Over the duration of my PR internship with Berbay Marketing & Public Relations, I was never asked to get anybody coffee or pick up dry cleaning. One time I did have to walk dogs around the block, but I counted that as a perk.
When my summer started, my familiarity with anything “public relations” was…dismal. Some college course here, some marketing meetings with my college radio station there. I applied to the Berbay PR internship because I didn’t know enough about PR to decide whether I would consider it for a career. So I thought, why not?
One cover letter, two email chains, one phone call, an overdressed interview and a third email chain later, they decided to take a chance on me.
On the first day, my shirt tucked in and sweaty from the long, nervous commute, I made a realization: I really hoped nobody would ask me to do anything. I hoped I could hide away, unnoticed.
It’s not that I didn’t want to work; I drove all the way across Los Angeles to try this public relations thing out. But, I was afraid of being challenged and confronted with the idea that I was incapable, a fraud; a college student with better interviewing skills and fewer email typos than the next guy, but with no real skills. College is easy because everything is theoretical. I could make a mistake and be immediately forgiven. In the real world, there are implications. Implications are messy.
Fortunately, that wish to be ignored was never granted. Instead, on my first day, I was assigned projects that everyone else in the office might be expected to complete. On my first day at Berbay, I drafted a media pitch, followed up with publications via phone and compiled media lists.
Initially, it terrified me. The work of my unsteady hand would end up in the possession of Berbay’s clients, with the Berbay seal atop my potential sub-parism. That’s a lot of pressure considering I felt that I’d sort of talked my way into the whole thing. But, that expectation forced me to take accountability and learn how to make things work. Fear of provoking disappointment shoved me into the realm of, “Okay, I need to figure this out”. Berbay made the rest of it easy, and today I’m better because of it.
I felt welcome from the first moment I walked through the door. (I was fifteen minutes late, but Kathleen immediately forgave me. Thank you, Kathleen.) I felt equipped to meet Berbay’s expectations because every person spent time to make sure I could fulfill them. Every person who assigned me a task took the time to explain how to execute it. All I had to do was pay attention.
I would like to claim that I navigated my own way and instinctively put into practice the public relations skill sets I was only tangentially familiar with. However, that would be untrue.
Megan Braverman handed me big projects like drafting a newsletter, but she always spent the time to make sure I understood them. Amy Rossetti always gave priority to answering my questions, even when she was between six rocks and a hard place in her own work. Karla Fletcher patiently showed me her grammatical edits of my work with a demeanor that never insulted my intelligence.
Sharon Berman stopped by to say hello every time she was in the office. Whatever work this intern was doing, it counted in the eyes of the head honcho. Everybody in the office made me feel like I was on the ground floor of whatever was happening.
Before the second day, I could name five of Berbay’s clients.
I had a personal stake in those client relationships and I knew that my work would affect the bottom line. Berbay trusted me to do it, whatever “it” was.
I felt integrated, like an investment. Today, I can write press releases, pitches, newsletters and chapters. My newly acquired skills make me feel like I belong in my role. That’s thanks to the time nobody was obligated to give, but was generous with, in any case.
I’m still not sure if I found the answer to the question that prompted me to apply for the PR internship. Do I want to do PR? I did find the answer to a much more important question, though: what kind of fabric should I look for in the place where I ultimately devote my work time?
I know that the place I’d like to work makes everybody feel as if they have a personal stake in the work that they’re doing. That’s the kind of place that will leave me fulfilled at the end of each day, and attract those who are likeminded. Those are the people who work at Berbay.
Thanks for the opportunity, ladies.