Nearly 18 years ago, Calypso created its coveted internship training program. Since then, we’ve graduated 150+ interns. Yep. That’s an average of eight young professionals coming through Calypso’s doors each year.

We’ve developed curriculum exclusively for these young professionals to gain exposure in the communications field. The work audit changes as the trends in the field change. It’s dynamic, and interns walk away with tangible skills for a successful career.

Beyond the work itself, we create an experience that includes developing professional relationships, and opportunities for growth, autonomy, and independence.

We make the intern team feel welcome and part of the crew from the first day to the last. We challenge and motivate. Set goals. And provide feedback, early and often.

We ask our interns to bring the right attitude and be willing to work, be hungry to gain real, in-the-field knowledge and take on tasks big and small. We expect them to engage, ask questions, offer ideas, and most importantly, listen.

So, now that the stage is set for how we run our internship program, how do you set the stage for getting the internship experience you’re looking for?

Before real work can begin, you need to establish trust with the team and be willing to form relationships across the firm. Besides the obvious (work hard, show initiative, be enthusiastic), there are three tips we routinely offer new interns during orientation:

1. Be social—pull a chair up to the lunch table and join the gang.

Get to know the colleagues across the agency. Professional relationships are key in starting a successful career. But make sure you share a little bit about yourself too. Be open and approachable. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a better connection with an intern because I found out we went to the same high school or frequent the same fitness facility.

2. Look for opportunities to shadow other roles.

For a young professional exploring a career in communications, there are so many avenues to explore. Media relations, PR, brand identity, video and animation, web and digital, crisis, inbound marketing, etc.

Even if you only spend a few hours working with another team member, you will learn aspects related to the job, competencies needed, and what it is like to work in that role.

And there’s an added benefit: job shadowing is an excellent way to further relationships and expand networks, and maybe even develop a mentoring relationship with someone you admire.

Professionals enjoy sharing their expertise and want to assist new professionals entering the field. A good mentor is someone who is willing to share their knowledge and expertise and wants to see their mentee succeed in the field.

3. Ask for feedback.

If not routinely offered, ask for feedback on your work product and process. You could be proactive and set up a weekly check-in between you and your supervisor.

When possible, be specific with your inquiry. First, identify something you want to improve (writing, listening skills, prioritizing work, time management), and then, at the end of an interaction or assignment, ask questions like

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate my work?
  • What can I improve on?
  • What did I do well?

Other traits for success: Set personal goals that you want to achieve during your internship; routinely check in with your supervisor and ask him or her for things to do; read professional trade journals and magazine; and my favorite, be willing to problem solve before giving up.

Internship success requires motivation and a true desire to learn more about the industry. Successful interns take the initiative to learn as much as possible during the short duration of their internship experience.

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