A bit about the intern:
An internship is the final component of the Algonquin College program in public relations. I was fortunate enough to be offered three different positions and I am so glad that one of those offers was to work with Mansfield Inc, a PR firm in Toronto. I’ve learned a great deal from this experience and I wanted to share some of my new-found knowledge. Here are some of the things I think you should look for when you are seeking an internship, along with some red flags to keep in mind.
1. There is an opportunity for a full-time role afterwards
Number one, if you plan on pursuing any sort of work in the career you just spent two to four years studying for, you want to know up front if there is an employment opportunity. Ask this at the end of the interview. It will demonstrate to your hiring manager that you are serious about succeeding as an intern. Sometimes there is no opportunity for a job within the company, but if it is in the industry you want to work in, chances are that your employer will know someone they can connect you with after your internship – if you can dazzle them with your work.
2. The commute is manageable
Especially if you are unpaid, make sure that you are not travelling hours to get to work. Luckily, my internship at Mansfield was paid. Long commutes will make you tired and you may not appreciate the job as much as you were hoping to. That said, if you have the means, moving to a new city for an internship is a great way to push you out of your comfort zone and make new connections. I moved from Ottawa to Toronto and it was the best decision I could have made.
3. Positive interview process
You should get a good feeling when you first enter the office, and feel welcomed by your potential manager and team. When an interview goes really well, it will feel more like a conversation than answering a questionnaire. This is something you can look for, but ultimately trust your gut.
4. You have an office space at your place of internship
This isn’t on everyone’s list, but if you are planning to be in a learning environment, this means you should be working in the same proximity as your manager and colleagues. They will be able to show you the ropes, tell you ways that you can improve and help ease the stress if work ever gets overwhelming. Feeling like a part of the team is comforting in itself. If you are working from home, you will not get the same experience.
5. Find a culture that makes you feel comfortable
You have to look for somewhere that you are comfortable. You will be spending most of your time at work. Find a place that makes you feel calm and appreciated.
This includes finding a manager who is willing to help you when you need it, and wants to help you learn. Employers who encourage you to ask questions are important at this point in your career. Seek their insight because, let’s be real, they know a lot more than you do and they can be a mentor.
6. They are not an intern mill
An unfortunate reality is that some companies will take advantage of interns. It is cheap labour, and they aren’t as worried about your learning as they are getting small tasks done. Some warning signs of an intern mill are:
Working at Mansfield as an intern has been such an amazing experience full of learning, networking and endless opportunities (I promise they didn’t tell me to say that). There are benefits to working for larger PR agencies, but I can say first hand that smaller agencies allow you to try everything you are interested in, especially if you get to work closely with the executives. Working with Mansfield I was able to create content for their social media, write blog posts, witness the process of getting new clients and how to work with them, media monitoring and growing lasting relationships with my colleagues.
An internship is an important step in your career, and I hope my experience will help you find the right one.