'from the other side'
This time of year used to be full of stress, applications and interviews for internships. It’s crazy now that we’re on the “other side” of things. There are a few things I’ve learned since becoming a New Pro that I worried about / felt unsure about as an applicant or intern, and I thought it might be helpful to share for those of you currently in the middle of this sometimes-intimidating process.
Don’t feel bad following up
At least for me, if an email comes into my work inbox and it isn’t immediate or for a client, I’ll flag it and come back to it later on… until it slips my mind and other flags take priority. Not that your note isn’t a priority, but during working time, our clients and teams are in full swing. Please follow up with something simple like “Hi, [pro’s name,] pulling my note to the top of your inbox. Looking forward to connecting!” It is SO helpful when PRSSA students (I will forever <3 all PRSSA’ers) flag it so I remember to reply or call them that night/week. Obviously, don’t follow up unless it’s been a few days (maybe 3-5 unless you have a time-sensitive question/topic to discuss), but it’s appreciated and shows you’re on top of it. I used to be so nervous, feeling like a burden on the professional, but even the more senior people on my teams are always willing to help; just need a little reminder because some weeks are crazy!
If someone offers to help you, they mean it
In New York it seems like everyone lives off the motto “time is money.” Regardless of market or industry, time is valuable. If a professional who comes to your school, speaks at a conference or is introduced to you through a mentor offers to talk with you or review your resume/cover letter, take them up on it ! I guess I just found this a polite thing to do, kind of how you tell someone you’ll “catch up over coffee soon” and then never do. Boy, was I wrong. Senior professionals have crazy schedules, and if they’re offering the time, they mean it. It’s a true investment in you and your career! I know sometimes calls or receiving constructive feedback can be intimidating but it will seriously impact your work and interview process, whether for an internship or fifth job. I’m constantly blown away by the mentors who have given and continue to share some of their limited time and expertise - it makes a difference.
You can (and should) ask hard questions
I always had strategic questions drafted for every interview, ranging from campaign/client-specific things and broad culture questions, but always wondered more about the more “taboo” topics for young pros: money, specific culture elements, growth. I wish I had dug deeper, learning more about collaboration and client relationships, opportunities for long-term growth and internal initiatives. I think interviewers probably thought I had done my research when I asked about a recent press release, but I think asking more specifics about how the work was done and how the company invests in its employees would have stood out in a different way. And, I would’ve learned that much more about a potential internship or full-time employer. I’d avoid asking about entry level salaries on your initial phone screening, but consider big passion points for you (is it mentorship? Is it being client-facing? Is it free snacks and an open-dog policy?) and build questions from there.
Always add a note when you connect with someone on LinkedIn
I have a lot of thoughts as to why LinkedIn isn’t Facebook, but I think one of my biggest tips for standing out is to add a personalized note when you request someone on LinkedIn. Several students have requested me since graduation - which is completely fine! - but I have to look to see if they’re from PRSSA, or go to Alabama, etc., to get an idea of how they found me/our mutual connections relate. More senior professionals meet so many people during any given year that a simple line will help them place you. Something quick like “Hi, X - thanks for speaking to my PRSSA Chapter at our regional conference. I’d like to keep in touch as I continue to grow professionally. Best, X.” Or even “Hi, X - I’m currently a student at X, and wanted to connect as I build relationships with alumni as graduation approaches. Thanks so much, X” Short and sweet, but helps set the context.
*another random LinkedIn point about which i feel strongly: you don’t have to accept everyone who requests you. If you don’t know them, don’t have any mutual connections/groups/industries or don’t understand from their profile how they could have found you - don’t accept. You can even click “I don’t know them” so LinkedIn can help prevent requests like that in the future!
Peer Mentors are SO valuable
I honestly don't know what I would have done without peer mentors who were either new pros themselves or interviewing at similar places. It was SO helpful to be able to quickly send a draft email to them with the subject line: "is this ok???" before you follow-up with his/her company's HR specialist, or to share application materials with for review, etc. They're like partners in crime who know exactly how you feel about the limbo between internship applications and offers, deciding between post-grad internships and full-time positions, etc. Cherish them and pay it forward for younger students, too!
I used to agonize before hitting “send” on an email or looking at someone’s LinkedIn account knowing they could see I viewed… among other things. This time is crazy, but you'll learn so much! There are so many opportunities at your fingertips. Hope these things help you navigate it a little bit better.