Part two of three on my series of living and interning in New York! Well mainly working, because living arrangements in NY are a pain - and you should be able to work it out yourself! On part one of this series (click here for that post) I mainly discussed why and how I started my internship in New York, as well as a few tips when embarking on your own internship. So if you follow this like a HBO series (where they jump from scene to scene) by now you should be swimming in errands and office clippings, right? So how do you maintain positivity whilst making sure that your eye stays on the bigger picture; getting ahead in the internship (ie. trying to land a job!) and managing your own expectations? Well hopefully I can share some food for thought.
If you know of anyone that is embarking on their own internship journey, and think they would enjoy this series - I would love it if you could share it :)
It kind of did and didn’t take me a while to get comfortable in my internship. I wanted to sit back and just observe the inner workings of the place before I dived in headfirst. Purely because I wanted to work out what it was that the firm didn't have which I could potentially offer. So finding a niche was absolutely imperative.
What’s Your Niche: I quickly learned that both the computer and the internet were my expertise in the office. I was the go-to-girl for anything social media and techno help - and this honestly assisted me in the long run to help differentiate myself from the other interns. A make or break decision - find out what your niche is (quickly!) and stick to it. By helping the other publicists out with these digital tasks, they slowly trusted me with bigger and more important tasks - ie writing press releases and contacting media. Quality rules over quantity - do the job allocated to you perfectly rather than trying to juggle a million different tasks to please a whole lot of people. Again, different places will expect different things - so keep and eye out for that too.
Getting Ahead (Part A): I don’t think I can stress enough about working hard and being proactive. Your strong initiative will be one of your biggest assets during your internship. In a high flying publicity firm (like the one I worked at) its easy to get lost in the intern crowd and be stuck behind in a room not getting noticed. So I made sure that I would always sit at the front of the office, greeted everyone I saw and always offered my help anyway I could - even if it was to help carry a few boxes. I even added to my internship days just to make sure that the office would start to recognise me (Oh yeah people, I was keen!). Make sure you put up your hand up for any and all sort of help - events, chores and errands - I found that most of the local interns found these kind of events and chores taxing, making it easy for me to be chosen to help out.
My motto throughout the internship was: I have nothing to lose! And you don’t! So don’t be scared, nervous or cautious. Put yourself out there - and lay on the Aussie accent! - this really helped me a lot! I was at first worried that they would think I was being fake or OTT - but that wasn’t it all. They loved the enthusiasm and willingness to help out. - so I would always be asked to help out at events, letting me get closer to the inner sanctums! Smile, be chatty and most importantly be yourself! (Mega cliche, but oh so true!).
Getting Ahead (Part B): Another key thing I learned about New York firms was maintaining professionalism - it is as important as getting dressed in the mornings! There is an order of importance and rules that you need to learn fast for your firm. For example, what happens when a high profile client walks in to the office? Who’s task do you complete first - your own supervisor’s or the owner of the agency?. I found that sticking to my instincts and learning by example helped me a lot! If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it! A second note on professionalism - I also found within a few weeks, I fell into the rhythm of the office and was quite chummy with most of the senior publicists, so whilst I found myself talking to them more frequently and about a range of topics, I would always make sure I knew when to stop - cause the last thing you want to do is to say the wrong thing or sound nosy and unprofessional.
Unfortunately you can also get ahead in the wrong way - getting ahead of yourself! A few weeks in and you think you know what you’re doing but you probably don’t. I fell into this trap a few times thanks to my over-eagerness but soon backed my shit up (like Tyler up there) and remembered that I was there to learn - not show off. I then stuck to always asking questions to make sure I was on the right path.
Managing Expectations: A hard one, this. A few weeks in, you are no doubt going to feel more comfortable with the place and it almost feels like you have a lifetime to prove your worth and work on bigger scale projects - with a long term view. So it is super important to take a step back and assess yourself and your abilities - and its going to be two ways: you’re either killing it or drastically failing at being the right kind of intern for the company. So its time to manage your expectations. Do you stay on with the internship or do you choose to be realistic and cut the internship short to find a more suitable option. Cause believe me, as amazing as I am sure you are - sometimes the company might not be the right fit for you. And if it is the latter than you need to assess your priorities. Can you pull through and stand to stay for the length of the internship for the sake of adding to that impressive resume?
If you think you haven’t been given enough support and teaching from the staff, then have a chat with the supervisor that hired you and discuss with them what you’re thinking and find mutually beneficial ways to improve your experience with the company - which can only lead to you producing excellent work for the company itself. It could be the working hours, a change of tasks, a change of supervisor even? Pinpoint what it is about the internship you feel you want to work on and discuss ways in which how you can improve it. At the end of the day, the company doesn’t want someone who is unhappy working for them - so you really are in a position to negotiate your own work environment for their benefit.
Or maybe you can’t stay on? It wasn't what you thought it was? Or maybe you aren't getting the experience you signed up for? All you know is that you want out! And remember, this isn’t a bad realisation to come to! You have recognised that this particular internship isn’t working out and have decided to take proactive action to help change it. If not for the sake of your sanity and self-confidence, then definitely as a way to save the relationships and connection you have made at the company. It will always be better for them to think of you as a “great addition to the team for a few weeks” rather than “that shit intern we had to carry for three months”.
One of the biggest things I had to keep up throughout my ten week internship was being patient and positive; an essential to not get eaten alive by the Big Apple. It will take your office and supervisor a couple of days to weeks to figure out how to best utilise you in the workspace. They need to get to know you and your skills; side note - make sure to let your personality and abilities to shine through! New York seemed to be a place where no one thought of you as a show off when you proceed to tell them just how amazing you are. Seriously.
Me at the Top of The Rockefeller Centre - with my "I Made It" face :)
Hope you have enjoyed the series so far - one more final part to come - I really have had so much fun writing them and answering all your question you have been sending about my experience in NY :) So keep them coming - either on the Facebook page or via email (listed on the right).
And I would absolutely love it if you could share this around to anyone that you think would find this info helpful/enjoyable :)