PRWeek April 2013 : Page 51

Master Class How can internships be improved to better prepare students and get results for firms? PANEL Lauren Gray Junior account executive, Hunter Public Relations Gemma Puglisi Assistant professor, School of Communications, American University Jody Seal Manager, strategic communications, Energen Andy Steen SVP, internal communications, Bite Lauren Gray teachers, our role is to provide students with the best education, preparation, and men-toring to succeed. Fortunately, our field has a plethora of internships for students to get real-world experience. At AU, a survey of the class of 2012 found that 88% of graduates who responded completed one or more intern-ships during their time at the university. Companies and firms have thousands of eager students wanting an internship, but how do they find the perfect fit? Here are tips and suggestions for both: L Beth Ward SVP and partner, regional talent recruiter, Fleishman-Hillard During my time in college , I had six PR-or communications-related internships throughout semesters and summer vaca-tions – including both virtual and in-person roles. While internships can be the most valuable learning experience a student can have, there are ways the process can be improved for the company and the intern. Some interns go in with the mindset they want to be in a specific practice or think they already know enough about one sub-ject. It’s vital to be open to every client, task, and thing that comes at you. A well-rounded experience is the most priceless asset for your future career. Interns should also ask questions about topics they want more information on. As Steve Jobs said, “Be curious.” On the flip side, employers should be more trusting of interns and be willing to take the time to teach necessary skills. If something is wrong, take the time to sit down with the intern, as you would another employee, and go over the errors and solutions. Interns should be treated as regular employees are, not just a dump for busy work. Employers should also give more difficult tasks to in-terns. We will not learn if we are given the same type of work; we need challenges, too. While there’s always room for improve-ment, listening is usually a good first step. Being open is the second. Take the time to get to know your co-workers. Ask for more or harder assignments and always seek to learn continuously. The same goes for employers. You never know what senior Gemma Puglisi Some schools, including ours, offer an internship class while students are in their positions. The class is a great opportunity for these young men and women to hone their skills and showcase what they experi-enced so they all can learn from what each individual is going through. Many national organizations may have smaller offices in other countries. Open lines of communication and invite them to a class to educate students about what they look for with interns. If that dialogue is straightforward, the student will know exactly what the business or firm is look-ing for and what they need to do, and if they are prepared or not. L Jody Seal L “ COMPANIES MUST REALIZE THAT STUDENTS WANT TO BE CHALLENGED AND RESPECTED “ – Gemma Puglisi, American University Invite back a former student who nab-bed a job at a firm as an intern. Also invite the person who hired them. That exchange will educate students on why the former student stood apart from others. Companies and businesses want great interns. But they also have to realize that students want to be challenged and respected in those positions. If students have a great work experience, that will benefit the com-panies who continue the partnership with the schools. Productivity is important for both parties. Gemma Puglisi, assistant professor, School of Communication, American University employees can learn from student interns. The learning curve goes both ways. Lauren Gray, junior account executive, Hunter Public Relations When I think back to our most successful Let’s face it. Our field has become more competitive – and there’s no question that all businesses need great PR to survive. As interns, there are a few common traits. They came to the job with an open mind, ready to learn. They came willing to take on some thought-provoking assignments while also being agreeable to do some basic fact checking. They took the time to learn about our industry and tried to understand April 2013 / / 51

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