What to Look for in an Internship

It’s that time of year again! If you’re in college or a recent grad, you may be considering an internship. If you haven’t, then you really should.

At my college, an internship was all but required. One internship.

I found myself outside of that norm. By the time I crossed the stage with my diploma, I completed six internships. Yes, six internships.

Some of those overlapped where I was doing two part-time internships at one time but all the while I completed full-time coursework and graduated in four years.

I’m often asked as to why I felt it was necessary to go so far above and beyond. The reason is pretty simple; I wanted to try out as many different things as possible before graduating.

When I first applied to my college, I applied as a screenwriting major (because I wanted to be the next Tina Fey). After being accepted and spending the summer thinking about it, I wondered if that was the best decision for me. Over that summer, I selected coursework that was nothing but public relations, marketing, advertising, etc. thinking promoting or selling entertainment could one day be the right area for me.

I was extremely fortunate that after about a month into my Introduction to Public Relations class that we were asked to interview someone in PR to get an idea of what the real world was like. One thing led to another and after an unexpected shadow day, I found myself with my first internship locked in only two months into my college career.

What followed was the first of my six internships. It was a road I put myself on and never turned back.

I completed internships at three boutique agencies (one in motorsports), one mid-size agency, a television production company and a racetrack (which I would later return to in a full-time role).

Even before graduating I became a big advocate for internships and even held a position on my college’s PRSSA chapter’s board to assist other students in finding internships.

If you’re looking for an internship, here is my advice on some things to look for:

  1. Intern somewhere you would want to work at. This is key. Is there an agency or business you’d love to work for some day? This is your chance to show them what you got. Research to see if your dream internship is out there. If it is, go for it! If not, try and find a company that you could intern at that could be beneficial if another internship opened up at your dream company, or would allow you to gain the necessary experience to apply for your first job after college at that dream company.
  2. A place where you can achieve a variety of experience. Don’t allow yourself to just be a coffee fetcher. When you first apply and get that interview, let the hiring manager know you’re ready to learn and want to get as much out of the experience as possible. By being exposed to a variety of tasks and areas of the business, you can really learn a lot.
  3. Look for a mentor. When you apply, look at the size of the company and culture. Do they seem to advance the careers of their own employees? Do they have a mentorship program? Even if not, when you get to the internship process, discuss with the hiring manager that you are looking for a professional mentor. You might even find your first volunteer! A mentor can be a great resource to have following an internship. He or she can be your go-to for professional advice and who knows – maybe you’ll work together again in some capacity. I have had the luck to have found such a mentor I still lean on occasionally for advice to this day.
  4. Focus on portfolio pieces. Ask what kind of work you would be doing when you make it to the interview. Yes, this is an obvious question but really approach the question and answer following thinking what can you get out of the internship beyond college credit and a few bucks. Strong work examples can be critical for future interviews (internships and jobs) to really set you apart from your competition.
  5. Find somewhere you will enjoy spending your time for most likely little pay. Let’s be honest. There’s no “I Love Lucy” get famous/rich quick schemes that can really pan out with most internships. You will have days that are unbelievably rewarding that make you feel you found the right path. You’ll have days that are just ok. Then, you’ll have days that just really make you question everything and are just plain difficult. Keep all of that in mind. Don’t intern somewhere you want to brag to your friends and family about. Don’t intern somewhere you think will make you look amazing on a resume but actually hate. You are putting in YOUR time for that internship so make sure it is somewhere YOU want to spend your time. College goes by way too quickly (you’ll believe me later) so don’t waste your time or anyone else’s. Do something you enjoy. Find a place to intern that makes you want to wake up in the morning and get to work. After all, part of interning to testing the waters in your career so get ready to jump right in – head first.

Wherever the road to your internship search takes you, keep these five items in mind.

Happy searching!

I Got 99 Problems and an (Idea) Pitch Ain’t One

At some point in the career of a marketing professional, we find ourselves finding that confidence to suggest the impossible – sometimes even if it seems a bit crazy.

pitch

What’s important is to educate yourself as much as you can in your field and learn all of the variables as to why and why not something might work. As one of the employees with the least amount of experience at my current marketing agency due to my age, I try and to prepare any idea pitch for a social media program or marketing idea with all of the parts and pieces of the puzzle in mind.

Honestly, it has taken me awhile to get here. I completed six internships in college, worked at a midsize agency and major corporation prior to this position. It has take quite a bit of research and understanding to really get ahold of what can and can’t work. These are just some of those things that come naturally with experience but sometimes thinking outside of the box and believing in your wacky idea can get you there faster.

Once, I had what I thought was an insane idea for a theatrical motorsports press conference. It involved drivers dressing up as good and bad cowboys. We’d even have the track owner as the Sheriff and have the reporters sit on bales of hay. As it turned out, the track owner LOVED the idea and was a big fan of western films. It turned into a full ad campaign with print ads, billboards,commercials (I even was an extra in one), and more all about one of the track’s biggest races of the year. This campaign has now been used for two years.  And I thought my idea was crazy…

So, for all of my fellow recent college grads out there, and current college students looking for ways to stand out in their internship, I give you my tips as listed below.

Tips to Getting Your Pitch Heard:

  1. Be fearless. If you’ve ever been a part of a brainstorm, 9 times out of 10 someone at some point will say, “No idea is too crazy so share anything you have.” Don’t limit yourself to this view on ideas just in a brainstorm setting. Sometimes the craziest ideas change our world for forever.
  2. RESEARCH! While you’re busy “dancing in a storm in your best dress, fearless” like Taylor Swift, remember not to present anything without having some knowledge to back it up. If you’re new to a company, see if they’ve tried a similar idea, campaign, etc. before so you’re not wasting anyone’s time – and don’t wind up discouraged. Know your industry and read case studies. You’ll thank me later.
  3. Creativity is key. Don’t try and reinvent the wheel for there’s obvious reasons for that expression. Come with an idea no one has thought of before and you won’t just shine, young padawan – you’ll impress.
  4. Take a deep breath, and let the idea flow. It may sound silly now but if this is the first big idea you’ve pitched, take a deep breath before speaking. It will help you calm your mind, ease your thoughts and communicate in the best way possible.
  5. Don’t forget – you’re awesome. Why are you in your internship or job? Because you’ve already proved you’re a valuable asset to the team. They saw a spark in you based on your experience, knowledge, attitude and drive. So give them what they paid for. Be confident and realize second guessing yourself is unnecessary because you know what you’re doing.

Same Stage, Different Platform

I have a confession. In junior high and high school, I was a HUGE theater nerd. I was one of those kids from “Glee” before it was cool. It was not uncommon for my friends and I to sing Broadway tunes down the halls on the way to class, or opt to improvise a scene about a subject in class rather than pulling together a poster board. In a nutshell, I was consumed by theater.

From a curtain call dress rehearsal of “42nd Street” from my junior year of high school. I’m on the left.

I performed in plays, musicals, and improv troupes. I also was dedicated to choir and even won a few medals from ensemble competitions.

So here I am now as a social media marketer. A month or so ago, I found myself looking for inspiration while working on a client’s posts for the next month. I kept thinking about the customers who typically would go to the restaurant. I thought about what they sounded like, what they looked like, and how the spoke. I thought further and thought what would they expect a person who manages the Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare of the location to sound like. Then it hit me.

I needed to change the way I was writing by creating a “character” for the restaurant.

When I was cast in a play in the past, a common exercise would be to develop the character’s story from inside and out. Everything from how old the character was, to where they were from, and even down to what food they liked. This would all help build the character for the performer. So I did the same for the restaurant’s character.

And it worked! It helped the words flow with a quirky edge that this restaurant fits. Since writing in this way, the page’s interaction has gone up on Facebook in particular, and more customers are commenting.

I guess it goes to show you, you can take the girl out of the theater, but you can’t take the theater out of the girl.

#NASCAR

I began my public relations career working primarily with a variety of internships. In a number of these positions, I worked with NASCAR brands and racetracks.

Having worked around motorsports for about four years, it was interesting to watch the sport change as the popularity of social media grew. I can remember in 2008 when Twitter really started to take off with many brands, journalists and drivers trying to utilize this new way of engaging race fans.

Now, four years later, NASCAR has become dominated by social media, especially Twitter. One of the best examples of this was when Brad Keselowski garnered over 100,000 new followers on Twitter while the Daytona 500 was under red flag conditions.

With that single event, NASCAR was forever changed showing other sports that NASCAR was not stuffy and behind-the-times. NASCAR was on the brink of something big.

Last weekend was the racing world was forever changed with the Pocono 400 presented by #NASCAR. This was the first time in the history of sports in which a major sporting event incorporated their title with a hashtag into an event. Furthermore, they set up a special Twitter page which aggregates all #NASCAR related posts.

This is tremendous for a sport that has battled the “good ‘ole boys” perception for several years as they try to stay current and on-trend in terms of marketing and social media.

As someone who worked in racing for a period of time, I’m proud to see how the sport has been one of the first sports to relate to fans in this new way, and allow them to be as updated as possible with all of the happenings, as well as reach out to their favorite brands, drivers, journalists and other personalities in this new way.

It will be interesting to watch as more sports take from this concept and further social media within the industry.

What A Beautiful World With Instagram

Launched in October 2010, it’s interesting how Instagram has changed the way people look at their daily life. Instagram users seem to share a desire to spread the beauty of the world that comes into their daily lives. Be it the flowers they pass on their way to work, their new favorite shoes, or some of their best friends, Instagram seems to be helping the average person look at their world in a new way.

I personally love Instagram for that reason. After moving to Charlotte from Chicago, my entire outlook of how I perceive home has changed. I never really realized how beautiful Chicago was until I moved away from it. I even found myself loving being at an “L” stop in the middle of the winter with the cold wind freezing my body.

As I continue to visit home, I’ve found myself shooting photo after photo on my iPhone for new backgrounds for my phone. I have since posted many of these on my Instagram account: sarahbonk (check it out!). Such as the photo featured in this post.

For marketers, I think this use of Instagram in which users seem to find beauty in their everyday life critical. For brands, users may just snap pictures of their favorite products all on their own. Marketers can find clever uses for their Instagram accounts.

I’ve noticed various sports teams tapping into their fans love of the game to take photos. For example, some baseball teams are taking photos of their ballparks at different angles showing how marvelous a field can be. Some teams are also taking photos of their key players doing everything from interviews, to autograph signings and in-game play. I think this gives fans an artsy, fun way to get a new insider’s perspective of what it’s like to be on a baseball team.

The possibilities are endless. Fashion brands can find clever ways to shoot their new items. Food brands can shoot their newest products to draw more attention to their launch. In short, I am a fan of Instagram and plan on looking for ways to use the application in future positions as it grows.

Instagram makes me think of one of my favorite songs which I think is a pretty good way to sum up this post:

“I see trees of green. Red roses, too. I see them blue for me and you. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.” – Louis Armstrong

Dissolving Packaging in the Future

I recently finally subscribed to Fast Company. I visited their Twitter, Facebook page and website frequently so I figured it was about time.

Image from Tide’s website

When I received the March 2012 issue, I was fascinated by an article entitled, “MonoSol Creates Innovative Dissolvable Packaging to Combat Waste.” I recommend you check out this article by clicking here.

I remember the first time I discovered what recycling was. I was in first grade and my classmates and I were treated to a “movie day,” in which our teacher showed us a variety of videos about the importance of recycling. I remember the catchy song that played along instructing us, the future generation, to “Recycle! Reduce! Reuse!” To this day, the word “recycle” causes just that part of the song to play in my head.

When reading the article in Fast Company, I found myself watching a commercial for Tide’s new Tide Pods. The second I saw that commercial, my marketer’s brain took over. I thought of a million in one ways they could further promote the new product. Most of all, I thought of myself, I recent college graduate who still has not exactly mastered the art of doing laundry.

However, with these new Tide Pods I could not only have a pre-measured amount ready for my disposal, but it’s cute, fun packaging would add a little bit of umph to such a tedious chore. I also thought of all the college students across the country who would be able to save themselves from the fate of some of my clothes and get it right the first time.

Tide Pods are brilliant for that reason but the fact that they can revamp the world of packaging is sheer genius. Although the concept of dissolvable packaging is not new, this new use could mean endless possibilities as more companies look for ways to cut down on packaging costs and when examining their carbon footprint.

These little laundry wonders have introduced the world to dissolvable packaging which could be critical to a world constantly battling pollution. If we could manage the damage we have already done and stop producing more waste through clunky packaging that takes a million years to disappear, the world would be a better and more healthy place.

As I read Fast Company‘s article, I was fascinated by MonoSol’s work. Especially when I saw this image.

Although this image is a concept, I have to admit, the idea of vegetables in dissolvable packaging does not sound too appealing and a bit space aged but who knows. Maybe they’ll develop packaging that seasons vegetables as the packaging develops in the future.

It’s an interesting concept that is gaining traction through Tide Pods but can only grow and develop. MonoSol also currently has dissolvable packaged oatmeal, hot chocolate, and laundry detergent pods.

Holy Pinterest!

While visiting a friend who had a work engagement pop up, I found myself in northern Illinois with nothing to do. I was five minutes from the Wisconsin border and two hours away from most people I know. In a word, I was trapped. 

Then, I decided to finally see what Pinterest was all about.

Why did I wait almost a year since I first heard of the site to check it out?

Pinterest, is a website full of images. It reminds me of a digital locker – or in my case, it reminds me of the back of my closet door. Growing up, I was a big fan of magazines. I’d pull quotes, photos, stories, images and more and tape them to the back of my closet door. Images of Tina Fey, Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears, The Spice Girls, and the Backstreet Boys still hang there today. Mostly due to the fact it would be sad to see so many years of work go to waste.

The website appears to be much more female friendly than anything. With Pinterest, a woman could like images and post them to her own board (a way to sort your favorite images). Topics of images range from food recipes, to hairstyle ideas, to outfit ideas, and just plain, old, adorable pictures of animals.

It’s a great place to share images with friends and give each other ideas.

Personally, one of the things I love the most about the website are the images of positive quotes. These uplifting images of quotes by celebrities, philosophers, musicians, personalities, or the unknown. After reading and collecting a variety of quotes for my own board, I felt uplifted and better even at a time when I feel as if I’m waiting for my life to start again with a new job.

As a woman, I feel this website could be used for so much but especially sharing ideas with other women and provide each other with support. It’s as if the Spice Girls’ mantra of “Girl Power!” became a website. Their image on my closet door would be so proud.

Then, I started to think as a marketer. Marketing, PR and advertising professionals commonly have what some call their idea box. The Idea Box contains a variety of items which can help inspire creative ideas to help them get their next great event, press release, etc.

I believe Pinterest could be a digital version of the Idea Box but kicked up a notch. Imagine a world where PR pros could share their boxes digitally with the co-workers and trusted friends to inspire each other?

I guess for me, I feel the greatest unintended use for Pinterest is to inspire. So many of the images on the website are art. In this way, art can breathe life into our creative abilities in new ways.

In short, I’ve already liked Pinterest on Facebook.

Check out my Pinterest page by clicking here.

Christmas and the Nook – My New Job-Seeking/Marketing Research Device

Maybe it was my parents’ way of saying I need more to do, but this year for Christmas, they bought me a Barnes and Noble Nook Color.

At my last job, many of my co-workers used their iPads for meetings, reading books, note-taking and more. I dreamed of buying my own after saving up for a few months while working there. Then things changed.

While I was home during my Thanksgiving break, I found myself on the L after leaving a friend’s apartment. While on the train, I saw a woman who inspired me. She was professionally dressed but in the cutest way possible. She had a great briefcase/purse, a warm but light white-and-black tweed coat, and her Chanel sunglasses tucked in her brunette mane. While standing on the train as it twisted and turned its way toward downtown, she effortlessly read a novel while on her commute to work on a Nook.

Having found myself on the fence about moving back to Chicago or trying to stay in Charlotte, this woman represented not only who I could be but who I wanted to be. Why couldn’t I find myself reading a cheesy romance novel on my way to my fabulous new PR or marketing job and looking cute while doing it? In that moment, I decided I wanted to get a Nook or some sort of e-reader.

I told my mom what I saw and a few weeks later, I found myself lucky enough to be holding a Nook in my hands. My mother later said she hoped it would bring luck so I could be the girl on the train.

From first glance, it looked like a giant Android phone. Same OS. Same user-friendly design. Then, I found myself clicking the “Shop” button. I was a goner.

Book after book, I found myself clicking “Purchase” or “Free Sample” a few too many times. I decided to purchase one book for fun (Bright Lights, Big Ass by Jen Lancaster – about a woman who was laid off and looks for work in Chicago based on the author’s life), a book about job-seeking (Killing the Cover Letter by Gene Kincaid – a book for PR/advertising majors) and a book about fun PR stunts (Can We Do That! Outrageous PR Stunts That Work – And Why Your Company Needs Them by Peter Shankman). And that does not include all of the free issues of magazines I received since they offer a free trial of any magazine.

These books not only will help me pass the time but will also help with my job search – and best of all – all of these books are one size physically and all fit into my cute little e-reader.

Then, I started exploring the free trial issues I downloaded of various magazines. I downloaded issues from Vanity Fair, Glamour, and Wired. As a marketing professional, I was fascinated by how each magazine’s articles were optimized to connect readers with the websites where they could purchase various items.

As the daughter of a journalist as well as the owner of a PR degree, I’ve heard for years how print is dying. I think with the optimization of magazines like this, print is not dead – it’s just wearing a new coat. With so much of a magazine or newspaper depending on ad revenue, this is the way publishers can garner more ad dollars as new ideas for optimization begin to roll out.

I don’t think I have realized just yet all of the capabilities of my new favorite device but one thing is for sure – I can’t thank my parents enough for it.

While looking for a quote for this entry, I admittedly searched for a good quote. I’m not afraid to admit it but I felt this quote is the best explanation of what the experience of reading a book is like:

“A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.” – Edward P. Morgan