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Top 5 PR Intern Dos and Don'ts
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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In this new economy, it's no secret that the internship is the new slave labor... eh, interview. And in an industry such as public relations, where limited budgets and coloring outside the lines steer most campaigns, getting success at a bargain is almost as good as securing a sweet headline. 

PR interns have the ability to complete a team when they rock. Yet, when they suck, most directors just want to roll them right back to the college — or remedial school — from which they came. From my fare burgh, we have some fo-shizzle interns, which were my muse for this post: Introducing the top five dos and doo-doo for PR interns:

DON'TS:
1. Speak in text lingo. Sure, you can type "LOL," "OMG," or "IJK," but if you are so lazy that you can't say the words, "I'm just kidding," then just shut up. Your mouth will not be charged for more than 140 characters. And you do not have a bill for overage of words. Oh yeah, and you're out of junior high. 

2. Forget to check your 'tude at the door. It's a fact of life — you must pay your dues. If you believe you have a million-dollar idea and your director sweeps it under the rug, do us all a favor — suck in your bottom lip. You're not a wunderkind...yet. There's no need for your ego, largely because that's the only thing your future employer will hear when called for a reference. Learn, listen and move on. 

3. Assume. You know the adage. "When you assume, you make an ass out of you..." and something else about an -umption. I forgot. The point is that as an intern, there are no guarantees. If you think your director is impressed by your degree and ability to make delish coffee, then enjoy your career as a Starbucks barista. However, if you are interested in a career in PR, then work hard until your last day. Don't develop "senioritis" with one week to spare, because the rest of the team who have that full-time gig you don't have also do not have one week to spare. 

4. Adorn your work station like your dorm room. Internships are not college, even though you are still in one. Those kitschy spirit banners. Those half-drunk pictures of you before the walk of shame. Those shot glasses in your bookcase. Yeah, that's not cute anymore. You're a big boy or girl. Let's act like it. Yes, even if your director does not. 

5. Be forgotten. If your strategy to making a difference is to sit at your desk, read up on the Kardashians, and wait for 5 p.m. is the way to get a job, then go apply at Mickey D's and enjoy the survival of the unifttest. The best intern is one that makes it impossible for a company to let go. If you show off a little, you will show up a lot. If your job is to learn as much as possible, don't lose a single opportunity to do so. 

DOS
1. Proofread. It's a fact of life that all PR professionals do our best proofreading after we hit the send button. However, as an intern, you don't have that opportunity to fart and fall down like most directors. However, every piece of communications not only represents your team and your hopeful firm, but also you. And if you want to be known as the person who writes like someone with a phobia against Scrabble, then don't proofread. 

2. Scribe. As an intern, the one impression you want to provide is, "Hi, I'm here to learn." If you are invited from making copies and washing my car to joining your team in a meeting, bring a notepad. It will save from forgetting key instructions and insight. Albert Einstein once said, "Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school." The education is an internship, so consider your Moleskine a textbook waiting for you to write.

3. Diversify. The worst thing any intern can do is find a niche and make it into a nook. I was given that sage advice as an intern in radio and never forgot it. If you find yourself working solely on technology accounts, dare to be radical and find your way on a boring financial account. It's not tech and once you get a hit in the "Snoozeville Times," you are no longer "the tech person." Expertise is great to have if it's in more than one disclipline. 

4. Listen. Two ears. One mouth. That ratio is there for one reason. As an intern, feedback is something you should welcome — all of it. You can learn just as much from someone praising your brillance as you can from that same person bellowing, "Holy crap. This press release sucks." Before you fight back, defending your belligerent Oxford comma, listen for those the next three words. "And here's why." If your mentor or director doesn't say that, well, they suck...then do number five... 

5. Ask. Your boss, co-workers, and colleagues are in their offices because they have skills. Well, most of them. If any work, thought, or idea piqued your interest, then ask about the inspiration. Ask about the background. Ask about the skill set. Do anything, but ask! I know you're dazzling but be honest, you're still part dork, so ask how to escape dorkdom and join the ranks of flackdom. 

Now, there's also the fact that my car needs cleaning, shoes need shining and office needs rearranging, but we will get to that later. Over the weekend, of course.

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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