#Interns101: Turning an Informational Interview into an Internship

BY: SAM MURPHY

Throughout my past two years of involvement in PRSSA, I’ve been prepped by a community of professionals and mentors to sharpen my knowledge on the public relations industry. While learning from these experts, I have been able to polish up on resume building, networking, job searching, and everything in between. For me personally, the skill that I have found to be most useful has tied all of these topics together; informational interviews. The purpose of an informational interview is to seek career advice from an established professional, specifically someone who holds a position you aspire to step into one day. By putting these lessons into practice, I was not only able to earn the summer internship of my dreams, but also re-assess the importance of facilitating connections. The key to nailing an informational interview can be explained in one word: Preparation.

Picture this: You’ve connected with a professional on LinkedIn that’s employed at a company you admire, or you’ve met someone at a networking event with holds interests similar to yours. You’ve reached out to them as an enthusiastic college student who would love to learn more about their position and career path. (In my experience, the employee I reached out to lived close enough to me to arrange a meetup for coffee, but keep in mind that video calls are just as effective!) The date is set… Now what?

First, do your research. Study that person’s LinkedIn, their past positions, and what they’ve accomplished. This alone can help you form questions such as “How did your previous experience at XX prepare you for the position you hold now?” or “I saw that you started off working in X industry, but then switched to Y. What changed your interests? What were the major differences between these two jobs?” Coming up with a list of questions you wish you ask prior to the interview can help alleviate any nerves you have, and ensure the conversation doesn’t come to an awkward pause as you organize your thoughts.

Another way you can help this interaction run as smoothly as possible is by brushing up on your PR vocabulary. Most people who have been working in the industry for at least a few years will forget that we, as college students, are still navigating the many terms that are bounced around the workplace. And how can you benefit from an informational interview if half of the conversation goes right over your head? If phrases like press clippings or lead time seem like foreign concepts, consider searching a few PR Glossaries so that you can be fully receptive- but also don’t be afraid to ask for elaboration on something if needed!

Lastly, don’t forget that a conversation involves two people. Despite the word interview, this isn’t meant to be a structured process, but one that flows naturally. If an opportunity arises for the conversation to go in a different direction, go with it! The most important thing is that you walk away with more knowledge of your goals and/or job expectations. You shouldn’t enter into this thinking an internship will be handed over to you by the time it’s over. Be sure to follow-up to thank the person for their time and advice. If potential internships weren’t brought up during your interview, reiterate your eagerness and initiative in follow-up by stating that you would love to be considered for any available opportunities in the future.

 

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How You Can Find a Job on Twitter: A Chat with Erica Nardello of Digitas Health 

BY: GILLIAN ZUCKER

“You’re never going to get a job looking on Twitter,” Erica Nardello’s father told her while she was searching for her first opportunity after graduating from UD with a B.S. in Marketing in 2009. However, the now Senior Manager of Social Strategy for Digitas Health laughs that she found, applied, and accepted a position at the company after seeing a job posting on their Twitter. This past Monday, our PRSSA-UD members had the honor of hearing Erica’s advice about interviewing and then succeeding in future careers.

For those who may not know, Digitas Health specializes in purposeful healthcare and pharmaceutical marketing that works, along with its mission, to help and not sell and create deeper connections between consumers and professional customers. Digitas Health is a member of the world’s largest healthcare communications network, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group, making it an even greater honor to learn from the best.

Her valuable knowledge (and hilarious use of gifs) kept us engaged and motivated for our futures in the industry. Below are her tips for successful interviewing and excelling in the job:

1. Do the research: Know your facts about the company, including their mission and client work, by reading up on their website and social media (and maybe you’ll find an opportunity on their Twitter like Erica did)! Part of doing the research involves preparing for potential interview questions and coming up with your own questions to ask the interviewer and show your interest.
2. Demonstrate your work ethic: Talk about how you put in the work to get things done, instead of just listing off your accomplishments. Speak to your values and how they related to the projects you worked on!
3. Back it up with data: Of course, it’s super effective to prove your success with numbers, but you also need to illustrate why they were important to making a difference in previous positions. If you have a copy of the analytical information from social media posts you made, for example, that would make an impact in your interview.
Excelling at the job:
4. Sign up for more responsibilities: Say yes to all the opportunities at your internship to make a difference, grow, and learn more about an area of public relations you haven’t explored yet (corporate/internal communications, account management, etc)!
5. Try a side hustle: Explore opportunities that fuel your passions, like freelancing or volunteering. The experiences will help you build your skill set in more ways than you know!
6. Find mentors: Erica says that she would not be where she is today without her mentors who guided her along her career journey and advocated for you. Sign up for our Mentor-Mentee program when you see the email to have this experience in PRSSA-UD!
7. Use your skills to give back: Whether this is volunteering for a non-profit or using your work to make a difference in the world (such as working on healthcare clients like Erica), it’s so rewarding to give back and help others.
Currently, Erica hosts CreativeMornings Philadelphia (https://creativemornings.com/), a monthly breakfast series for creative types, while working at Digitas and serving as a UD Career Acceleration Network Advisor (UD CAN). Sign up for https://udcan.udel.edu/ to connect with Erica for even more advice on career paths in advertising and marketing, plus résumé feedback! And thank you Erica for all of your fantastic advice and for sharing your experiences with us.

#Interns101: Connections, Patience, and Hard-work

BY: JENNA NEWMAN

This summer I had the opportunity to be an intern for Blue Blaze Marketing Associates located right in Newark, DE! I actually started my internship with them in January and then had it extended through August. The three main things that were reinforced throughout my internship was the importance of connections, patience, and hard work.

Connections

Back in October 2017 Wendy Scott came into our PRSSA meeting in Brown Hall to talk to us about an internship opportunity with DE Wildlands. I know you’re probably thinking now, I thought she said she was working for Blue Blaze, you’re right, I was, it all connects. Anyways, Wendy came in and talked about getting an intern to come in and help her with their main fundraising event of the year, a Bluegrass Music Festival. She was flexible with time and did not care if you had experience. Wendy was ready to help be a mentor to someone and give them experience that they could use in the future.

As a sophomore who had a lot of leadership experience and one communications internship in high school, but nothing other than that, the opportunity sounded perfect. I emailed Wendy that night and linked with her on LinkedIn the following morning. That Thursday I had an interview and soon after I heard that she would love to work with me, she just needed to confirm with her boss.

Patience

October turned into November and November into December and I still hadn’t heard anything else from Wendy. I was hoping to do the bulk of my internship work during January winter session and then I built my spring semester around having time to work, so it was starting to worry me that I hadn’t heard anything.

Soon after the New Year I heard from Wendy that her boss wasn’t giving her definitive answers, but she would love to work with me, so she had a internship position she could offer me at her and her wife’s personal firm, Blue Blaze. I instantly accepted and soon got to work.

I learned how to become a stronger researcher—I did research on what different potential clients we could reach out to, how to develop a media list, how important fact checking is when creating a display. They gave me independence to prioritize the tasks they gave to me and they trusted me to develop content for their new website. They truly cared about not only the work I did, but also my personal life and the steps I was hoping to take within my career. They wanted to play a role in helping me get there. After having patience for what the future would hold for me working for Wendy, I was ecstatic when everything fell together so incredibly.

Hard Work

The harder I worked the more they gave me to do and it was such a rewarding experience.

Before I knew it, the semester had come to an end and I was preparing to go home and spend the summer working before leaving for Cameroon in August. I was sad knowing that my time was coming to an end, but excited to leaving with knowledge and products to add to my portfolio.

A couple weeks before the end of my internship, they sat me down and presented me with a proposition—how would I feel about staying on for the summer? Compensation would be involved because they were aware I would be commuting at the opportunity.

Because of my connections through PRSSA, patience with the process, and strong work ethic, I was able to turn a 4-month opportunity to help with an event into a 7-month internship working with clients ranging from IT companies to small non-profits!

#Interns101: Making a Difference in Public Relations

BY: GILLIAN ZUCKER

Every time I meet someone new or attend a family function, I’m asked the inevitable, “So, you’re a Communication major, what are you looking to do after graduation?” For a while, that question overwhelmed me as I considered avenues of the field that related to my passions. Could there be a way for me to unite my dream of helping people and making a difference from my community service background with agency work?

As I navigated the industry more, I decided to explore internship options to help organizations on campus before moving onto the bustling agency life in a major city. This past summer, I was grateful for the opportunity to work as a Social Media Marketing intern for three official University of Delaware accounts: the Career Services Center, Residence Life & Housing, and the UDairy Creamery. While each organization had different specific messages to promote to audiences, I found that they all shared the mission of positively impacting the lives of those in the surrounding community and outer world. For example, the Career Services Center aimed to prepare students and alumni for a prosperous life after graduation as they follow their passions, Residence Life & Housing worked to make the university an inclusive community for all residents, and UDairy served as an environmentally sustainable venture teaching all of its passionate student workers about running an impactful business – among various organizational goals.

Through these internships, I was given almost full creative control of the content appearing on each channel, (typically Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) with approval from my supervisors, of course. As someone who will be managing multiple client accounts at once at a future agency, this was a welcome challenge. Overall, these experiences taught me about the importance of keeping an organized content calendar, staying on top of trends and university news that connected to the brand message of each account, and finally, they helped me grow my network of professionals who I can turn to for industry advice.

Now, I can successfully answer any questions about my future in the public relations industry. Lately, I’ve discovered that my goal is to work with clients that make a difference for the communities they serve, especially non-profit clients that delve in the areas of mental health, environmental sustainability, and gender equity, to name a few. With these opportunities under my belt and by uniting my passions of public relations and service to the community, I know I will feel fulfilled in my work after graduation and help others.

#Interns101: How Joining PRSSA Enabled Me to Feel Prepared for My Internship

BY: MORGAN ZYSMAN

This past summer, I had the privilege of being a public relations intern at The Syndicate, an entertainment marketing agency in Weehawken, New Jersey. This was the first real internship I’ve ever had, so there were obvious nerves that came with it. I can definitely say I would not have been able to successfully complete this internship and feel as prepared as I did if I had not joined PRSSA.

Before joining PRSSA, I did not even have a resume. Through the mentor-mentee program offered in our chapter, I met amazing upperclassman students who were able to help me. They had gone through what I was currently going through and gave me advice to point me in the right direction and feel confident in my abilities. My mentor helped me create my resume, LinkedIn, and further develop my online presence.

A UD and PRSSA alumna, Brittany O’Connell currently works at The Syndicate and was an intern there last summer. I knew we had the similar interest of working in the music/entertainment industry and knew she loved her internship there. I applied, went through an interview process, and ended up getting the internship! I worked alongside Brittany all summer which was so fun and amazing to see how much she has grown already post-graduation. It was great to learn from her and see a real-life example of how far you can come in this industry in such a short amount of time. I would not have heard about this agency if not for knowing Brittany from joining PRSSA and being on the executive board with her. It was such an amazing experience and I’m so happy I had the opportunity to work there, and especially with her, this summer!

Besides forming connections as a way to help in internship opportunities, PRSSA really helped me have the ability to feel prepared and comfortable going into my internship. I have learned such valuable skills through our skill slams and the speakers who have come to our meetings. Whether it was how to answer interview questions, what to wear to an interview, learning basic public relations terminology, how important it is to form connections, and ultimately how to become successful in this industry, I have taken everything I have learned thus far and applied it while working at this internship.

After completing this internship, I know doing PR in the music/entertainment industry is something I definitely want to pursue. It’s great that I was able to have this opportunity to verify my interest in this field. I’m excited to be able to take what I’ve learned this summer back to my chapter and share my knowledge and experience with younger students, just like what was done for me!

Morgan Zysman is currently a senior majoring in media communication with minors in advertising and journalism.To connect with her, follow her on Twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn.

Making Communicators: A Conversation with Kim Dixon

What makes a great communicator? Is it the number of Communication classes you’ve taken? Or the amount of press releases you’ve written? Or the number of LinkedIn connections you have? Kimberly Dixon thinks otherwise – anyone can be transformed into a great communicator with eight (not-so-magic-after-all) qualities.

Kimberly Dixon, a UD alumna now working as Vice President of Global Corporate Communications at Weber Shandwick, one of the leading global communications agencies, certainty has the experience to prove her credibility. Since graduating from the University in 2007, she has held numerous positions in Public Relations which have helped advance her career. But in her words, the experience that was most influential in shaping her interest in Public Relations was actually right here at UD, writing for The Review. “It was there that my love of storytelling was born, and where I learned the value of writing with precision and clarity,” Dixon says. Working her way up to become a Managing Editor at The Review, she then had the opportunity to travel outside of Newark to research stories and interview key individuals, allowing her to see how writing and journalism can create an image, one of the fundamental parts of Public Relations. After graduating, she acquired a broad range of experience that has opened her eyes to the differences of working in-house for companies such as J.P. Morgan, versus for a larger agency such as Horn Group, PureWow, and finally, Weber Shandwick. Along the way, she has gained valuable knowledge that she was kind enough to share with us. Below are her Eight Characteristics of Great Communicators:

 

  • A Thirst for Knowledge – Be a lifelong learner, don’t let yourself become stagnant. Ask questions whenever you can and “always be intellectually curious!”
  • Seek Different Perspectives – There will be times in life when you will not always be an expert, nor will you be right. In these cases, it’s ok to ask for advice from other people and have an open mind because “diversity of thought is one of the most valuable skills to possess.”
  • Listen, as much, if not more, than Talk – Yes, you have to be able to articulate and communicate your thoughts and ideas, but there is a lot to be learned from listening to others. As Dixon emphasized, it always looks good to care more about the people around you than yourself, and as her father said to her, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!”
  • Be Allergic to the Status Quo – It is easy when you become successful to get such in a rut and revert to the same tried-and-true tactics. But it’s important to ask yourself, “How can I improve? How can I be different? How can I challenge the ‘status quo’ to set myself apart and succeed?”
  • Prepare! – The secret to having authority and confidence in any situation, while making it appear effortless, is preparation. Do your research, do your homework, and rehearse!
  • Hustle! – What you get out of your career is what you put into it, so make sure to use your energy wisely! Don’t rest on your laurels because the road to success never ends.
  • Tell the Truth; Be Transparent – In any industry, but especially in Public Relations, there is a responsibility to be honest and authentic. Doing so will not only make you a better person, but it will also show your integrity and strength of character.
  • Make an Impact – As Dixon says, “Communication is the currency of change.” We, as communicators, are in a unique position to make a difference in our world by using our skills and talents for the benefit of the common good.

 

The best thing about these characteristics, aside from the fact that they can be learned and developed, is that they never stop. We as humans, not just communicators, are a constant work in progress, and we can always find room to improve. Thank you, Kimberly, for sharing your words of wisdom with us and helping us become the best communicators we can be.

Rosalie Baseman is a junior Honors French and Interpersonal Communications double major with a minor in Fashion History and Culture. She will be taking on the role of PRSSA-UD’s Co-Program Director for the 2018-19 school year. She is also President of Yoga Club and Associate Editor of UDress Magazine.

#Hashtags to Live By

BY: KARA NORTH

Cedric Bess wears two hats. He brought them – literally two hats – to last week’s PRSSA meeting, one bearing a New York Yankees’ logo and the other Mercedes-Benz. Cedric is both the Supervisor of Guest Relations with the Yankees and a Product Specialist and Supervisor at Mercedes-Benz. Is his words, he justifies balancing both professions because “sports is my habit, so I have to pay for my habit”. Sports, in fact, have always played a large role in Cedric’s life. His very first job was with the Junior Orange Bowl, as PR Director. His background also links him to PRSSA: he served as the National President of the nation-wide organization from 2000-2001. He has since been greatly involved with PRSA and even began his talk with some news and updates from the National Board. He then recalled the many opportunities PRSSA had provided him with as well as one of the main takeaways he learned, which is “be prepared to give back”. Cedric was kind enough to travel from New York City to Newark and meet with our chapter’s members.
Throughout his lengthy career, Cedric has learned a great deal from his college professors, mentors and peers. His goal was to share some of it with our members so that we could start applying it earlier in our careers, as he wished he had done. He compiled his advice into a list of “hashtags to live by”, which include the following:

#ThinkOfAMasterPlan – Start with short-term and long-term goals and compartmentalize them into “bite-sized morsels” to ensure that you can achieve them. Write these goals down because doing so is “speaking them into existence”.

#HitTheBooks – Research the companies you want to work for. If and when you get an interview, tell the company something about themselves. For example, congratulate them on something they were in the news for. People love to talk about themselves.

#SpringCleaning – Clean up your online presence (yes, companies do Google search you) and update your profiles with your most relevant experience.

#SuitAndTie – Dress for the job you want to have, not necessarily the one you have.

#WorkIt – Attend professional networking events. No matter what stage you’re at, employers are looking at you as experts in your field. Sometimes you have to go out and find them in order to share your expertise. Get involved on campus, like writing for the school newspaper in order to showcase your skills.

#GetOutThere – There are hundreds of organizations out there. Explore different areas because it can provide you with another perspective on your own area.

#WaxOnWaxOff – Find your Mr. Miyagi; Find a mentor that can teach you the ways. Keep a core of people that you can lean on and trust. They can talk you through questions you may have later in your career.

#InchDeepMileWide – Be a service to yourself by learning a few things about a ton of topics because you never know what situations you’ll find yourself in later in life. Better yet, find something you know nothing about and learn about. Search daily headline, listen to podcasts…

#Can’tStopWon’tStop – (Yes, this is a P-Diddy reference) You can’t let anyone tell you that you cannot do something. Life happens, but you’ll have to figure out how to still accomplish things.

Cedric ended his talk with two quotes, the authors of which may come as no surprise: 

1. “There may be more people who are talented than you, but there’s no reason someone should work harder than you” – Derek Jeter.

2. “The best, or nothing” – Mercedes Benz.

 Thank you so much for coming all the way to UD to share your awesome advice! Keep #Hustlin.