We’ve all heard of dreaded daily coffee runs, copy runs and other tedious tasks typically handed to interns. Yet they endure and, in return, get a line for their resume and maybe a few bucks and college credit.
I can happily say that my time as a strategic communications intern at Hill Impact has been nothing of the sort. I never thought that a three-month internship could have such a positive impact on my life. My experiences here are going to influence the rest of my career and how I navigate any professional environment.
If you want to get the most out of your next internship the way I did, read on for my key takeaways!
Hill Impact's CEO, Dan Hill, with interns Fiona and Quin
1. Speak up
Not many interns can say that they spent 40 minutes on the phone with their CEO – on speaker in front of the entire office – intensely deliberating the ethics behind a breaking news story that swept the nation. The story was quickly unfolding and we were on deadline from a reporter who was seeking expert commentary from Dan Hill, Hill Impact’s founder. Still, he took the time to listen to me, a 20-year-old intern who had been at the firm for a mere three weeks, because I was clearly passionate about our discussion and because he valued my opinion. If I had been too afraid to voice my concerns or disagree with him, I would’ve lost the opportunity to understand the thought process of someone with over 30 years of experience in this industry.
I learned a lot from that conversation. We found a middle ground – Dan explained the many factors behind his rationale that I hadn’t even considered, and I gave him insight into a different perspective. Nodding your head in agreement and saying “Yes, I understand,” when you really don’t, isn’t going to get you anywhere. Ask questions. Speak up.
2. Manage Your Time Well
This one is easier said than done, I’ll admit. Learning how to prioritize assignments, work under deadlines, and optimize results under pressure were some of the biggest takeaways from my time at Hill Impact. Everyone is a human here. They understand that 15 minutes to synthesize a ton of information before an important phone call is not a lot of time. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try at all.
Use every chunk of time that you have as effectively as possible. Sometimes you don’t need every minute detail - but sometimes you do, so set aside time wisely. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Most times, bullet points that capture the big picture convey are most important to have ASAP and the rest can come later through further in-depth research and narrative.
3. Go Beyond the Expected
I learned relatively quickly that the life of a crisis management team has its peaks and lulls. There’s not always a fire to put out, so to speak. Handling urgent tasks with the communications team was my favorite part of the summer, but I also got to experience other great projects by stepping outside of my expected duties when possible.
Once, with everything calm on the communications side of the firm, I found myself caught up with my work and decided to ask the government relations team if they needed any help. This small gesture opened doors for me and gave me the chance to experience other aspects of the company. I researched members of interest in the House and Senate, drafted briefs on policy issues and even developed a project that was entirely GR-focused with one of my fellow interns. If you find nothing left on your plate, offer to help with things that aren’t technically “your job.” Chances are, you’ll find something new that interests you.
With these three core ideas in mind, I’m more excited than ever to take on life after the end of my Hill Impact internship. I wouldn’t trade my time here for anything, because I got to learn so much about the realities of work life at a busy firm. No matter where you intern, it’s up to you to get the most out of the experience.
Plus, it’s normal to feel anxious about a new internship! You might feel like you have no idea what you’re doing or that you’re an unqualified imposter who somehow managed to get hired (me too). But that’s not the case. You’re there to learn just like I did. And if you remember to speak up for yourself, manage your time well and go beyond expectations, you can’t really go wrong.