Have you ever wished you could have a ‘first date’ with a job before saying ‘yes’ to that next career move? Anyone with a few years of professional experience has come to cross-roads in their career where they seek affirmation to make a change. The unknown is scary, right?
Last week MSL Chicago provided a sneak peek into PR agency life during its Summer Insiders Challenge. This annual, agency-wide initiative operates as a win-win: providing college students a high-energy, valuable learning experience and giving PR managers at MSL Chicago a day to meet (and evaluate) the next generation of PR pros.
The students engage in several sessions where they work as teams to deliver ‘real-time’ recommendations. This includes everything from coming up with media strategy and pitch angles, to development of a creative brief to interviews. It’s like a first date – PR agency style!
Last week’s activities found me reflecting on the anticipation felt by both sides of the recruitment (or dating) stage: the potential intern and the hiring manager.
I found similarities between this trial process as an intern similar to the early stages of dating. And, who doesn’t love comparing work situations to dating? Here goes:
First Impressions Last.
Think of how much debate goes into the attire, the opening line and the level of information sharing on a first date. You should consider this same level of detail as you prepare for an interview, or first, second or third internship position.
Tell Stories Not Laundry Lists.
Have you ever told a date: “I’m a great leader, I do so many activities and I am a total ‘people person’…”? Probably not. Providing a laundry list of skills does not demonstrate your value and why you are prepared to be an intern. Tell a story about your experience and professional pursuits, not a verbal recap of your resume.
Be Professional, But Real.
Similar to the first point – nobody forgets a first impression so keep it professional, but don’t hesitate to give a sense of what gets you going. You wouldn’t send a template email (or more likely text/phone call) to follow up a date; you would talk about something that sparked your interest in the person and why you want to see them again. Think about the same personal connection on the job. Finding the balance of personable and professional is difficult, but possible.
On the hiring manager side, we always hope we make the right decision on who we select, like dating. I’ve hired many interns during my career, and gone on a few first dates too. I won’t speak to what I look for in a dating relationship here. Instead, here are thoughts from a manager’s perspective:
Look for Learners.
You want teammates with a desire to dig into their work. People who like to learn new things and quick! A hunger for learning can’t be taught. Things that can be? Cision skills, media list formatting, and even writing and pitch styles.
Resumes Are Only a Starting Point.
A piece of paper cannot summarize someone. In a dating context, this compares well to online dating. I doubt people pay for online dating with the objective to ignore profiles that don’t meet all the needs they have for this ‘perfect person.’ I try to consider resumes in the same light – focus on a few core criteria and factor in other information sources such as writing samples, references and what you can find online (we cyber-sleuth people we’re dating, right?).
Focus on Fundamentals.
Similar to the desire to learn, you want people with strong, fundamental PR and communications skills. Can they write? Do they enjoy learning new things? Are they news-minded and a solid communicator?
And, in post-‘first date’ fashion, there has been lots of buzz around the office since we met our impressive 13 potential interns last week! The excitement reminded us all of what we love about PR – the pursuit of new relationships, opportunities and shared ideas.
It will be a tough decision to determine which three interns join MSL Chicago for the summer. Thanks to all the candidates who participated, truly an impressive 13.