From the Intern's Desk

thoughts, tools, tips, and tricks from the perpetual intern

Archive for the category “Internships”

How to Write a Thank You Note

An intern needs thank-you cards before he or she ever sets foot on the job. Part of being an intern means standing out among all the other potential interns in your supervisor’s eyes. Sending a thank-you note after an interview shows your appreciation for the supervisor’s time. It also shows that you’re detail-oriented and thoughtful. Who wouldn’t want to hire you?

Tips for writing a memorable thank-you note:

  1. Recall something you discussed at the interview – If you learned something unique about the company, mention it! If you learned something about the interviewer (she went to your college, he’s from your hometown, etc.) mention that, too! Include details that show you were paying attention. Try not to go overboard in personal touches because you always want to …
  2. Keep it short and sweet – People are busy. Your interviewer will appreciate getting the note, but won’t want to spend more than a minute or two reading it. A few brief sentences expressing your gratitude for his or her time will go a long way.
  3. Always sound sincere – Saying you just can’t wait to work for the company and are so excited to be part of the team can come across as a little desperate, especially when writing it to every company you interviewed with. Companies know that there won’t be a connection with every potential intern interviewed. Be gracious, even if you didn’t make that connection.
  4. Include your contact information – A business card or just a phone number after your name will suffice. You never know when you’ll come across your interviewer again in the future. He or she might be able to help you get an interview or a position within the company. After I wrote a thank-you note to a woman I interviewed with, she gave me a call and said that I was one of her top choices and if I wanted to intern for them in the future (I chose another company) to let her know.

Here’s an example:

Dear (interviewer’s name goes here),

Thank you for meeting with me on (day) for an interview for the position within your company. I really appreciate you spending the time to learn more about my qualifications and work that I could do for (name of company, dept., etc.). I’m glad I could learn more about/I didn’t know/Thanks for sharing (something you learned at the interview). I’m very grateful for this opportunity and hope you’ll consider me for the position. I’ve included my business card for your reference (if you included it)

Sincerely,

Sara Steffan (Your name, obviously)
(Phone number/email address if you did not include a business card)

A final tip: if you have neat handwriting, write it. It makes it feel more personal. If you don’t have neat handwriting, still try to write it. Typing it seems generic. Do a practice run on a sheet of scrap paper if you’re worried about messing up. And whatever wording you choose, be polite and always be yourself.

Helpful resources:

The Morning News – How to Write a Thank-You Note by Leslie Harpold offers suggestions on how to write a more personal thank-you with tips on what not to include.

Write Express tells you why writing a thank-you note can get you a job.

And finally, you can purchase your thank-you cards from Vista Print, where you can design your own or pick from their styles, choosing exactly how many you’ll need and even the type of paper.

Best Types of Voice Recorders

A voice recorder is a great investment for an intern. A digital voice recorder will make it easier to conduct interviews and log information. The many benefits of a voice recorder include durability, ease of use, quality and an extended life. When you have a hand cramp from writing constantly in meetings with your awesome pen, maybe it’s time for a voice recorder.

Get a smaller voice recorder. It fits in a pocket or a purse and sits discreetly on a table during an interview. A quality recorder will have a hold switch that locks its keys. The hold switch is necessary when it’s in a pocket to prevent it from going off accidentally.

Consider several different options when buying a voice recorder:

  1. Price – Ranging from $30 to over $100. Buying a cheap one is easy, though unlikely to last past your internship. A quality recorder will cost closer to $50. Google Products allows you to compare prices of voice recorders on websites such as Amazon, Walmart, and other office supply stores.
  2. Features – For example, connectivity. Can you plug it into your computer via USB? USB connection saves the data on your computer, usually as an MP3. Saving work is important with a recorder so you don’t accidentally record over your last interview. Plan on primarily conducting interviews? A microphone jack may be necessary to get high-quality sound. A less common feature, make sure to do your research before purchasing to see if your choice has a jack.
  3. Storage – Another important feature – storage. How much data can the recorder hold? If you can transfer the data to your computer, that may not be important. Recording long meetings can suck up space. The recorder should have 1GB at least of storage space.

Suggestions:

Sony ICD-PX820 Digital Voice Recorder w/ 2GB Flash Memory and Dictation Correction (available at Walmart, click photo)
-includes USB connection, reasonably priced

Sony ICD-PX820 Digital Voice Recorder w/ 2GB Flash Memory and Dictation Correction

Panasonic RR-US571 2GB IC Recorder Built-In Zoom Microphone Noise Cut (Google products link, click photo)
-feature-packed, worth the investment

Best Types of Pens

Bic, Paper-Mate, Uni-ball, Pilot — all kinds of pens serve the intern well. Pens are better than pencils for taking notes because they don’t break, write darker and more fluidly and make a business-like clicking noise. Clicking noises say it’s business time.

Pens are the first thing an intern needs to have in his or her toolkit. Lots of them. Pens are cheap and easy to carry around. They also tend to disappear. Having a multitude of pens in colors such as black, blue, red and even purple diversify your notes and make them easy to scan for important information. Plus, someone always wants to borrow a pen. Just having more than one in your possession will make you the favorite intern. Multiple colors? Bonus points!

Of all the pens you can get at any office supply store, there are a few that easily outperform the others in the aisle. They can also be a really great deal. Bargain plus quality equals the list of my top five basic pens. After rigorous testing, I’ve finally come to some conclusions on the best types of pens.

And the winners are…

  1. Paper-Mate Profile – With a thicker point and smoother writing than an average pen, this pen has never let me down. I’ve been through countless of these pens in my school note-taking career. I can only imagine how many I’ll go through as a working adult. The grip goes almost to the tip of the pen for maximum comfort. The click is loud but not too loud, just loud enough to be satisfying. The near-perfect pen.
  2. Bic Round Stic Grip – A pen with wonderful writing quality but comes in second because it’s not retractable. Fluid, dark ink and extremely cheap. The added grip greatly improves this version over the classic Round Stic. A lighter pen that’s suited for taking notes. Keep a bunch in your bag.
  3. Sharpie Pen – This could almost be the perfect pen if it weren’t on the expensive side. This pen has its own website. It honestly deserves it. It meets all of a good pen’s qualifications: it doesn’t bleed through paper, it’s smear-resistant and it writes smoothly. The felt tip leaves an extra dark mark and allows the ink to flow smoothly. A solid investment. Also not retractable.
  4. Pentel R.S.V.P. RT Colors – These pens have been a stand-by for me for a long time due to their superb ink. Hard to describe but difficult to put down. Accessioning books was easy for my librarian mother with these pens. Writing for hours seemed effortless. I finally saw a retractable version in Staples. Of course I bought them. You should, too.
  5. Uni-ball Roller Grip – For the more traditional intern. The scratching noise these pens make on paper is irresistible. The ink is more like a liquid than an average pen. The body also has more heft. It feels expensive. Looking professional was never this easy.

One pen, though, is the cream of the crop. It’s my favorite pen by far. It’s significantly more of an investment than the Sharpie pen. But for serious interns, this is ideal to put on your wishlist. My favorite pen ever is a Cross black and chrome ballpoint. It’s an older model, but has served me well over the years. I used to save it for writing thank you notes and in my diary. Now it works well for signing important documents and writing down assignments. I won’t just take this pen anywhere though in fear of losing it. This is one of those pens that stays on my desk.

The Cross pen sitting on my desk where it belongs

It doesn’t matter what pen you end up choosing. Every pen suits a different owner. Use them with confidence. Learn to love your mistakes! Pens are always permanent. Internships are not. Write and work fearlessly. Stay tuned for the next post about what’s in your toolkit, and feel free to share your favorite pens in the comments below.

NEW BLOG THEME

My blog has been inactive for a few months now because I’ve been hatching a plan for a BRAND-NEW theme!

This blog will still hold all of the tips for those in public relations, but with a new focus. I came up with this idea at my new job yesterday as a public information office intern for the City of Phoenix, which has been keeping me busy and away from blogging. Everyone there uses (and abuses, heh heh) me for whatever projects they are working on: an assistant, a phone-call maker, a note-taker, etc. I’ve learned a few things so far. Coming to work empty-handed would be a big no-no. The higher-ups expect me to be ready for whatever they want me to do, and there are a few things I wouldn’t have thought of but found myself needing on a day-to-day basis.

This blog is going to be a cumulative list of all those things. From the obvious to the not-so-obvious, I will be preparing you for those things  that are a must for your handbag or briefcase or murse or whatever people use these days.

A preview: My first post may or may not be about some of my favorite things in the world…

(photo from here)

Enjoy!

Interviewing Tips and Tricks

“How many job interviews should you expect to have before you land an actual job?”

This question came up in tonight’s #prstudchat. Many people had different answers, but the 5-6 range seemed common.  All the great networking you’ve been doing (after learning some great techniques, of course) is paying off. Now you’ve landed multiple interviews. What should you do?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short.

Come up with a game plan in your head. Role play. Imagine yourself walking through the door, into the interview. What are you wearing?

Look professional when going on a job interview

Tips On What To Wear:

Men – You can never go wrong with a suit. I define a suit as a jacket, dress pants, button-up shirt, tie and well-shined shoes. The jacket and pants match. The tie and shirt coordinate. Suits are impressive, regardless of whether the job would require you to wear one every day. If it’s too hot for the jacket, bring one anyway. Some places are cold and air-conditioned. You don’t want to be shivering in a thin shirt. Plus, jackets hide sweat stains.

Other accessories: belt, cuff links if necessary and a watch.

Colors must be subtle yet refined. Dark navy, brown and grey are the most neutral. Black may be too formal. As for the tie, ditch the happy face one your grandma gave you for Christmas. Stick with a small pattern or stripes. The shirt should be an accent color in the tie.

Remember, these are just suggestions, but together they create the most basic look that you will certainly feel confident wearing.

Women – Stay conservative. No short anything, no low-cut tops, no stilettos. If you wear a dress, make sure you can sit comfortably in it. No spaghetti straps. Bring a cardigan. Suits are also a good choice. Lighter fabrics like linen are great for the summer. Wool is a classic for winter.

Colors are more flexible for women, but stay in the neutral range. Add an accent color with a bright blouse or accessory but nothing too overpowering. Keep the patterns to a minimum. Heels must be a comfortable height for walking and in good condition. Flats are also perfectly acceptable.

Grooming Tips for Men and Women – Neat and clean. Brushed hair, brushed teeth. Tamed facial hair for men (preferably none) and light makeup for women. The best tip is to look natural.

[I borrow some of these tips from Virginia Tech’s Career Services office, where you can also find more detailed suggestions]

Continuing with the role play, you walk into the office and greet your interviewers. What do you do?

Be confident when shaking hands and introducing yourself

Shake Hands: Grip firmly, but not too tightly. Look directly into the interviewer’s eyes or at the space between their eyes (they won’t know the difference) and smile. Pump once. Let go. Remind yourself to breathe.

Introduce Yourself: “Hello, I’m Sara Steffan. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet with you today.” Be sincere. Make them have no choice but to like you.

Back to role play. After you greet, now what? Follow their lead. If the interviewers sit down, sit down as well. Make sure everything is prepared to give to them: your résumé, cover letter, writing samples, etc. Also, make sure you have enough copies for everyone who’s interviewing you. They don’t like to share.

Question time. Are you prepared for everything they’re going to ask you? This is where the role play comes in handy. Imagine the kind of questions they’re going to ask you. Maybe they’ll ask about your experience, or what you’d bring to their team. Write down a few key points and memorize them. You want to sound natural, so don’t memorize a whole speech.

For a more detailed approach on what to do during every step of the interviewing process, I like these points from the Connecticut Department of Labor. They offer several different strategies, like arriving early, that will help get you the job.

Before you know it, the interview will be over, and you’ll be hearing, “You can start on Monday.” With these tips, you’re on your way to getting the job.

What are some other important things to remember when interviewing?

Networking Techniques

Everyone talks about it. No one defines it. It’s extremely important when looking for a job, but what exactly is networking? I define networking as pursuing relationships and maintaining them on a professional level. Meeting new people, promoting yourself and creating connections are the building blocks to landing a job.

Exchanging information is key when networking

Important Things to Remember about Networking:

Take advantage of the 145 Million registered Twitter users – This statistic gives you a HUGE reason to be on Twitter. Your chances for networking with the right people go way up when you use Twitter effectively. Interact with future employers by using hashtags and retweeting their posts. Have a complete profile so employers can visit your blog and see your bio.

Success story: A Cronkite School student saw a retweet from Cronkite Student Life about USA Today looking for college life writers. She told them she would like to write for them and pitched her idea to them. The editor accepted it. She got published because of Twitter.

Overcome shyness – Being shy will only hold you back. Think of networking like dating. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never meet your match.

Never feel like you have to apologize for asking for help. According to a CIO article, don’t see networking as imposing. See it as building relationships. You can learn a lot from a person just by having a conversation.  And one day, you might be able to return the favor.

Go to events – Besides Twitter, the best way to find professionals all in one place is to go to a conference. ONA is both a conference and online journalism awards. It takes place in Washington, D.C., in October. If online is your field, everybody who’s somebody will be at this event. You’ll be guaranteed to meet people who have contacts in high places.

Organize yourself – Get into a routine when you meet someone new. Write his or her contact information down. Terry Lynn Johnson of PRSA suggests writing on the back of the person’s business card 1 – what you talked about and 2 – how to follow up with that person. Attach his or her business card to an index card and write more details about the person. File it away somewhere important.

Watch this informative video from Howcast about the basics of networking. It may be simple, but it refreshes principle ideas that everyone should know.

How to Gain Valuable Internship Experience

Seek and you shall find ... if you're looking in the right place, of course.

…without killing yourself. Here are some tips from my own experience as well as from other bloggers:

  1. What’s your value? Job experience, career exploration, résumé building – there are many reasons why you should intern. Determine the most important one to you. Tailor your cover letter to each employer – don’t just send out a generic letter. Show an employer why you would add value to their company.
  2. Where to intern? Analyze your needs and wants. Do you need a paying position? Do you want agency experience? Nonprofit experience? There are many outlets to develop your skills, but not all will be a perfect fit. Many internships are unpaid, but they offer college credit. Make sure to talk to your major adviser so they can approve your enrollment and even give you suggestions as to where to apply.
  3. Who can help you land your dream internship? People with contacts in your field, like a professional who can mentor you, would be great. You can develop contact at organizations that may have a local chapter, such as PRSSA or IABC. And of course, there’s always the career services office like the Cronkite Career Services Office for example that have a wealth of information. Make sure you’re on your college’s mailing list!
  4. When should you apply? EARLY. Early, early, early. Internships have deadlines. When I applied to an internship I saw in a career services email, I heard back right away because I was one of the first ones that applied. A job won’t wait around forever, especially if it’s one a lot of people want. Research upcoming opportunities, and if you see one you like, send in an application. Even if you don’t, anticipate the needs like how this One Day One Internship post said to search the Wayne Gretzky way. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
  5. What can you do to standout? Be creative. Emphasize your strengths by creating a social media plan for yourself – your Twitter page, YouTube, LinkedIn and how you communicate using these tools. Tell your employers how you did it. Advertise yourself. Use Prezi to put together a unique résumé that employers will remember. Reach out to employers on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. (see other good Twitter resources below)
  6. How do you move on if rejected from an employer? Don’t give up! Every setback is a new opportunity to find a better fit. Change your approach to networking. See if you get results. Internships are not jobs, so not as much is on the line. Read more blogs, comment and interact with others. Now is the time to take chances – establish yourself as a brand and identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Before you play the game, you must know the rules. Internships are competitive, especially in public relations. You have to be known before you’re considered for the job. The best way to get known is establishing yourself in the digital world. Use #prstudchat and #internchat hashtags to join the conversation, and find good people to follow.

Follow on Twitter

@YouTern – YouTern is effective because they tweet both companies to intern for and articles about interning. They have a blog offering tips and advice from experienced people that’s updated regularly.

Similar: @VoxPopPRCareers; @PRWork; @InternAlert – All update regularly with job and internship opportunities in the US (and even the UK for VoxPop).

@ComeRecommended – Offering several how-to articles, ComeRecommended works for both interns and their future employers. Their posts offer advice tailored to almost any situation you may find yourself in. You can join and interact with other interns and reach out to employers on their site.

@InternQueen – Lauren Berger, aka the Intern Queen, has years of experience. She had fifteen internships while in college. She offers tips and tricks for breaking into the internship world. Her site allows you to directly fill out applications for internships, even in fields other than PR.

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