By Jeremiah Mallari | May 4, 2020

Nothing fends-off that nagging feeling of not doing enough to land a post-college job quite like accepting an internship.

Any college student knows that real peace-of-mind comes with knowing you won’t have to write a cover letter for the fifth time and set-up yet another interview. When all of your hard work eventually pays off and you’re accepted as an intern, you’ll be excited to continue laying the foundations of your career in preparation for graduation (which is right around the corner).

When I landed an internship at the start of the year, I was looking forward to waking up at 8am and going downtown to the office to coordinate with clients and telling my friends, “oh yes, I work at firm now downtown next to the Transamerica building, pretty cool I know”. What could ruin this momentum? How about a pandemic outbreak! Luckily, instead of cancelling my position, MSR Communications rearranged my duties so that I could work remotely.

While it may not be the internship experience I expected, it has been a unique experience in which I’ve learned a lot about what it’s like to work virtually. Here’s what I’ve learned and what it’s been like to start a virtual internship at a San Francisco Boutique PR firm in the middle of a pandemic (all a month away from college graduation).

Adapting to social distancing

The point of an internship is to learn and to get all the experience needed to help you boost your knowledge in your professional self. However, learning how to be part of agency, let alone a PR team, isn’t the easiest thing to do just from emails. Telecommunicating, which has become very popular these days, is a vital part of the new reality we’re all facing. When you’re just starting out as an intern, it’s important to remember that it’s ok to not know and to be frustrated- learning itself is hard, but to learn non-traditionally with no face-to-face contact is even harder. With any new job or opportunity, learning and adapting takes time. So learn at your pace and understand that even in social distancing, PR evolves and adapts and to be a part of it, you must do the same.

Hope you like reading…

Even though I read so much for my PR classes, it didn’t really click that I would do the same outside of class until my first projects as an intern. I’m more of a talker myself, but because COVID-19 doesn’t really let me do that, I guess reading is what I have to do! From emails between your team members, media monitoring, articles, news, client criticisms, doing research, etc. IT’S ALL READING. It can be boring (I won’t lie), but reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power. When you know everything because you’ve read everything, and I mean literally everything… you have the basis to funnel ideas for your PR team and help your firm connect with the clients; making you one step closer to becoming a PR professional and one step further away from just the intern who brings the coffee.

Media, media, media!

In parallel to reading, to be a good PR intern is to be current. Contrary to what my mom thinks, going nowhere and looking at my phone all day is actually a win. When you work in public relations, you’re focused on media, so consuming and seeing everything on social media from global pandemic related to what my friends are up to at home is all a part of staying informed as a PR intern. Knowing what’s being talked about in the media or in your social group makes media research easier. Your personal world plus the insight you’ve gained from just looking at your phone is more valuable to PR work than you might realize.

Organizing and prioritizing is the ticket to success

As an intern, I receive various projects with their own deadlines. If you don’t have good organization skills, well now’s the time to start practicing! It can easily get overwhelming if you don’t stay organized. From researching media contacts, analyzing media coverage, and maintaining the firm’s social media, PR functions require thorough organization. Emails are always flooding and there are new projects to start, so creating your mental filing cabinet on how to handle everything is your ticket to PR success.

Home is where the work kind of sucks

Trying to finish my projects from home is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done. It’s amazing how motivation levels drop just being at home. But work is work and so a good tip to help manage the cluster of work is to prioritize and remember not every project has to be done the moment you are tasked with it. For me, I always start with the project with the tightest deadline. Balance is key here, so working for an hour straight and then a break helps ease the load. Make sure you’re taking small breaks throughout the day- but also be careful to manage your time and ensure your short breaks don’t turn into a distraction. You don’t want your work projects to get piled up. It’s all a balance, so do what you can and don’t overextended yourself. You still need work/life balance when you’re working from home, and being stressed at home doesn’t help you do better work.

Practice self-care or it’s game over

Let’s cut to the chase, being at home every day, let alone working/interning at home every day is not fun. In fact, it can get really depressing, especially if you’re a college student like me who also has to attend zoom classes to finish the semester strong. It’s hard managing everything in your life from your bedroom, and sometimes without even eating breakfast or washing your face even though it’s 10 feet away from you. Trust me when I say nothing good will come from drowning yourself in work. Taking care of yourself mentally and physically is crucial during a time like this. Simple things like working in the living room or on a chair outside instead of your bedroom really changes the mood. Eating snacks and even changing into a new comfy outfit makes a project like compiling media coverage lists for clients so much more manageable. PR is team-work based, and keeping yourself healthy is a priority that the whole team can support you in. Self-care is asking for help when needed and doing whatever is necessary for your well-being.

Everything is changing…

Just like the media landscape and the nature of PR, the world is in a state of major change. It’s a difficult time for everyone and so it is more important than ever to maintain and value relationships you have. My internship isn’t what I expected it to be, but it’s the one I got. Even if I don’t get to be in the office and interact with my team and clients, I still enjoy working with them virtually. My internship has taught me public relations is all about relationship building and doing this virtually has definitely been a unique introduction to working on a PR team.

COVID-19 has shown me that life can be hard and doesn’t follow the plan we set up, but if we don’t adapt, then we don’t grow. An opportunity taken away from you, is just another opportunity waiting to be taken. So roll with the punches and keep moving forward!