Everyone always talks about how experience is the most important part of your professional career. While I don’t completely disagree with that statement, I’ve always thought it was a little bit unfair, given that no one really tells you how to get said experience. When I changed majors, one of the many things that made me anxious was my lack of internship experience. For a pre-med student, some of the things that you need in your CV are research, voluntary work, and a couple of recommendation letters. That much was clear to me, but when I started my double major in Creative Writing and Public Relations and Advertising, I had no idea how to make my CV stand out. As time passed, the pressure started dawning on me. My family kept asking about when I would start applying for internships and my brain would just stop working. Where would I even start?! It’s not like I had a mentor or someone I could go toーat least, not at that moment.
You may be thinking, how could it be so hard to find internships or get experience with a double major (or three, if we were to separate Public Relations from Advertising)? The thing is, I became rather insecure in my own abilities when I changed majors. I felt like no matter how many classes I took, I wouldn’t be able to get my name out there. It’s still something that bothers me. As a Creative Writing student, I don’t feel like my writing is that good. As a Public Relations and Advertising student, I don’t think my ideas are creative enough. The struggle of having imposter syndrome, am I right? But luckily, as if the universe got tired of me moping around, I found out that my Creative Writing curriculum featured a course called “Interdisciplinary Internship” (ESIN 4395, for those interested). I decided that I should just take the risk and see what happened.
To put it simply, the class was about finding an internship with the help of a professor that worked as a mentor throughout at least 180 hours of contact in the semester. This internship was supposed to be focused on creative writing, however, this opportunity never showed up. I wasn’t too sad about it because I still had Her Campus. Turns out that my professor and I found an opportunity for me to work as an intern in an advertising agency called BRAAVE TRIBE COLLAB that was working with the University. And before I knew it, I spent an entire semester working alongside experienced publicists and graphic designers. Although I was scared of messing up, I learned a lot of things and felt like I was doing a good job. I took the risk and I excelled!
While I was an intern at BRAAVE, I was also taking my other classes. Being fueled by what I was learning at my internship, I poured everything I’d learned into my Public Relations Campaign coursework. As it turns out, the professor was keeping an eye on my performance in class, and she offered me (and a couple of other students from the class) an opportunity to have a summer internship at Infopáginas Media, another advertising agency. I was thrilled because, how come without me doing that much, the opportunities just kept falling on my lap?! (My friends would disagree, however, because I did work hard in all of my classes and the results were finally here!) Although both internships were focused on advertising, they were completely different from one another. BRAAVE is an agency focused on increasing the visibility of culture-centric initiatives, such as Cumbre Afro and Tiznando el País. Infopáginas is a company that connects with small and medium businesses so they can have a digital presence.
One thing that both internships had in common was how much I could learn from both of them. I always say that learning the theory in class is not the same as working in the “real world” but I didn’t know how much truth my words had. I understood then the importance of having experience in your field work before graduating, because your perspective will change. You will either become more eager to work in your area of study, or you will realize it’s just not for you. You will also gain an absurd amount of knowledge in less than a week. Talking from experience, by my second week at Infopáginas, I felt like I had been working for two years.
So, if you’re looking for internship opportunities and you don’t know what to expect or what to do, here’s a list of do’s and don’ts especially curated for you (and for my past self, because she wished she knew about this beforehand).
1. Networking and Investigate
I know, I know… This is basically the advice everyone gives, but I encourage you to network with your professors. I am aware that, sometimes, professors are not the best at teaching, let alone at mentoring. Unfortunately, that’s a reality that most of us, if not all of us, experience at one point or another. Nonetheless, it’s important to network with your professors because they may have opportunities in store for you, just like it happened with me. It’s not about being the new teacher’s petーnetworking means a chance to come out of your shell and show the world (in this case your professor) that you got this. Participate in class, hand in your assignments on time, ask questions, and do what you can to show them that you have it in you to be a professional.
If your professors are no help, you need to start researching. I dreaded this step so much because I didn’t even know where to start! However, I realized that usually companies are looking for interns, you just have to know where to look or who to talk to. Some companies reach out to the University, while others share it on their social media. However, there are some that you will have to reach out on your own and ask for an internship opportunity. Email will be your new best friend. Don’t be afraid to send as many emails as you want. Show them that you want the opportunity!
2. Take the initiative
Once you get the internship, it’s important to show your supervisor that you will be the best intern they’ve ever had. It will be overwhelming at first, but don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you need to while you get the hang of it. There’s nothing wrong with not understanding things at first. When I started my second internship, I couldn’t, for the life of me, understand Google Ads. But my friend (who was an intern too) and I decided to take the plunge and schedule a meeting with the media buyer so he could teach us about it. Our boss was happy with our initiative and encouraged us to do so. Take the initiative, your performance may be the key for them to consider you for the long-term. Who knows? They might even offer you a job!
3. Write EVerything
Because my first internship was basically a class, I had to report back to the professor every once in a while. I had a list of the things I was doing and what I was learning. This also helped me because, when I finished it, my supervisor asked for a report about my experience. Although I didn’t have to write a report for my second internship, I still wrote down everything that I was learning because I knew I could use it for my classes and future jobs. Also, having written everything down allowed me not to have to ask my supervisor for assistance every five minutes. Because believe me, some days I needed assistance every five minutes.
4. Make a good impression
Review your notes, study the platform that the company uses, and be friendly with everyone. These little things will assure you a good impression. Out of everything, I struggle with being friendly. I’m more reserved and I tend to be myself with the people closest to me. Nonetheless, the environment of both internships was friendly and casual. Everyone was nice and supportive and never made me feel bad because I didn’t know something.
1. Don’t be late
This is the one thing I struggled with the most. Both of my internships were about an hour from my house. If you live in Puerto Rico, you’ll know that traffic here is insane. It was worse for me because I had to buy breakfast on my way, drive my mother to her workplace, and then to my internship. I’ll be honest, most of the time I was a few minutes late and I felt horrible even when my boss (who was the best boss I could ever ask for) never reprimanded me.
2. Don’t spend your money eating out
If you can, prep your meals for the week. It will not only save you money but also time. Almost every worker in Puerto Rico has their lunch break at 12:00 PM, so it’s virtually impossible to buy your food and get back to the office in an hour. Plus, not to be that person, but it is more healthy if you prepare your meals and don’t eat that much junk food.
3. Don’t underdress
Retrieved from Pinterest.
Although advertising companies have relatively less restrictions on dress code, if you want to follow the Do’s #4, learn how to dress ‘corporately’. You are your brand, so you should promote yourself as such. But never stop being yourself in the process! In my first internship, the dress code wasn’t as restrictive as my second. Both allowed me to play with all the clothes in my closets and make new outfits I’d never try. Because my second internship was more corporate, everyone was always dressed amazingly. You would see heels, blazers, button up blouses, skirts, pants… I loved when my coworkers went all out. I even created a Pinterest board with all the outfits I wanted to wear (which may or may not feature BTS V as my number 1 inspiration).
4. Don’t mess it up
Picture this: your supervisor is trusting you with an important project (or client, project, patient, etc.), but you forgot the steps to do it. What would you do? Ask your supervisor to explain it to you or attempt to improvise it? I’ll tell you: don’t be afraid of asking for further instructions. I’m saying it from experience. Allow people to help you. Trust me.
Out of everything I took away from these experiences is that I want to do another internship, but maybe in my other fields. Maybe one in a Public Relations firm or with a writer. It certainly made me a little bit more confident in my abilities and less afraid of the big scary world out there. If you have the opportunity to do one, don’t hesitate and take the risk.