An internship is an exciting, new and unique experience. But here’s something that is easy to forget when you’re on the outside looking in: it’s terrifying. Typically, an internship is your first stint at a real-life, corporate job, and it will challenge you and thrust you into a life outside of tests and quizzes. Some internships only last a few months, so it’s tough to navigate the water and understand the intricacies of the company. When you finally do, you’re probably sitting in the conference room with a mediocre farewell cupcake from the local bakery, wondering where the time went and if you could have – or should have – done better.
Luckily for us both, that last part has not happened to me…yet. I’ve been interning at Peppercomm since O.J. took his Bronco for a joy ride; along the way, I’ve learned numerous lessons that have kept me afloat. Some were learned the easy way, some involved being locked in a stairwell for an hour and a half. Hopefully these tips can speed up that learning process so your goodbye cupcake tastes that much sweeter
Go to happy hour
You’d be surprised how different your co-workers – and you – can be outside of the office environment. This is a great opportunity to break the ice and really get to know one another. Just be sure to keep the drinks below the “crying about my ex” limit. There’s loose and relaxed, and then there’s fired.
This was my quickest lesson. At Peppercomm, interns will be given a lot of responsibilities right off the bat. I tried to keep track of all of them, only to receive a “Where’s that briefing book I asked for last week?” email about once a day. Here’s what I suggest:
- Create a “TO-DO LIST” folder on your email. Every time someone sends you a request, move that email to this folder. Then, anytime you feel like you should be doing something, you can double-check your electronic checklist.
- Go to your local Walmart (Whole Foods if you’re SF-based) and get a good, old-fashioned daily planner. Write down what you need to do for the day and cross them off as you complete them.
- If you’re really unsure, ask someone. You won’t look stupid asking; you’ll look stupid forgetting. Which brings us to my next point…
Don’t be afraid of looking stupid
You’ll be on multiple accounts, and chances are they will all be wildly different. It’s okay to talk to other people on the account and ask what’s going on, or how they would like a certain assignment to be done. Chances are they are going to be happy with your attention to detail, not mad that you aren’t 100% in tune with everything going on around you. Even if you ask, and everything doesn’t turn out perfect, guess what…
It’s going to be okay
At Peppercomm, you will be trusted with plenty, and treated as a member of the team. No coffee runs for you…at least not the intern kind. This can be stressful as all hell. It’s important to really get a fresh perspective on what you’re doing, and to never make it worse than it seems. Remember: you landed a job at an awesome company, I guarantee you’re smart enough to handle any assignment that comes your way. And as I mentioned before, you’re surrounded by a great team who would be more than happy to help you. Which doesn’t bring me to my last point whatsoever…
Don’t use the stairwell
In my first two weeks at Peppercomm, I wanted to see what the stairs in our building looked like. Not even use them. Just out of curiosity for what stairs look like. Shortly after being disappointed by the fact that they weren’t made of solid gold, I also learned that the door to the stairwell locks from the inside. On every floor. All 30 of them. After spending 60 minutes trying each floor, I sat for another 30 trying to figure out how I was going to contact my team while also trying to come up with a reasonable explanation for what happened. The former happened, but the latter still has yet to be achieved. Just use the elevator.
By Chris Barlow
In today’s post, give a warm welcome to Peppercomm’s very first writing intern, Hannah Tibbetts.
Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
Hi I’m Hannah Tibbetts (Tibbs for short), and I’m one of Peppercomm’s Spring Interns! I graduated from Syracuse University a few years back with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Geography. My specialty was how to deal with massive snowfalls. I’m originally from Chicago, Illinois and I take great pride in my hometown, especially the Chicago Cubs (despite living in a White Sox household) and the important delicacy of deep dish pizza.
I initially enrolled into Syracuse University as a Film major for animation to go into character design. Then I moved to Political Science and did two television news internships during my junior year. But I still couldn’t quite figure out what my purpose was after graduation, and thus the existential crisis began. I took a job at your favorite coffee chain while working on a New York Islanders blog on DYSTNow.com to make ends meet. My only regret is I can’t show off my latte art skills at Peppercomm, which is a bit of a bummer.
There had been a lot of learning curves to get to where I am now, and I owe a lot to the people who helped me along the way. Since they won’t take my kidneys, the best way to pay them all back is to work as hard as I can.
Peppercomm’s internship came up on a LinkedIn search for me, and I immediately applied on a cold Chicago afternoon. A lot of my close friends in college were PR majors and it seemed like a lot of the same skills I’d learned as a newsroom intern would apply to working with Peppercomm. I thought I would give it a shot and see if I could potentially fit in PR. I never expected to be called let alone interviewed! The biggest relief I felt during the interview process was learning some of the writing team had a similar background in journalism, like me. When I was offered the position, I was scared to death to accept it at first because of my lack of PR skills. But, the Peppercomm team and other interns have made me feel right at home!
When you’re not hard at work at Peppercomm, what do you like to do?
Even though I’m incredibly easygoing, I don’t do idle well. I always need to be doing something in order to keep myself on track.
Because of my grandfather, I love baseball with my whole heart. With spring training just around the corner, I’ve been getting my Cubs hats ready for their New York debut. My mom, twin and I have a goal to visit every MLB ballpark in the US (I’ve got 11 down so far). I love to watch NHL, NWHL, NBA and Syracuse basketball as well. Another intern here at Peppercomm went to North Carolina, so there’s been a lot of gentle (or not so gentle) mocking from the pair of us.
I also enjoy hockey writing & analysis, gently mocking the Cubs and the Sacramento River Cats, kayaking, camping, reading, binge watching Star Wars for the 1977th time, watching terrifying movies at 3 AM, putting my dog in ridiculous hats and exploring my new home for the best cup of coffee New York can offer. Although, I’m still on the 12 step program to accept what New York calls pizza (To me it looks like pizza that got run over by a bus).
What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
I initially thought my answer would be the Consumer branch due to my background in human geography, but I’ve found that Financial Service has been the most interesting (please don’t tell my dad, he’s still hoping I’ll do something in finance). By setting up and organizing a lot of the material on several financial services accounts, it had given me a crash course in whatever subject I need to write about and I enjoy that a lot more than I thought I would.
Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
As the first Writing intern at Peppercomm, I’ve been introduced into the world of PR while having the ability to hone in on my writing skills. I’ve explained it as a bit like wading into the pool and learning to swim. Every new skill builds on ones I already have and I’m given new ways to utilize those skills in order to float.
I can’t stress enough how amazing everyone at Peppercomm has been with teaching me the ropes of PR and making sure I understand what it is they need from me. They also loop me in with the other PR interns and their tasks, so I am introduced to more than just the stuff I have to write. It’s such an amazing introduction into PR and with their help, PR isn’t as terrifying as I thought it was. Surprise!
I never realized how extensive PR actually is. I knew about various campaigns and some of the work that went into PR, but most of the work and vocabulary is new to me. One big thing I learned about is the amount of accounts the people here at Peppercomm actually work on. It’s multitasking to the extreme and I’m in constant awe of everyone here and the amount of work and flexibility that goes into these accounts. To an outsider, it is absolutely unreal.
Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
I hope that I can continue building up the skills I’m learning here and begin to take on a more active role in whatever work I end up doing after this internship. I strive to work hard and be challenged with what I am doing. I have a feeling that PR has a lot more to teach me moving forward.
INTERN LIGHTNING ROUND
Netflix or Hulu? Netflix for my good TV habits and Hulu for Real Housewives of New Jersey. J
Text or Call? Text, although I’m awful at both.
Coffee or Tea? As a former barista, my moral obligation tells me coffee is my answer.
Library or Museum? Library, I was always that kid sneaking a book into classes.
Dogs or Cats? Dogs! I have a 16 year old Golden Retriever in Chicago and when my twin and I went to college, she became the Favorite Child™. She’s an absolute brat but she’s hilarious and my best friend.
NYC or San Francisco? NYC! Less hills.
Star Wars or Star Trek? Star Wars. I had a 5-foot cardboard cutout of Luke Skywalker when I was 6.
Crunchy or smooth peanut butter? I’m allergic to peanut butter so I’m voting Nutella.
Mac or PC? I use a Mac. I can’t believe how thin they are now, mine is about the thickness of a Cheez-It.
Sweetened or Unsweetened Tea?: Unsweetened is the way to go.
Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network? Disney.
The Simpsons or Family Guy? Bob’s Burgers.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate!
Seltzer or Water? Seltzer has become my life since working here.
Cake or Pie? Pie.
Tacos or Pizza? Deep dish pizza.
Hogwarts House: Gryffindor
So, that’s me. In as much as I can cram into one blog post, working at Peppercomm is such an experience. In my first two weeks, I was writing about cost allocation problems and then the next day my desk was overrun with Fruit Ninja Pigs. You never know what’s coming next. And I kind of like that.
That awful moment when you hear the sound of your alarm at 7 a.m. and realize that you have to get up and get ready for work. This can cast a scary veil on your entire world. Ugh, it’s Monday.
For many years, Mondays have been considered the worst day of the week because of the negative perception that people have of them. To many, Monday represents the beginning of another work life balance or lack thereof. According to researchers at The Telegraph, Monday mornings are so depressing, that on average, we don’t crack our first smile until 11:16 a.m. But what if you could do something to change that and start loving Mondays again? Here are five ways:
Start by changing your mindset- We’ve been manufactured to believe that Monday is when we should be our most productive, but Mondays shouldn’t be the time to get through our entire to-do list. Monday mornings are a perfect time to do things that can make the rest of the week more productive, such as organizing some files, or clarifying goals for the rest of the week.
You can start fresh and find your motivation again– Wish you didn’t spend so much money over the weekend? Or eat that slice of chocolate cake? Then Monday is a great day to start over, wipe your slate clean and go for your goals.
Monday Night TV is the best– The Big Bang Theory, 2 Broke Girls, The Voice, Dancing with the Stars, the list goes on…
Mondays are the best for grabbing a bargain– Cyber Monday falls on November 28 this year. So save your Christmas shopping list and make the most of this Monday steal where all your favorite retailers will have some great deals.
Only four more sleeps until Friday- No I’m not trying to put Mondays down with this one, but we all know Fridays are the best. And guess what? Just four more sleeps and you’ll have that Friday feeling again!
So the next time Monday morning rolls around, forget feeling down and celebrate instead.
By Aissata Kourouma
As if taking your SAT’s, going to university, and choosing a career wasn’t scary enough, now it’s time to interview. Interviewing for a job is scary – you’re finally “in the real world”, and you’re about to be judged based on a piece of paper and your ability to make each of your life experiences sound applicable to the position you are applying for. A common interview question many applicants struggle to answer is “what is your biggest weakness?”.
Many young professionals gripe at the mention of this question and wonder why it’s so frequently asked. If they knew why the question was being asked, maybe answering it would be a little less painful. There are pages upon pages of online message boards offering advice to future young professionals about how to craft the perfect answer to this question. Since it’s the root of so much anxiety when preparing for an interview, I decided to go straight to the sources and ask interviewers directly what they’d like to hear when this question is asked.
The first source I spoke with was Ted Birkhahn, Partner and President at Peppercomm Communications. I asked him what he thought the best way to answer the question “what is your biggest weakness” was. His response was “be honest,” being honest shows a lot about a person’s character. He said, “Candidates who actually answer the question with honesty show a lot about the composition of their character. Those who fake it — and it’s easy to spot the fake ones — risk coming off as disingenuous”.
Although we are taught as kids that honesty is the best policy, this question can feel like a trap. If you admit failure in one area, maybe it will show that you are unqualified for the position. What many people do to get around this is pick faults that aren’t true faults. Ted cautioned that this is not the right approach, adding “It is human nature to avoid admitting weakness or failure, but the truth is we all have our faults and any employer who doesn’t accept this probably is not the place at which you want to be building a career. So, instead of evading the question, embrace it and be ready to talk about how you want to overcome or address the weakness to become a better-rounded professional and team player.”
I agree with Ted’s approach. An interviewer knows that you’re human, and humans aren’t perfect. With that being said, he also mentioned that weaknesses like laziness, being unable to work with other people, “are two of the biggest [weaknesses] to avoid”. Pick a weakness that could be worked on, and that could be improved upon with the help of others.
Deb Brown, a Partner and Managing Director at Peppercomm said something similar with a different strategy. Deb said, “Sometimes interviewees answer ‘My biggest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist’”. Like Ted, Deb doesn’t think this is the correct way to approach this question. Rather, she said, “I think the best way to answer this [question] is to turn weakness around to an opportunity. Weakness is a negative word. And by turning it into an opportunity, you’re being more humble and genuine. For example, ‘Actually the way I prefer to look at this question is what is my opportunity to improve and learn? I like working in a team environment because I learn from others and learn how to work well with others.’ The point here is that you’re answering the question in a more positive way and which benefits you most”. What Deb said is very insightful. Applicants should take the question “what is your biggest weakness” and turn it into an opportunity to showcase your strengths in a humble fashion, rather than saying something like ‘I’m too much of a perfectionist’.
Both Ted Birkhahn and Deb Brown offered great advice about answering the dreaded question, “what is your biggest weakness?”. To all the young professionals who are going out to interview, best of luck! Don’t let this fateful question stress you out – the interviewer might not even ask it. But if they do, take the question as an opportunity to be honest and present your strengths in a humble manner.
by Oona Welman
In today’s post, meet former student athlete and Peppercomm NYC intern, Bailey Irelan.
Hi, I’m Bailey. I recently graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Journalism, where I was also on the Women’s Rowing team. I’m a Midwestern girl at heart, originally from Columbus, Ohio. I loved growing up in Ohio, but I always knew I wanted to experience someplace different after high school. I immediately fell in love with the East Coast, NYC in particular, and set my sights on working in the city after graduation.
I heard about Peppercomm from a handful of people, and after researching and learning more about the culture here, I knew I had to apply. You can really tell that everyone who works here loves what they do. I was also drawn to Peppercomm because of the opportunity to learn from experienced professionals that have seen the growth and change in the PR industry over the years. Their insight and deep knowledge are incredibly valuable to someone like me, who is just starting out.
What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
One of my favorite things about the internship so far is the diversity of my accounts. I started here not knowing what area of the industry I wanted to focus on, but hoped I could get a taste of all areas to better understand what area of the industry I connected to. Although, I am getting to experience each type of client here, I have not yet honed in on which one appeals to me the most. I guess this is to say, I have no idea what my favorite area of the industry is yet, but I’m on my way to figuring it out!
Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
During the interview process, I was told that the interns are treated as entry-level employees and in turn, they are valuable assets to their individual account teams. This isn’t to say that I didn’t believe them, but I continue to be pleasantly surprised by how much responsibility we are given and how many opportunities we have to really contribute to the success of our accounts.
Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
My time at Peppercomm thus far has shown me that I want to build a career in the PR industry. Every day, I am surrounded by extremely smart, dedicated and creative people and I’m motivated to have the same energy and passion in my work as they do.