How to Be the World's Greatest Intern

 
 
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What Manners Most recently caught up with Lisa Lori, president of Greenwich-based Lisa Lori Communications--a marketing communications agency specializing in publicity, special events, branding and integrated marketing programs--to discuss the traits that make an intern memorable--as well as the behaviors that make him or her the sort of staff member an employer would rather forget!

What made you decide to speak out on this topic?

We’ve had many interns over the years and after watching all of the talent that has passed through our offices, I thought it would be good to dispense some easy advice on how to get the most out of your job.

What are the first pieces of advice you'd give to anyone looking to be a successful intern?

Be on time, dress professionally and be earnest. Many college or post-college kids have a very hard time transitioning from the casual college atmosphere to a work environment. Working in an office where there are often a lot of other young professionals also gives the illusion that things are casual. Not true. Work is not school, showing up on time counts, dressing nicely every day matters (even when there are no clients in the office) and most important, a positive, can-do attitude stands out.  Supervisors are looking at how you conduct yourself, how interested you are in learning and seeing why you are there. 

Are there bits of advice you'd offer someone specifically interested in a public-relations internship?

No job is too big or too small. So you work hard in college and get good grades and therefore, rather than stuffing gift bags, you think you should be running the accounts! News flash – even when you run the accounts you might be stuffing gift bags. Going to parties, getting your picture taken ... that all is glam and wonderful, but there is a whole lotta work that goes into events and much of it is nitty-gritty. If this is a career you think you would like, make sure you check your ego at the door, because public relations is a service business.

What is the best way to impress your boss?

If you are a quick learn and get your work done, the logical thing is to ask for more work from your supervisor. However, many interns wait for the next direction and waste the time on social media or socializing at the office. In all of my years of supervising interns it is always the one who asks, “What’s next?” who tends to be the most impressive. Of course, socializing is fun, but you are there for a very limited time; learn as much as you can. Believe me--it will make all the difference between landing a job or not, speaking knowledgeably on an interview or not.

What is one of the biggest failings you detect among internship seekers from the Millennial generation?

It’s almost shocking to see how many young people don’t read anything beyond Facebook! They should be reading every newspaper, magazine, blog or book they can get their hands on. Reading makes you better informed and a better writer. 

What's something that most interns don't do but which makes a big difference down the line?

Ask for an exit interview. When I was an intern--back in the Middle Ages--you needed references to get jobs. Turns out you still do today. Wouldn’t it be nice to know what your supervisors thought about your work, to hear areas for improvement, and to get advice about career direction? Many just walk out the door at the end and then call a year later asking for a reference and we are left scratching our heads trying to remember which one they were. If you admire someone you work with, ask them for advice; it’s free.

Of course, we are all about manners here at What Manners Most. What is a mannerly touch that an intern should add to leave a good impression?

They should send a thank-you note and stay in touch.Emails are nice; hand-written notes are really nice.  A "thank you, would love to work for you again, please let me know if there are any job openings in the future" sort of message works best. We have had many employees who started as interns who did just this, expressed their love of the business and interest in working for us.

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Lisa Lori is the founder of LLC (Lisa Lori Communications) where she works closely with brands including IFF, HobNob Wines, the Alzheimer’s Association, New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Grammy nominated artist Sophie B. Hawkins, The School of American Ballet, the Princess Grace Foundation, NYC Opera, and WJ Deutsch & Sons. Lisa lives in Connecticut with her husband, three sons and their beautiful golden retriever Corduroy.