Starting an internship at a top PR agency can be a little nerve-wracking even under ordinary circumstances. When the internship is entirely virtual, that’s a whole different story. Thanks to COVID-19, I, like many others, have started at a new workplace without meeting my team members in person. I’ve only been here a month and have already learned so much. Working from home might be a new experience for an intern, so it’s important to create a productive work environment for yourself. Here’s how I’ve done it.
Create a good routine
Luckily, I have past experience working from home, so it was not a new concept. While it has its benefits, you want to make sure that you don’t get too comfortable while working remotely. Yes, it may be nice not to wake up early for your commute, but you want to give yourself ample time in the morning to get ready for the work day. Loungewear has been the craze since we entered WFH life, but changing into a real outfit makes me feel productive.
With everyone being virtual, communication is far more important than before. We can’t just walk over to someone’s desk for quick clarification, but don’t let that hinder you. Ask questions. You might think you’re bothering your coworkers by interrupting them, but you aren’t. Make sure you’re clear on what’s expected of you. Your coworkers understand that you are new and are getting used to the workflow and processes of the job. If something’s confusing, instead of taking a guess at it, reach out to a team member for clarification. Everyone asks questions and you should never feel like yours aren’t important. They are. For me, Slack has been super helpful for reaching out to coworkers with a timely question.
Take a deep dive onto your accounts
You may be familiar with the organizations you’re working with, but if not, take the time to research your accounts. Look at their websites, socials, press releases, everything. In public relations, It’s always a good idea to do a search of the company and check out their media coverage, since the same outlets may be close contacts for your team. You want to make sure you’re in the know so that you can get the most from participating in external and internal meetings.
Write things down
It may seem old fashioned, but I’d be lost without my notebook. I have found it very helpful to write things, even when I have a laptop in front of me. This might not apply to everyone, but when it comes to typing up notes for a client or drafting a press release it’s helpful to have them written down next to me. I also apprecIate having them accessible when I need to quickly recall information.
When I first started and was instructed on how to conduct call recaps or daily digests, I wrote all the instructions in my notebook and bookmarked the page so I can easily go back in case I need a refresh. If writing things down doesn’t work for you, create folders on your laptop for each account or project you have and save all documented notes for easy access.
Get involved in company virtual events
At any internship, whether virtual or not, it’s important to participate in company happenings and get to know your colleagues. Crenshaw has made this very easy. We have company-wide check-ins at the beginning and end of each week, with a happy-hour meeting every other Thursday. These meetings are great opportunities to engage with colleagues. They’re mostly focused on the work we have planned or achieved for the week, but we also go off on tangents and talk about everyday life as well. If the company you work for doesn’t have regular team meetings, maybe you can suggest it and help organize them.
Pay close attention
One day you might be taking over the tasks that your teammates are doing so it’s a good idea to “study” the emails they send and observe how they work. Take the time to understand what they do and why they do it. When I started, I read through every email from team members to clients and went through the client files to see how press releases or media alerts were written. It’s also good to be curious. I reach out to team members about why they do things in certain ways to better understand how Crenshaw works with clients. For example, one of the companies I work on has several international PR teams, and I asked how we work together. Even though I don’t personally communicate with the global teams, it helped to understand how we interact, and my colleagues appreciated my interest.
Starting a PR internship can be overwhelming at first but you will get the hang of it. Be patient and take each day as it comes. Remember, that onboarding an intern may also be a first for your manager, so it may take some time before things kick into gear and time will fly by. You may be working virtually, but you aren’t alone.