The Grass is Greener on the Other Side? Musings on how to get, keep, and succeed in an internship in PR

My path into pr, as been similar to how I lead my life in general. A sort of “go with the flow, lets see what happens, fate will lead you in the right direction” kind of attitude and Hey, It has really worked for me. Don’t get me wrong, it has NOT been easy. I wasn’t born with a diamond encrusted spoon in my mouth and my family was NOT from the fashion industry. In fact, my parents very much discouraged my foray into the fashion industry as a very young and naive girl trying to get in front of the camera. Perhaps that coupled with the fast that Im not a 5-10 amazon had a little bit also to do with the path that I choose, but who knows…It might have also had a something to do with the “bright lights, big city” gotta get the f- outta this small town and make something of myself mentality that I’ve always had.


Fast forward 10 years or so and now I not only have the opportunity to “live the dream” but to also do one of the things I am most passionate about which is to teach others how to succeed in pr. I learn new things every day through the people that work alongside me at the agency and its so fun to see interns and others succeed and go on to do great things in the world of pr. Working as an intern was truly one of the hardest experiences I went through. From juggling a full load of college classes to working two jobs, one at a big pr agency in LA under a “Devil Wear Prada” type boss who had high expectation (Can’t complain! She taught me to have a thick skin, which you need in pr) being an intern was not all puppies and rainbows, copying and shuffling paper around.


I wanted to give some tips that I had on the Do’s and Don’t behind pr internships, but marketing consultant Melissa Lai was kind enough to share over twitter a few of her top tips (which just so happened to be some of the same that I had!) Check out what she had to say and heed this advice. Oh and if you ever have any questions about pr, how to get a job/internship, or how to take over the world (kidding!) please shoot me an email ( I always love helping out young pr stars! Better of luck and be brave young soldiers.


“Getting an internship can be tough because competition is high. Having the right attitude is a great start. When I started out in my career, I looked at some of the companies I wanted to work for. I did some research on recent successes, found the hiring manager or who would be a “direct” manager to me and cold called/email them to see if there was opportunity for internships. Having the right attitude worked for me because although there wasn’t an available position posted, the hiring manager felt that I cared enough and wanted to be a part of the company enough to pitch them on my candidacy. It helped me find amazing opportunities and I look for these traits in interns now.


Other than prospecting companies I’d like to work for, I also networked a lot. I like to ask interns if they are involved with associations and/or like to attend networking events to get an idea of their personality. PR is a very relationship building career, and if someone were to tell me “No, I don’t like going to events or meeting new people”, I tend to think that maybe this career is not for them.


As “easy” as it can be to land an internship, it’s very easy to lose it as well. Here are some experiences I’ve had as a manager and some of the things I liked and didn’t like about certain interns. It helped me decide whether or not they should become full-time after their internship was done.




– Be ready for challenges and be open to new projects and responsibilities.

– If you’re done your work, don’t sit on Facebook. Ask if there is something else you could do. Taking initiative shows that you’re eager to learn and do more.

– Be eager to learn. I love interns who have a passion to absorb as much information as possible. It shows me that they’re serious about their careers. At the end of internships it helps me judge who should be taken on full-time.

– Attend company events and try and get involved.




– Say it’s “not a part of my job description” when someone asks you to help them around the office.

– Be late, take extended lunches, or just… not show up.

– If you attend a company or client event, be professional. Even if there is alcohol served, it isn’t an invitation to go overboard. (I’ve had this happen and it’s a quick way to lose an internship).

– Don’t ask for extra freebies. If you’re offered tickets to a show, don’t ask for more so you can sell them on Craigslist.”



Melissa Lai is an independent Business Development and Marketing Consultant in Vancouver, BC. With a strong business development background and a knack for creative writing, Melissa has a proven track record in being a vital part of assisting organizations break in, secure, and maintain awareness in key audiences. With experience in technology and retail, Melissa is passionate about new media and how technology changes marketing. She was recently chosen to speak at the IIMA (International Internet Marketing Association) conference in May 2011.

Picture credit: Hollywood livin the dream. Appropriate no?


About vanguardpr

The Vanguard is a full-service public relations and branding agency representing cutting edge fashion, beauty, and lifestyle accounts. We sp
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