Insights from the Interns: Joining the PR industry – virtually

In June 2020, Argyle’s Toronto office welcomed two interns to the most unusual internship experience in our history – one that was exclusively virtual. Here are their insights on the experience.

We’d be lying if we said we weren’t worried about starting a remote internship.

As students, we had already experienced the shift from in-class to remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and we were slightly nervous for this new experience.

Like most students, we had assumed our internships would take place in-office, where we could experience the hustle and bustle of agency life. We were looking forward to observing team members perform the art of strategy and client relations face-to-face. Like many other students in our cohort, our idea of an “ideal internship” had to change.

As our internship pivoted from in-person to virtual, we had a lot of questions: How would we get to know our colleagues? How would we gain trust? How would we prove our value? As intimidating as working remotely was at the start, we’ve been able to learn invaluable lessons, build great relationships, and expand our skillsets.

Here are our top takeaways for thriving in a remote PR internship:

Engage colleagues early and often
At the start of our internships, we had introductory calls with every single person in our Toronto office and as many Argylers from our cross-Canada team as possible. These introductions helped us establish new relationships with our colleagues, express our interests and ask questions about ongoing projects. We received great advice and mentorship, learned new skills and got to jump into a variety of projects.

If you’re gearing up to start a virtual internship, know that it is okay to be proactive. In fact, it’s expected. You just won’t have the opportunity to walk by anyone’s desk to introduce yourself or ask questions.

Be enthusiastic
There are many ways to show your enthusiasm, even from behind a screen. Before your Zoom meeting starts, unmute your audio and ask your colleagues about their day. Raise your hand before the question gets asked. In other words, be proactive. Onboarding virtually means you’ll likely miss out on the water cooler conversations or hallway hellos. You’ll need to remind people of your presence in a different and creative way. Set up weekly coffee chats or start a new Slack channel; we started one dedicated to TikTok!

Complete the smaller tasks with a big smile, and an even bigger thank-you
As the saying goes, “no task is too small because you never know when your work will be noticed or who will notice it.” Ask yourself: how can I take on the big projects if I can’t handle the little ones? As an intern or a new employee, you’ll likely experience a steep learning curve and you’ll be asked to complete smaller tasks as you navigate your way through all the systems. This is a great way to develop trust, while growing and showcasing your skills. Complete the smaller tasks with a big smile and an even bigger thank you. You never know when that small task will turn into a big opportunity.

Understand the big picture
There is always a purpose for every task you’re assigned and every project you support. View even the smallest tasks as execution of strategy, and if you’re not sure of the reason behind the strategy, ask. Understanding the bigger picture will help you develop stronger input and have an overall better outcome. Always remember to ask, “why?”

Think of it this way: nobody knows what you’re doing unless you tell them. It’s better to overcommunicate with your manager or team, letting them know what you’re working on, your progress, your learnings or your questions, then to have them wonder if you’re doing anything at all. At the end of every day, we wrote daily reports for our managers to keep them updated on our tasks and our learnings. This was a great way to communicate openly and self-reflect, without taking up too much of our managers’ time, especially since everyone is Zoom-fatigued.

Get to know your colleagues. They are people too!
If you’re lucky, colleagues are the best part of any internship. The opportunity to learn from an amazing team is one of the many reasons we chose to intern at Argyle. We were very excited to immerse ourselves in Argyle’s work culture, and we didn’t let a virtual internship stop us. When we met Argylers, we asked a range of questions, from “what are your roles and responsibilities at Argyle?” to “what was your first concert?” By asking a mix of personal and professional questions, we were able to develop more personal relationships, even if we were all behind screens.

At the beginning of our internships, we received advice from a former intern. She told us to act with courage, seek clarity and illustrate confidence every step of the way, because when you do that, the rest falls into place. Give it your all. We’re proud to be a part of Argyle’s long-running internship program, which has helped dozens of PR practitioners transition from student to professional. Even with the challenges of being online, the team provided us with a seamless learning experience while keeping internship traditions alive. From our very first day, Argylers across the country demonstrated their desire to provide us with the growth experience we wanted and expected.

Here’s to asking why, raising your *virtual* hand, and remembering that no task is too small.

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