The Beginning of Adulting

This week was the conclusion of week two as a public relations intern at KemperLesnik. In just two short weeks I have been exposed to the PR world in more ways than I could have imagined. I have been placed on teams with a variety of different clients doing projects that can help my team in many ways. My clients include Aon Affinity, Argo and various wine festivals in Illinois and surrounding states. My projects cover a wide variety of PR aspects and I have already been given the opportunity to apply what I have learned in the classroom at work.

 

My most recent tasks include analyzing social media accounts, composing press releases, media pitching, composing media lists, event planning, and various research assignments. What I have learned so far is to never stop asking questions and to take the vocabulary used in the office and see how it relates to what I have already learned. By doing this I have already enhanced my academic knowledge and expanding far past what I could have ever learned in the classroom. Another opportunity I have been given is attending a brunch with numerous esteemed professionals in the PR field. This gave me the chance to start networking in professional settings being a part of an agency and not just a University of Illinois student.

 

The best part of my internship thus far is witnessing how much I have already grown as a professional. In a short amount of time, I have been able to experience office culture as well as seeing my place within the office. I am very excited for the rest of the summer and I can’t wait to see everything I can accomplish underneath the amazing leadership I am experiencing. When I return to Champaign-Urbana in the fall I will no longer be just a student, but a business professional.

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Self-Assessment

Going into this summer I had no idea what to expect out of my internship. It is often said that public relations is one of the harder professions to explain to those that are not in it. What makes it so difficult is the broad range of tasks you do on a day-to-day basis. This reason was why I wanted an internship in PR. I felt that I needed to experience it to understand if it’s what I wanted to do. I also knew I wanted to experience an agency. So, when I got an offer to intern in public relations at KemperLesnik I took the opportunity right away. KemperLesnik is a sports marketing and public relations agency in Chicago. This was the perfect experience for me because I got to work on my PR skills while experiencing what makes an agency so special.

There are so many reasons this internship has better prepared me for my career. I was given the chance to experience a 40-hour week for ten weeks, which really gave me a taste of the real world. I got to improve my professional development by being a professional first-hand. I also was given the opportunity to observe the best in the business. I saw how great ideas were made and executed. I had to balance valuable clients and send them work I created first hand. I had my writing published on fortune 500 company websites. While working here I didn’t feel as though I’m an employee but an equal among my peers.

I got the real life experience and exposure to the profession that I would only get from experiencing it first-hand. When I go into job interviews I will have something to speak to and work to show for what I have accomplished. This will set me miles apart from my peers who are competing for the same job but do not have this type of experience. I learned so much more about myself and what I want out of my career. Going into senior year I don’t have to say I still have no idea what I want to do with my life because I feel like I know now. I can hit the ground running after graduation and not waste time. The networking opportunities I have had here and unmatched. I not only worked with some of the best in the business but I feel like if I asked they would be willing to connect me with their own personal networks.

Overall, this experience gave me the summer of a lifetime. I never thought I would be excited for my time at Illinois to end. But after this summer I am excited about the future and Illinois is the reason I am where I am today. When I apply for jobs I know I am going to be proud to send my resume out because of my accomplishments. This summer gave me so much and interning was the best decision I could have made. So thank you to KemperLesnik for the opportunity and the University of Illinois for preparing me for it.

Big Picture

It is hard to believe that I am already at the conclusion of my internship. I never thought I would say ten weeks flew by but they really did. Between completing assignments and commuting to the city my internship feels like a whirlwind. I am so grateful for the experience I have had here at KemperLesnik and the knowledge I have gained firsthand through my internship. As I leave here I not only have something to add to my resume, but I have new experience and skills that have made me a better person and hopeful PR specialist. This summer has been so beneficial and I do not take this experience for granted.

I have gained skills in both my work and being an employee. I was really lucky at my internship because they gave me the opportunity to try everything and work with full-time employees to deliver quality work to the clients. I have been able to apply what I have done in class and more. The tasks I was given are those of a full-time employee. I pitched to reporters, wrote press releases, attended media events, constructed media lists, and even more. What I did in class gave me background knowledge so that when I was assigned tasks here I could do them or at least be able to figure them out. The skills I have learned include being able to communicate with professionals, participate in client calls, act appropriately in a work environment, etc. I also learned how to ask for help from my higher ups, which at times can be intimidating as well as saying when I am too busy to take on more work.

Overall, I will be able to take what I have learned here and incorporate it into my future. Having this internship has made me a much stronger employee and student. Seeing my college education be used doing something I love is something that is so rewarding.

Career Goals

I have been so lucky to have been offered an internship in the public relations field, especially in the city of Chicago. While at school, I always had an interest in the field. But I was never sure if an agency was for me. I didn’t feel I really understood what an agency was so it was my goal to have an internship at one. When KemperLesnik a sports marketing and public relations agency offered me this position I accepted right away. I am so glad I chose to work here over the summer and have learned so much about myself and the agency lifestyle.

 

This internship has more than contributed to my long-term career goals. It has contributed by showing me that I enjoy the agency lifestyle and that working at an agency would be a great fit for me. I enjoy having a variety of clients and projects to constantly be working on. It is very exciting and no two days are the same. I like the idea of understanding many different industries and being able to deliver with their public relations. I also now have connections within an agency that can help me break back into the agency realm after college and when I am looking for a full-time job.

Not only have I practiced and fine-tuned my public relations skills but I have also enhanced my professional development. I think the most valuable skill I have learned is how to be a reliable employee. With the assignments I am trusted to complete aren’t hypothetical like they are in school they are projects are clients need. I have to be reliable, accurate and intelligent. I also learned how to become a better PR specialist by observing my manager and other full-timers. When I begin my first job I will be ahead of the curve when it comes to etiquette in the office.

Networking pt. 2

Working as a public relations intern means you are communicating all day long. Whether it be interpersonal or through emails, I am always meeting new people while on the job. Since I want to have a career in public relations, being surrounded by established professionals is a great start. The coworkers I communicate the most with are a great set of connections. They are professionals I respect and whose career backgrounds are ones I can only dream of. The majority of the professionals I work under have careers at huge worldwide public relations firms. This can help me down the road because I could reach out to my management and see if they have any connections at these places when I begin my job search.

 

I also have been connecting with our clients on a daily basis. I sit on the client calls and email back and forth with our clients numerous times throughout the week. If I didn’t want to work at an agency, but rather a company in their marketing/PR department this could be a great avenue to take. It will be very beneficial to keep up with these relationships throughout the year and to stay connected with from then on.

Finally, I have been networking throughout my entire experience. Every day I go into work with the hopes of making a name for myself within the public relations community. By working hard and being a positive employee I hope that the connections I have made and developed might help me down the road. It is not easy to break into this career and knowing someone really helps. This internship has taught me so much about networking. I watch my management communicate and network with potential clients on a daily basis. I have been given the opportunity to observe and hope some of their skills rubbed off on me so I can apply them to my own life.

Advice to Future Interns

Being a little more than half way through my internship I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on what is expected from this company. I also feel like I can offer valuable advice to interns in the future. To be successful here you have to work hard, be passionate, and willing to learn. If you come into KemperLesnik with a strong work ethic and open mind the opportunities are endless. It is a very welcoming environment when you can learn, make mistakes, and grow. They want the best for their employees and celebrate their little victories with them.

 

I have some broad advice that may help future interns at any company they land an internship at. One of the smartest things I think I did was waking up at the time I would be waking up for work a week previous to starting. By doing this I prepared my body for those early wake-ups which typically don’t happen when you’re at school. Working 10-hour days are much more draining than attending a class or two a day with naps in between. I was able to keep up by doing this and I would definitely do it again.

 

Another piece of advice I would give is to talk. When working in a professional environment it is easy to get intimidated by professionals and not want to talk and stay to yourself. Even though this is more comfortable, you may be missing out on valuable opportunities to build relationships and network with the employees around you. From personal experience, I have learned that they want to talk to you and help you. Talking seems like common sense, but it is harder than you’d think. I have had to go out of my own comfort zone to participate in conversations and it has definitely been beneficial for me in this internship.

A Day in the Life

A day in the life of an intern at KemperLesnik is different every day. Working on numerous clients means each day’s tasks revolve around these client’s needs. But there are common themes that happen each day. But to start my day I take the Metra from the suburbs and it brings me into the city for work. Once I arrive at the office I start my day by checking my work email and seeing if there is anything new or important that I should prioritize first. Then I typically continue to work on projects that have previously been assigned to make sure I hit those deadlines.

 

By afternoon, I attend meetings for our clients. These meetings include calling our clients and being on a conference call with the people on their team and those on our team who work on them. These calls are very productive. We share with the client what we’re currently doing for them and the placements we have gotten them and they share what they want us to change or what they like. By doing these calls we get to have a better understanding of what they like and what they are looking for. Following these calls, we then discuss as a team and assignments are given. By doing this we are all on the same page and can make sure we accomplish everything that needs to be done.

 

The typical day is filled with working independently, attending a meeting and communicating with fellow office members. The office offers plenty of spaces where you can work collaboratively or independently. Another fun feature is the couches and televisions if you want to be a little more comfortable and not work at a desk all day. The days vary which make this internship exciting. Somedays I work and attend meetings and other days I am at Olympia Fields Country Club attending golf championships. Each day is different making it an exciting internship to have.

On-Site Experience

At KemperLesnik, we communicate with our clients numerous times a week. We give them the opportunity to hear the work we are doing for them and they can offer their feedback. At this time they also say the things they want in the future and for us to start working on. All of the work we are doing is based on the needs of the client and what they need to make the relationship purposeful. Our agencies success depends on the success of our client. From only a couple weeks here I can see this being reflected in the work we are producing.

The clients are divided among various people who work together on teams to accomplish various tasks. I got placed on the team that is under the leadership of a “Group Account Supervisor.” She directly communicates with the client and makes sure her team is accomplishing the work. After having conversations with the client we usually discuss what needs to happen next. We then split the work depending on what people usually accomplish for the client. If you are the person who does their social media calendars and they want a change in regard to that the task is yours and so on. My work typically consists of refreshing/creating media lists, research, pitching, and assisting in any way to help get the work done.

After we divide and conquer, we are on our own to complete the work. There is an open door policy here so if you ever have a question about how to do something you shouldn’t hesitate to ask. After completing the task assigned to you it usually goes through a variety of checks to make sure it is quality enough to give to our client. After being reviewed and approved by the group account supervisor we have the okay to send it on.

Networking

For my informational interview, I chose to interview Astrid Greve-Spencer. I chose her because I have been working as a member of her team throughout the summer and am impressed by her abilities every day. Her career background is one I can learn from and her transition into the world of PR has been helpful to learn from. Daily I work with Astrid on the numerous accounts and assist her in any way she needs. Because of this, I have been able to truly observe her and understand what makes a good PR specialist while maintaining positive relationships with the clients.

 

One question I always want to ask is “how do you stay current with your work?” When I asked Astrid this question her reply was to read, listen, and think. What she meant by this is to know what’s going on in the world. Some tips she gave was to set up Google alerts, subscribe to newsletters, take notes on things that stand out, etc. I then asked questions about decision making and how we keep the client in mind. One thing that stood out to me was her answer of “whatever we decide, the client has to be satisfied in the end” that is the driving point behind every decision.  Another important thing to keep in mind when making a decision is to listen to the client, know their expectations, and aim to exceed them.

 

To conclude the informational interview I decided to ask more personal questions about the profession. When asked what the most challenging part of the profession was Astrid replied it was when we don’t get the results we aim for, and the client isn’t satisfied. I think this is important to keep in mind and understand that you can’t make the client happy all the time and you need to learn from those experiences.

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