I had coffee with some of the leadership from our PRSSA Chapter at MSU, including our professional advisors. Russ White from MSU University Relations, Kelly Rossman-McKinney of the Rossman Group and Jennifer Holton of the Michigan Department of Agriculture all gave their input on how we can make our students more prepared. The three of them all come from very different backgrounds in the public relations industry and we had a great discussion.
Some of the things we are planning for next semester include sessions on crisis communication, research and planning, media training, and others. But we also talked about one major thing students need work on: office etiquette.
I got some feedback from our advisors and Twitter, and I put together this list of things student workers in an office need to be more aware of:
- You’re an intern, so act like one. Bring a pen and pad of paper wherever you go, ask a ton of questions, offer to help all the time and always have a good attitude.
- Know how to interact with your co-workers. Talk and get to know with everyone in the office. If you work for a company with multiple offices, go work at the other offices. That’s how I landed my gig at the NAIAS starting next week.
- It’s OK if your boss or anyone else asks you to get coffee. If they are in the board room and ask you to get coffee, consider it your access pass to the board room. Getting coffee for a superior is not a demeaning thing and no one is above it.
- Moreover, you are not above doing anything in the office. Sometimes, you have to move the boxes, deliver notes and other not so glamorous things. Get over it.
- Don’t be afraid to answer questions or make suggestions. Think it through before, though.
- Answering the phones isn’t below you, either! I believe that every phone call is practice for the “real thing” – as a PR intern, I would make a lot of calls to the media and my phone experience helped a lot.
- Don’t justify going on Facebook for hours at as time as “social media practice.” That said, try to stay as “billable” as possible.
- Even though you’re an intern, don’t be afraid to ask for/take on more responsibilities.
- Respect your co-workers. Don’t put the phone on speakerphone if you work in a cube and try not to have loud conversations on a break around co-workers who are working.
- Don’t drink Diet Cokes that aren’t yours. But you should bring in leftover cake and other communal things to share. Hey, who doesn’t love a treat?
- Especially with public relations internships, know and understand social media. You will be working with baby boomers and generation x’ers that don’t know how to use it but expect you to. Take on a social media project and be able to take ownership of it.
- Always have something to do. If you aren’t assigned project, ask. If you still can’t find something, don’t be afraid to start your own project. Clean out the supply closet, create a company newsletter… anything to add your worth to the company.
- As a college student, you probably live a crazy and wacky lifestyle, but never bring that to the office. Your co-workers probably won’t appreciate it.
- After your internship, go back to the office once in a while and stay in touch.
- Finally, you should never be “too busy” to help someone in the office. Refer to my “why I don’t say busy” post. Yuck, I hate that word.
It might sound blunt, but these principles help me every day. Truth be told, there is a large generation gap between our generation and past generations. Teresa Wu wrote a great guest post on Chris Brogan’s blog summarizing our generation. Although we may feel entitled to many things, we still need to adapt to the current work place.
All throughout high school, I worked both as a lifeguard and a swim instructor. Needless to say, I didn’t have any office experience before I started interning and working for The State News. I think alot of it has to do with your environment. If you learn from those around you, it will help you to fit it a lot more quickly.
*Southwest Airlines (@southwestair) contributed their thoughts to this post. Guess which airline I’m flying on my next trip?