Wednesday, 22 June 2011

In which I have a few tips for the interns

Whilst still at my previous agency, I had the fortune to spend several precious days trawling through terribly written applications for the position of intern.

Thankfully, the current (paid, just FYI) intern at the London Office was selected by my boss, so I was saved the pain of having to sit through yet more applications for a role in ‘comunications’ (if you want a job in an industry, makes sense to know how to spell the industry. Or have basic proficiency in using the spellcheck. S’all I’m sayin’).

But, although she seems to be perfectly proficient for someone who’s only been in PR the best part of a fortnight, it seems she’s a product of a university careers office that’s not doing its job in telling candidates what’ll be expected of them should they land one of the (indubitably million) positions for which they’ve applied.

If I were the gal bequeathed with the task of spurring the great young minds of our nation’s graduates on to finding gainful employment, I’d like to think that I’d think to give them a few basic heads-ups…

- Turning up half an hour early on your first day is an easy mistake to make, but not one that’ll endear you to the person who was planning on using that crucial time on a Monday morning to make sure she could fend off other work long enough to get you settled in.

- Even if, having spent some time in the office, you come to the conclusion that the dress code’s pretty casual on any days where there aren’t events or meetings happening, it would pay to err on the side of overdressed on your first day. Lumberjack shirts and Converse don’t count as overdressed in the world of corporate PR. Ever.

- However much of a shock to the system it might be to have to get up at a vaguely normal time, commute to an office, and then put in a full day’s work, it really is deeply inadvisable to spend nearly all day not bothering to stifle your many and loud yawns. It will make your colleagues wonder whether you’re really cut out for PR if you apparently find it so crashingly boring, and whether – if the opportunity of a job were to arise – you would really be someone they’d want to take on.

- However much of a shock to the system it might be, you are expected to put in that full day. The occasional slope off at 5pm because you have an unmissable doctor’s appointment is one thing. Doing it every day for a multitude of reasons including letting your boyfriend into your flat, and shopping for your father’s birthday gift won’t curry any favour – even less if your hour of departure starts to creep ever closer to 4pm.

- All that having been considered, it’s worth noting that you’ll be forgiven much if you can make a cracking cup of tea. Just don’t yawn whilst you’re doing it.


Anonymous said...

When I was interning at a Very Important Science Institute in Germany, I arrived on the dot of nine. Apparently, real scientists slope in at tennish, then work until about nine pm. The grocery stores all shut at six. It took me three days to stop eating nothing but ryvita and marmite (English provisions) before I understood how to shop there.

Lookyouinnit said...

Yargh. Although not quite as bad as the work experience girl I once had who sent an email in on the morning of her second day, informing us that she 'had been on work experience before so knew how it worked', and that because she didn't feel like getting out of bed that morning she wouldn't be coming in. (Sent a reply telling her not to bother coming back...)

I agree with the coming in early point as well - considering I need to take at least 2 hours out of my day to set up a new intern, filling out HR forms, doing introductions, setting up tasks and showing them what I need them to do, to come in and find them waiting at my desk before I can open up a single email or even grab a cup of tea is slightly irritating.

Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

I've been on both sides of this coin as both the person doing work experience, and the person tasked with finding the new work experience guys (ironically, a job that came from impressing during the internship).

It *can* be hard to get motivated when you're bottom of the tea-making pile, especially when bonafide employees take the piss and give you menial jobs on the basis that they can't be bothered to do the work themselves, not because it will give you worthwhile experience.

But by the same token, I never got so much as travel expenses for any of mine, let alone paid a wage. If you pick the right internship (and a paid one is definitely that) then you get what you put in. Work hard, and you'll get a job. Or at the very least, people who will keep their eyes peeled and recommend you for other jobs.

Being on the recruiter side, there is nothing more frustrating than people who apply and get these placements then choose to yawn their way through it. You put yourself there, after all. I always see work experience as a good way for both sides to see if they're cut out for the job.

I know my week in a Bloomsbury publishing house saw me bounce out the door as soon as I could at the end of the working day, the work didn't grab me the way I thought it might given the English degree n all. But that's how I knew it probably wasn't the career for me. Still, I didn't look the gifthorse in the mouth, and got some references, a decent role for my CV and a lot of decent proof reading experience out of it. No regrets.

Brennig said...

I was assigned to babysit an intern at a place. He rocked up at 11.15, went to lunch at 12.30 and didn't come back. We had an email from his mum, the following day, saying he had decided to go back to college to finish his course 'because he wasn't ready for the demands of the commercial world'.

In the hour and 15 minutes he'd been with me he'd made himself a cup of tea, been given a tour of the centre, had been shown the media labs and had the organisation structure and hierarchy explained to him.


ruby said...

I'm so relieved to know that my intern isn't the only recent uni grad to act like this! Sometimes I feel I'm babysitting a toddler....albeit, a toddler with an incredible ability to whine about her commute.

Redbookish said...

Oh dear! As someone trying to teach these entitled kids, this is depressing reading. We work very hard to gt them to take responsibility for their actions, and understand the consequences. Most of them get it eventually - although government interference in University teaching via the Quality Assurance people really really does not help -- apparently any defect in a student's results is our fault because we are Lazy Academics and Leeches on the Tax Payer.

Sometimes, though, I sigh and just hope that most of them wake up & smell the coffee when they get out of university. Sounds like some of them still don't get it. But believe me, we worry about it just as much as you 'out there' do!

I blame the parents. And thank my lucky stars for the Data Protection Act so I can tell parents that it is against the law for me to discuss their precious child with them.

Sorry, a post-exam boards rant ...

Blonde said...

Anon: Yikes - that does sound pretty hard-core. But, y'see - you stuck it out with the Ryvita rather than sloping out early. I respect that.

LYI: I really don't think people understand how off-putting earliness can be. I think I'd go as far as to say I'd prefer people to be late...

PDEWYMO: I do get where you're coming from, obviously. It may well be that PR's not for her. But she needn't be so bleedin' obvious about it!

Bren: An email from his MUM?! Priceless.

Ruby: Ooh, yours sounds like a treat.

Red: Well, it's good to know people are trying to bash this sort of behaviour out of them. I do feel, though, there's no use swanning around the place acting as though they're utterly entitled to something when they're not the cat's pyjamas that they think they are.

looby said...

Is it considered bad form to leave work at 5pm? Glad I'm not in PR then :)

Vulpine said...

I have another tip for a chancer of a temp at my work: If you've called in sick do not let the boss spot you shopping in town.

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