Abigail Allen, Taniyah Keve, and Grace-Lauren Richmond are interns with Sage Communications.
Embarking on your career journey can be exhilarating and daunting. The thrill of finding the perfect internship, gaining invaluable experience before graduation and mastering your craft can be a transformative journey in self-discovery and professional growth. As you navigate uncharted waters, overcome challenges and unlock hidden potential within yourself, you will begin to shed feelings of uncertainty. But even after graduation, there’s still room to grow and acquire more skills. Landing the right internship can equip you with the abilities you need to conquer your career field.
We conducted a series of interviews with various communications experts to learn the answers to pressing questions we wish we had been privy to when starting our internship. We looked to public relations professionals and leaders to weigh in with advice, cautionary notes and practical tips on how newcomers can succeed during an internship as they seamlessly transition into the professional industry.
PR Account Executive Ally Jandes shared her insights on navigating the early stages of a career in the PR industry, along with advice for aspiring novices. Jandes states, “Identifying what it is about public relations that you like and what areas of the media interest you are vital.” She emphasizes the importance of doing your research and reminds us that journalists are people too. “Research the types of clients your PR firm supports and what makes them stand out. This will give you a better understanding of their products and services and enable you to best support your clients,” she says. “Get to know each journalist’s preferences…what they like to do outside of work, what their hobbies are, what they like to write about. They may be more passionate about other topics as well.”
In her dual capacity as senior account executive (SAE) and intern supervisor, Natalie Dow plays a vital role in guiding interns through the complexity of the program from the start of the hiring and interview process to the pinnacle of their internship journey. To stand out from the competition and thrive during your internship, she states, “Come into any job interview prepared with one or two questions at the very least.” Apart from being well-prepared, Dow stresses the importance of discerning the key distinctions between public relations and marketing, acknowledging it as a green flag for prospective employers. She succinctly notes that marketing operates within the realm of paid media, while PR focuses on earned media. She also emphasizes presentation etiquette, “How you present yourself in the interview is important. At some point in your internship, you might represent the company, so it’s crucial you show that you understand how to be a professional.” With her wealth of knowledge from climbing the career ladder as an intern to SAE and overseeing the internship program, Dow offers essential advice to PR newcomers, “Being able to take criticism is huge because you will be putting yourself out there a lot. One of the main things that I would recommend interns or anyone getting in the PR field should keep in mind is to not take things personally.”
With over 20 years of experience in communications, politics and policy, Sage Communications Vice President Todd Irons provided a deeper look into the vital qualities that define a successful professional in the PR industry. He states, “Being clear and concise is really important. Having good writing skills is something that will help distinguish you among not just your colleagues but clients throughout your career. Writing is a skill that’s learned over time; it doesn’t happen overnight. The more you do it, the better you’re going to get.” Reflecting on the best advice shared with him throughout his career, Irons adds, “Don’t be afraid to make a leap. It can be easy to say you can’t do something or be afraid to do something. But, if someone has faith in you, and they give you an assignment, or they ask you to take on a project, it’s because they really do believe that you can do it.”
We were offered the opportunity to delve into the start of Sage Communications SVP of PR Operations Duyen Truong’s career, a journey that began the same as ours — as a PR intern for AMD, a global semiconductor company. When asked to reflect on advice she wishes she could offer her former self, Truong explains, “It is important to find mentoring relationships. These are the connections that will enable you to continually learn and grow.” She credits relationship-building to unlocking career opportunities at every crossroad: “Networking is invaluable, and cultivating those formal relationships early in your career can enable you to do so. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of many others.” As a first-generation college graduate and immigrant, Truong attributes her success to grit, curiosity and collaboration. Looking at her path and recognizing that, at one point, she once stood in our shoes is a reminder of the significance of the present time and the potential it holds in defining the direction of our professional journey.
Starting out can be intimidating, but it is important to remember that everyone in the industry has been exactly where we are. A common thread that echoes throughout all four interviews is to be bold, ask questions and recognize that your colleagues are there to help you. An internship is a new adventure and an opportunity to start your career on the right foot. Take the first step at an agency that empowers, supports and believes in you.