of Kate Cavanaugh, Intern, American Red Cross, 4/07
Photo by Alexis Yakemovic, PPW/Writing Center Publicity Intern
Story by Kate Cavanaugh
When I started
my internship in the Public Relations department at the American
Red Cross, I remember feeling so nervous and inexperienced. I was
petrified that at any point, my boss and co-workers would realize
that I didn't know what I was doing and that I really couldn't write.
But instead, over the course of my internship, I found that I did
know what I was doing—at least more often than I gave myself
credit for—and I really could write. My internship served
as a huge confidence booster and a confirmation that I was headed
on the right career path.
That's not to say, of course, that there weren't some struggles
along the way. In the first weeks of my internship, I wasn't given
many assignments. If that happens to you, don't do as I did and
sit in your cubicle waiting for someone to remember that you exist.
Keep in mind that your boss and co-workers are probably very busy,
and if you're their first intern, they might have no idea what to
do with you! Be proactive, and suggest ideas that you'd like to
write about. (This isn't school; you might actually have to ask
for work!) From my experience, once people in your office realize
that you can write, you'll be swamped with work. And if you're still
having trouble getting writing assignments, don't hesitate to talk
to Pam. She's more than happy to check in with your boss and offer
suggestions for writing that you can do.
Similarly, don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it. I found
my co-workers to be extremely friendly and willing to help if I
just asked. Everyone remembers what it was like for them when they
first started in the field, and they are eager to teach you what
they have learned. Again, Pam is a great resource when you're having
trouble with an assignment or even if you just need to vent some
I learned an incredible amount during this internship. My writing
skills certainly improved, as I learned how to write press release,
construct newsletters, conduct interviews, and interact with media
contacts. In addition, I learned so much about Public Relations,
nonprofits, and how an office runs. I learned to work independently,
as well as on a team. These are all skills that I'll surely take
with me to future internships and jobs.
Pam does a great job teaching the class component of this course.
You'll have the chance to talk about any issues you're having with
the internship, and get advice from her and other interns. If nothing
else, it's reassuring to know that other interns are going through
the same things that you are. Pam also provides some great resources
(the course textbook is really helpful!) and guidance. One of the
most useful things I got out of the class was how to create a strong
resume and cover letter, which I know will help me land future internships
Whatever you do, be sure to make the most of this experience. Do
as much writing as you can, and save copies of everything for your
portfolio. Ask to sit in on meetings. Get to know your coworkers.
Even if you don't think this internship will turn into a job, you
never know what contacts the experience might provide in the future.