5 Ways to Make Your Internship Program a Win-win for You and Your Intern

You’ve hired your summer interns, but are you doing your best to ensure that they and your organization are getting the most out of the experience?

There is no doubt that internships should be a mutually beneficial experience for the employer and the intern. Too often, I hear about disappointing internships where an intern’s primary responsibilities were relegated solely to making copies, answering phones, organizing online files or making frequent coffee runs.

While students should embark onto an internship experience knowing there will be a fair amount of clerical (aka grunt) work, the point of an internship is that it provides a real educational opportunity for students to receive hands-on, real-life training in the field of their major. Many former interns will admit that their internship experience was far more valuable in their decision to pursue their career than anything they learned from textbooks and classroom lectures.

I understand that you are a busy executive and that you don’t have the time (and possibly the patience) to hover over an intern all day. I don’t think you should have to, but I do firmly believe that as well-established experts in our field, we have an obligation to guide our industry’s future leaders, just as our mentors did for us.

In order to prevent any daily hand-holding sessions, employers can adhere to a few tricks of the trade I’ve acquired over my years overseeing various agency internship programs.

What Employers Can Do

1. Make a job description and stick to it
Doing this lets the intern understand the required duties but also lets your team know the boundaries of what they can and can’t ask of an intern. Once you get to know your intern’s capabilities and skill set, you may be able to add some specific tasks to the job description.

2. Have a program/timeline in place
Interns need structure. Don’t expect your intern to wait enthusiastically each day for you to decide what projects to give him or her. Understanding that you can’t anticipate every scenario, at lease have some structure and consistency in the program/schedule (e.g., Every Thursday is a “Lunch and Learn” session where the intern(s) brown bag their lunch and listen to company experts talk about their job and provide career advice)

3. Make the internship an enriching experience.
It’s typically understood that interns will be given a fair amount of grunt work, but make sure you allow them to have access to real business experiences. A client conference call may not seem like an exciting activity for you, but it can be a great learning experience for an intern.

4. Be a mentor
I know you are a very busy person, but as I stated earlier, I believe we professionals owe it to those interested in our field to provide them with an accurate glimpse into the field they would like to enter and the skill set needed. Make it a weekly habit to monitor your intern and give them feedback – whether it’s positive or negative – since it’s part of the learning process that lectures and textbooks can’t teach. Lead by example.

5. Don’t’ burn bridges.
Let’s face it, we’ve all been burned by a bad intern experience. As much as you’re ready to boot them out the door or vow never to have another one again, remember that the interns are still very young and don’t have much finesse in professional settings. And, though it’s hard to imagine, you never know how your paths might meet again (your intern’s aunt might be the contact you’ve been wooing for new business for years).

Best wishes for a great internship partnership this summer. If you have any additional tips to how you make internships an all-around success, please feel free to share them.

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A few grammar tips

Just some clarification on a few grammar errors I’ve been seeing lately, including one mistake made by a major U.S. newspaper.

immigrate vs. emigrate

One immigrates TO somewhere; one emigrates FROM somewhere

“My grandfather emigrated from Poland”

“My grandfather immigrated to the United States.”

 

should have, not should of

“I should have brought my umbrella with me”

or as a contraction: “I should’ve brought my umbrella with me.”

 

more than, not more then

“George is more than likely to show up early.”

 

5 Positive Things a Cancer Survivor Learns

This week I received some sad news that a friend was just diagnosed with lymphoma.   Fortunately, they’ve caught it in the early stages and the prognosis is very positive. However, this news naturally has me revisiting some tough memories.

There’s no denying that cancer has forever changed me. Of course it has. But, upon further reflection, it’s not all for the worse as some might imagine.

I will never argue that cancer doesn’t bring you to your knees and shake you down to your core, but today I can honestly and truly appreciate some of the positive things that resulted from my battle and win over the Big “C.”

I thought I’d share them:

  1. I can do it. I’m equipped with a new mantra. Hurdles that tripped me up before seem more easily surmountable now. If I managed to get through the physical and emotional turmoil of battling cancer, I figure that I can easily get through that big presentation, new business pitch or job interview.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Look, I’m still going to be marginally annoyed if the driver in front of me doesn’t use the turning lane or they forget the fried rice in my takeout order, but most of the things that seemed really important before just aren’t so now. Honestly.
  3. Know who you can count on. When the going gets tough, you can really see who you can lean on in bad times. I remember every card, word of encouragement, potluck, nice deed and supportive conversation that was bestowed upon me. It makes me feel good that I have a network I can fall back on and I treasure that.
  4. A greater empathy. I have always considered myself a sensitive person but going through an illness can really illuminate the pain and suffering of other people and how you react to them. I’m more thoughtful and less quick to judge when I see a person in a bad situation. I fully believe it’s true that you cannot understand someone’s burden unless you’ve walked in their shoes, or have come close.
  5. Appreciate what you have. This is not always easy when you are back in the full swing of life – morning commutes, useless meetings, kids’ tantrums, etc.  – but I am often able to acknowledge my gratitude and cherish the simplest moments as some of the most joyful ones. The cliché that “it could be worse” never holds more true than now.

Sending good vibes to my friend and to all of those brave souls battling life-threatening illnesses.

My Top 3 Picks for the Next GOP Debate Format

family fuedAs a PR practitioner, I’m looking forward to tonight’s debate. I always find it interesting and insightful to study candidates’ brand messaging and presentation skills. I’m also looking forward to the debate because it’s being held in Cleveland, my hometown.

However, the biggest reason I’m looking forward to the debate tonight is that – I have to admit – with Trump in the mix, I believe it’s actually going to be a lot more entertaining than the average presidential debate.  Entertainment, after all, is what presidential debates are missing.

Most TV viewers and folks in general are not debate watchers (I have no statistic to back this up with, but it seems pretty logical, right?). If viewers could choose between America’s Got Talent and a typical political debate, which one do you think they would choose to watch? Right.So, Shouldn’t we play at the people’s level?

It’s actually already happening – viewers are trying to make the debate more fun by devising drinking games for tonight’s match up. That sounds fun but I have to work tomorrow.

I say we marry the sobriety of the average presidential debate with the entertainment value of some sort of reality TV or game show.

My top picks:

1) Real World

2) Family-Feud

3) Jeopardy.

Are you in?

138045-realworld

Another Social Media Fail – Brought to you (Again) by Malaysia Airlines

It’s a given that 2014 has been a very bad year for Malaysia Airlines. Just about as bad as it can get in the airline industry. In two separate incidents – the crash of flight MH17 in Ukraine and the disappearance of flight MH370 – 510 passengers lost their lives.

In addition to the tragic human loss, the company is now riddled with financial losses that began even before the ML370 “crash” in March. Of course the two tragedies caused an even larger snowball effect as the company is currently faced with insurance payouts, lost planes and crews and a not surprisingly decline in bookings (in the 2nd quarter, average weekly bookings declined 33%).

But heck, thank God they have a marketing and social media team to take passengers’ minds off of things as well as to take the brand to new heights. Right?

Well…not so much.

Just last week, the social media team for Malaysia Airlines had to apologize after sending a very bizarre tweet that was an attempt to promote last-minute holiday travel deals. There’s no need for further set up – here’s the post:

“Want to go somewhere, but don’t know where? Our Year-End Specials might just help.”Malaysia Airline Tweet

Oh dear. Probably not the best slogan if only 8 months ago, you lost a plane that just disappeared without a trace.   Well, one could chalk it up to a possible loss in translation I suppose. But that certainly doesn’t explain another big faux pas that occurred just in September.

Brilliantly trying to devise ways to inspire and incentivize consumers, the marketing department created a dialogue and contest where it asked folks what types of things and destinations are on their “bucket list.”

Oh yes they did. Not as obviously offensive as the most recent Tweet, but this one is pretty inappropriate too.

I am going to take the high road and blame it on another poor translation. But if that is the case, I would strongly advise Malaysia Airlines, and all global brands, to ensure that they use only native speakers as community managers for their social media channels. I know doing so can be costly, but it can greatly help to reduce these types of incidents from happening.

However, this still wouldn’t necessarily get rid of careless and poorly thought out marketing strategies, would it?

What do you think?

 

 

 

When the Media Kept Presidential Secrets

270px-Rooseveltinwheelchair

One of only a few photos of FDR in his wheelchair.

As I watched Ken Burns’ marvelous documentary, “The Roosevelts,” I couldn’t help but notice just how different the role of the national media was at the time. As a public relations practitioner, I am fascinated in particular by the fact that the media entered into and honored a gentlemen’s agreement with Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and his staff to never publish a photograph of the president in his wheelchair or leg braces.

While most Americans at the time knew that FDR had been afflicted by polio at age 39, few actually realized that as a result he was left paralyzed. This was due in large part to the media not publishing those types of photos, but also to FDR’s dogged commitment to hiding his disability when campaigning.

FDR was worried that his disability would make him appear weak in the eyes of the American public. He was known to arrive so early at events and speeches, that crowds rarely ever saw him being lifted out of cars or ‘walking’ up to a microphone. Clearly, the lack of television and social media also helped keep FDR’s secret.

FDR managed to win four presidential campaigns and he led a weary America out of the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. His leadership played a critical role in the Allies’ victory in World War II while his New Deal legislation, according to many, helped build up the American middle class, establishing a baseline for the “American Dream.”

He was anything but weak. But could he have stayed in office to accomplish so much had his disability been exposed early on?

The White House press corps acted similarly during John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s presidency. Though it was common knowledge among the media that President Kennedy had many romantic dalliances, the American public didn’t come to know about them until decades later.

So when did things change? When did the media stop adhering to the concept that politicians had a public life and a private life, and that the latter was thought to be inconsequential to the former?

Today, it seems that the media can’t do enough to expose politicians, athletes, celebrities and business leaders at their most vulnerable and weakest times. This is not a criticism.

No one can escape the media’s magnifying glass, yet there are still plenty of folks who say that the media is not uncovering enough. I’d say Anthony Weiner, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson would disagree.

So just how much do we need to know about today’s political leaders or about our favorite celebrities and athletes? Are we somehow expecting complete perfection? Where is the balance between knowing too much and not knowing enough; and what is the media’s role in delivering this?

These are questions that I’m not certain of the answer. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

P.S. One final thought: do you think today’s media would have ever have agreed to FDR’s request?

When Cancer Hits the Workplace

Yesterday my friend entered hospice.  He has braveImagely battled lung cancer for the past two years.  I’ve known him for nearly 20 years – we met through his sister, who is a very close friend of mine.

Honestly, it was with dread yesterday afternoon that I entered the front lobby of the hospice, which is situated on Lake Erie and offers a beautiful view and a certain calmness that the lake exudes.  My friend was having some immediate stomach issues, but otherwise was being a real trooper.  We even took a walk to the meditation room which overlooks the lake. 

We talked about how lovely the crocheted blankets were that my friend was given after he became cold. These blankets are lovingly crocheted by volunteers, and my friend was very touched that folks can be so generous with their time and efforts for complete strangers. 

That got us to talking about how cancer can be a defining moment for friendships or any type of relationship including work relationships.  I am a cancer survivor, and while I experienced a tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends and colleagues, others – afraid of their own mortality and not clearly recognizing that someone else’s cancer makes them uncomfortable – pulled back.  I noticed who they were and I cannot say it did not greatly disappoint me.  However, those who rallied around me were greater than those who didn’t, and I thrived with their encouragement and support.

My colleagues at the PR agency I worked at were so supportive.  I chose to work during my six months of chemo and radiation, and our management team provided me with the flexibility I needed.  I worked when I could and when I couldn’t, I rested. 

I chose to work because I believed it provided me with a distraction that would help me cope better with my illness.  It did.  I know that not everyone can or wants to work during treatment, but it helped me keep a routine and not feel “sick.” However, I was very nervous of letting my peers down and not being able to keep up my usual pace.

My staff and colleagues picked up the slack for me and that meant more than I could ever express.  While a few people actually were resentful of having more work on their plates, the majority was more than willing to pitch in.  My boss and a number of colleagues came to visit me during chemo sessions while another colleague provided me with nutritional supplements and meditation books.  Others sent flowers, balloons and cards with messages of encouragement.  One peer made a client trip to Arizona in my place since I was unable to travel. This outpouring of kindness and support made me so happy and proud to work where I did. 

I realize there can be awkwardness to being around and communicating with someone with cancer.  Believe it or not, some people wouldn’t ever make eye contact with me and I felt at times like a leper. I get it. People worry they will say the wrong things.  I’m sure I have.  But to me, it mattered less when they did say the wrong thing and more that they were willing to put aside their own anxieties and say anything at all to me.

It is difficult today to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched in some way by cancer.  I will gladly take on more work for a colleague who is struggling with a life-threatening illness because I would want someone to do that for me – or for my brother, mother, cousin or nephew.

My advice is to just do what you can.  Whether that’s as big as taking on one of their accounts for the time being, or as small as sending an uplifting email.   Don’t avoid them because you are worried about saying the wrong thing – even small talk is greatly appreciated.

You needn’t be Mother Theresa sitting a bedside vigil.  But, for those of you who are uncomfortable around “sick” people or hospitals and avoid your friend or peer because of that, my harsh suggestion is to suck it up – it’s a fear that stems from one’s own issues and the sick person shouldn’t be punished for it.  Cancer is sadly becoming more prevalent in our society, so unfortunately you’re going to have to deal with it sooner than later.  More importantly, your colleague will appreciate your demonstrative support more than you could imagine.  I also think you’ll feel better too.

Today my friend asked me to bring him Hawaiian punch, even though he can only drink an inch of it.  I’ll take it to him and hopefully he’ll feel well enough to sit in the sun along the lake.