A taste of the real world: lessons learned from a summer internship

By: Natalie Burns

Source: accuratebodylanguage.com

Source: accuratebodylanguage.com

The majority of the year, Michigan is frigid cold. We trudge through heavy snow and dangerously drive into blizzards and ice storms. Many of us wait all year for the beautiful summer that Michigan brings. Summer is amazing. Beaches, sand dunes, weddings, sunshine, bike rides, and pool parties bring bronzed skin and gratified faces. Although I missed out on a lot of summer festivities this summer, I wear a smile across my face because I gained hands-on experience as a Development Intern at SOS Community Services.

From my experience to yours, I want to share what I learned as a summer intern, so that maybe you can take something away from it too.

Open Communication

SOS Community Services is a non-profit organization based out of Ypsilanti. At SOS, they are dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. This organization in particular promotes housing stability and family self-sufficiency through collaboration, care and respect (source). The SOS team is all about open communication. My first week as an intern was rocky because during orientation and training, I wasn’t open about my capabilities and strengths. Although they had a guideline of what I was able to do, I wasn’t vulnerable enough to prove that I really had what it took to be a good intern. It took a few weeks to get adjusted, but after several meetings, my walls were down, and I was able to communicate with both the director and the coordinator about what I really wanted to get out of the internship. Many places, just like SOS, are giving you a chance to prove you are worth having on board. You need to be honest and open about what you want.

Gaining Trust

Piggybacking off of open communication, gaining trust will go a long way. If you are a great writer, then prove it! If you are organized and well spoken, prove that too! Public relation professionals are about image, so create one! You don’t have to be great at everything. I got bored with posting social media, so I spent extra time on revamping articles for the newsletters. They seemed impressed with my articles, so I wrote more. Whatever I lacked at, I asked questions about. I tried to prove that I could be trusted by completing projects, listening, and always being willing to go the extra mile.

Working as Team vs. Working Alone

You will continue to hear this more and more the closer you get to graduation. It is a requirement that you may think is taken lightly, but it’s not. In PR, you absolutely must know how to work both in a team and alone. If you are a perfectionist, you have to learn to let things slide if the other person is not. If you do not play nice with others, you might want to consider a field that doesn’t involve people! In many ways, I try to be a chameleon. I get along with most people, and over time, I have learned to pick my battles. It wasn’t hard at SOS because the staff I worked with were friendly, kind, flexible, and helpful. But for some, it is not so easy. You also must learn to manage your time alone. I quickly learned when it was appropriate to take a break and use my phone, and when it was time to focus and work.

Breaking Out of Your Shell

One of the greatest gifts that I take with me from this internship is being humble. Having gained the trust of my director, she put me in charge of all the silent auction items for their biggest fundraising event in October called “The Road to Home.” I had to call organizations and businesses and ask for donations, something I had never done. Of course no one likes rejection, but I was persistent, and in the end my humility brought me farther then I would have ever imagined.

So this is what an internship is all about! What you put in is exactly what you will get out. I am grateful for SOS Community Services providing me with exactly the experience I needed. I may not have enjoyed the warm sand on my toes like I wanted to, but in the end, I received so much more.

Natalie Burns is a public relations major and marketing minor. Her writing, communication, and multitasking skills have allowed her to do especially well in her field. She has an outgoing, bubbly personality. Natalie is currently a public relations intern at SOS Community Services in downtown Ypsilanti. She is also Chief Financial Officer of PRSSA. Connect with her via Twitter @burns_natalie and Instagram @natattack03. Follow her blog at natalierb.wordpress.com.

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