workshop or sitting in on a meeting, ask to take advantage of those. This will demonstrate a willingness to improve and allow you to gain more than just industry knowledge during your time with the company.

Ask for feedback frequently.
Asking for constructive feedback is one of the best ways to gauge your growth throughout your internship, as well as identify areas of improvement as you continue to grow. While feedback can sometimes be difficult to receive, understanding how to utilize constructive feedback to improve can make you even better.

When you can, ask your peers how you are doing and what you can do to grow – they are likely to give you a few pieces of advice as well!

End on a high note.

As you near the end of your summer internship, make sure to demonstrate your appreciation for the opportunity. Thank your supervisor, mentors and any other coworkers who helped you along your journey. A handwritten card is a small token of appreciation that will go a long way. It is often the small things you did or gestures of gratitude that people remember best.

You might also want to ask your coworkers if they would be willing to connect on LinkedIn, write you a recommendation or keep in touch for when you are looking for a real job.  Your summer internship placement might, in fact, be the best prospect for your first job out of college.

Interested in gaining real-life experience with an internship at Dittoe PR? We are now searching for fall interns. To apply, send a cover letter, resume with references, and three diverse writing samples to Sophie Maccagnone at sophie@dittoepr.com.

This blog post was drafted by former Dittoe PR intern Keeley Miller.

Signs a Career in PR Might Be for You

I wasn’t one of those kids who knew exactly what they wanted to do when they grew up. Some kids want to be doctors or veterinarians or teachers from the first time they’re asked that question until they graduate from college with a job lined up. What I wanted to be when I grew up had something to do with reading and writing and books – and to be a princess, of course.

Skip to college admissions time, and I just knew I wanted to be a music teacher… but you can’t be a music teacher if you aren’t accepted to the school of music. Then, I just knew I wanted to be an English teacher… until I realized I didn’t actually want to teach at all. One English literature degree, graduate certificate program, and internship later, I knew what my career was going to be: non-profit marketing.

As I write to you on a PR agency’s blog, it’s clear that non-profit marketing was indeed not my forever career. However, my education and experiences did lead me to public relations, and I can trace the breadcrumbs of my interests and skills that make PR the perfect career for me – and maybe for you, too. Here are four signs a career in PR might be for you:

1. You like to write.
Writing is a rewarding, if challenging, pastime. Ask any author on Twitter and they’ll let you know how much of a challenge it can be to get the right words on paper. When you get to tell a compelling true story, though, and it results in national media coverage, it’s hard not to be delighted to write every day. Whether it’s a press release for a client’s latest capital fund raise, a blog post for a product that’s changing kids’ lives, or even an award nomination so a client can receive deserved recognition for the amazing company culture they’ve built, the reward for touting all the amazing things our clients do far outweighs any challenges.

2. You are addicted to NPR, morning radio shows or evening news programs.
I used to have a 45-minute commute around Indy. On the fifth day in a row where I heard the same three songs and 10 commercials in a 20-minute window, I had to do something to stimulate my brain during rush hour. I found Indy’s local NPR station, WFYI, and I haven’t changed my radio since. I feel lost if I don’t know what’s going on in the world, in the US and here in Indiana.

In PR, this is a huge asset. “Newsjacking” is an opportunity we take advantage of often. If we hear an interesting story and one of our clients has a timely counterpoint to share, we can reach out to that reporter with our client’s unique viewpoint. And newsjacking doesn’t only apply to serious news. If a client has a fun event coming up and you know that your favorite morning DJ would love to attend, reach out! It could be a win-win for the client and the station – not to mention all the people who will want to check out the event when they hear about it during their own commute.

3. You’re bored by cyclical or repetitive projects.
Non-profits are ruled by the fundraising calendar cycle: Spring drive, summer event, fall drive, Giving Tuesday, holiday giving, repeat. Finding new ways to spruce up fundraisers can be a fun exercise, but once you’ve done it three, four, five times, the repetition can be draining. Hands down, my favorite thing about working at a PR agency is that no two projects look the same – even if you think they are on the surface. Creating a strategic social media plan for two clients may sound like the same project, but when one is for a hospitality client and the other is for a utilities company, those plans are going to look completely different. Having clients from multiple industries located in multiple states all with varying needs means every day at Dittoe is different, and so is every project.

4. You’re results-driven and tenacious.
I wouldn’t say I’m the most competitive person in the world – or in the Dittoe office, for that matter. But I do strive to exceed my clients’ expectations when executing projects. When a client hires Dittoe to secure coverage, I am driven to ensure they get the coverage they want, and then some. This can mean sending more emails in a day than I could have dreamed or spending time researching topics I don’t know much about. At the end of the day, though, when all that research and all those emails result in national coverage, stellar social media metrics, or a really great story, every minute is worth it.

These are by no means the only skills necessary to work in PR. If you’re entering the workforce for the first time, or looking at changing up your career, take stock of your interests in addition to your skills and education. You never know when having a favorite “All Things Considered” host or a penchant for local business newsletters might come in handy.