The reality check: An intern's account on climbing the PR ladder

Jessica Pleass, Account Executive at reputation and communication management agency Lion's Wing Brand Communications, provides her view on a graduate's expectations when entering the workplace, and what to expect as an intern and entry-level employee.
Employment after graduating is overwhelming for many and can often lead to disappointment, as I believe there is a great expectation from graduates that obtaining a qualification will automatically result in a highly paid job. This is simply not the case. In reality, everyone needs to start at the bottom and work his or her way up. An internship is the starting point for many graduates, and requires hard work and determination to acquire and ultimately succeed.

In a tough economy such as ours, kickstarting your career path can be challenging, especially with the rate of unemployment, and the limited amount of opportunities available for graduates. It is therefore ideal to start contacting companies for an internship while still studying as this will either land you an internship on the completion of your studies, or keep you top of mind for when an internship becomes available - this is how I obtained my internship at Lion's Wing Brand Communications. But this is not enough. Even at this stage you must aim to differentiate yourself from the hundreds of others, so be creative in your approach, but above all, demonstrate an understanding of their business, as well as the value that you as an intern can bring.

Students often perceive an internship as leading to automatic employment within the given company. Unfortunately this is not always the case. Instead, an internship is the company's way of introducing the student to the working environment and to train them on the daily tasks required by the company.

It is important to remember that an internship is a two-way street; the company needs to determine whether you are fit for the position and are able to handle long-term employment, and you have to determine if you are ultimately interested in working in that particular position, company or field. My internship was over a three-month period but this is dependent on the company; an internship period can range between three months to as long as a year.

Companies do see interns as potential staff, however, the position will not just be handed to the intern without hard work and dedication. Remember, like being in grade 8, you are at the bottom of the food chain, working your way up, and you need to prove that you deserve to be there.

It is so important to remember that your attitude plays a key role in determining whether you will be promoted or not. For example, if you show that you are unimpressed with the work given to you this may hinder your chances of moving up in the company. It is important to stay positive and do your utmost best with any task that is asked of you, no matter how small.

Asking questions is a huge component in determining your success as an intern - remember you are there to learn and asking questions is a vital way of doing that. Employers want to see that you are passionate about the industry and displaying a desire to learn showcases that passion.

Further, asking for feedback is extremely important for both your progress and your chance of being promoted. You need to be aware of your strengths and weaknesses in order to be able to play to your strengths and work on your weaknesses. In today's tough economic times businesses are focusing on value more so than ever, which means you will need to prove that you can add value to the business.

I was fortunate enough to be promoted to an Account Executive after completing my internship at Lion's Wing Brand Communications, and with this came more responsibility. Should you be promoted after completing your internship, expectations from your employer are higher and your workload is generally increased. You are representing the business more so than ever, and soon you are responsible for interacting with clients and media.

If you have received full-time employment resulting from an internship, remember being passionate, motivated and proactive still applies. The business aims to train interns to be able to handle the responsibilities of full-time employment. While full-time employment may not be guaranteed when completing your internship, it is important to keep the position you aim to be in, in mind when doing your internship to ensure you work towards acquiring the necessary skills to succeed in this position.

10 Feb 2015 11:23


About Jessica Pleass

Account Executive at Lion's Wing

Marie Rocher
Marie Rocher
Well said, Jessica! how rare it is these days to find young graduates with their heads screwed on - who don't feel entitled and are prepared to start at the bottom and work their way those before them had to do!
Posted on 10 Feb 2015 14:06
Musa Strachan
Musa Strachan
Posted on 10 Feb 2015 15:36