We Welcome This Summer’s Interns

Every summer, we get really excited when our interns arrive. This week marks the beginning of our eight-week program, and we’re happy to welcome interns from Brown University, Drew University, Howard University, Tufts University and the University of Arizona to the Havas PR team. This year it’s even more special, because we just moved in to our brand-new hipster offices, with open-plan desks, concrete floors and a loftlike feel. We’ll post pictures on Twitter and Facebook very soon. Stay tuned.

Pumped by Circumstance

Another successful summer intern class has graduated from @erwwpr after totally energizing our offices. In New York City, we salute Lauren Carson (St. Anselm), assigned to our consumer Buzz Group; Joshua Johnson (Penn State), who worked on consumer accounts; Ally Norton (Boston College) and Audrey Schnell (North Carolina), who worked with healthcare clients; and Kate Urbach (James Madison), assigned to new business and marketing. In Pittsburgh, Cassie Lenski (James Madison), Anne Merrick (Pitt), Shay Myrick (Point Park) and Alexandra Salerno (St. Bonaventure) were tasked with various projects to help promote One Young World, which is headed to Pittsburgh in October.

Drawing Lines

Some of you blog loyalists out there might remember my excitement at the prospect of working with so many talented women this summer, and that has indeed been one of the highlights of this job. In the United States, female leadership averages about 16 percent in every sector across the board. I had just finished my senior thesis about the dearth of female leaders in this country, so I was geekily interested in observing what made female leaders in general the exception, and what put some of them in the 16 percent.

In a December 2011 TED talk, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said that of the graduating seniors entering the workforce for the first time, 57 percent of young men negotiated their first salary. Seven percent of young women did this.

I thought this very interesting as a young person on the brink of entering the working world. My female peers are, generally speaking, both unaware of their own worth and unwilling to assert it. Attribute it to whatever you’d like, but women across the board are not comfortable with their own talent and abilities. In her TED talk, Sandberg goes on to cite how women, much more than men, underestimate their IQs, downplay their GPAs and attribute their success to others rather than their own “awesomeness.” At the heart of this, she determines, is that success and likability are positively correlated for men and negatively correlated for women. It seems to me that in a world where women are literally pulled in so many directions, the only way to manage all this is by drawing lines in the sand, deciding who you are and unapologetically being that person.

The superwoman stereotype is perhaps the most damning of all, and it’s where a lot of these attitudes can be derived. It encompasses all areas of a woman’s life, sets the highest standards for everything from homemaking to professional success to body image, and consequently makes it impossible for her not to fail. Anne-Marie Slaughter poignantly and passionately addresses “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in a six-page op-ed in this month’s Atlantic. She diverges and even openly disagrees with Sandberg on critical points, but she claims it is impossible to “have it all” at the same time. With Slaughter’s and Sandberg’s arguments in mind, women must stop spinning this narrative because it is just that: a narrative. Women must stop actually believing that they can have it all, must stop participating in it and, most critically, must stop projecting to other women that they are actually succeeding at it.

We have to stop being terrified of making choices, of saying no, of drawing clear lines and defining ourselves, because that is how we grow and actually begin to have it all, in the real, human sense. It is how we fill C-suite offices and how we truly liberate ourselves from manufactured and unchallenged archetypes of female happiness and success. It’s how we make room for ourselves, our daughters and our daughters’ daughters as CEOs, tenured professors, heads of surgery, managing partners, etc. And inconsequential as they might seem, every preface to a comment with “This might be really stupid, but…” or apologizing unnecessarily during a brainstorming session perpetuates these attitudes and reinforces that 16 percent.

At the beginning of my summer at @erwwpr, I made a conscious decision to be a sponge. I try to take in every last detail and habit of those older, more talented and more successful than I am. I observe them and watch how they balance their lives and schedules, how they handle themselves in meetings, how they treat their colleagues. The women here, truly PR professionals, are sharp, talented and poised. And as the summer comes to an end, I am preparing to wring myself out, grateful and appreciative to move on with the bits and pieces that complement me and that hopefully will contribute to my growing that 16 percent.

[photo: creativecommons.org/Benimoto]

Getting Back to Our Roots

Ribbons, ribbons and more ribbons! One of the goals for this internship was to have Pittsburghers sign 5,000 ribbons to display at the One Young World summit in October. This was to mimic the ribbon ceremony that One Young World does every year: At the summit, each delegate, ambassador and counselor signs a ribbon, then they tie them together to show unity. The 5,000 ribbons we get signed in Pittsburgh will be on display at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center as a symbol of welcome and support of the international community that will be here for the summit.

With the close of our internship drawing near, we realized that we still had about 4,000 ribbons left to be signed. We needed to get out into the city of Pittsburgh and do some old-fashioned grassroots labor.

The funny thing about grassroots events is that you really have to put all your inhibitions aside. Because you are basically bombarding people on the street to listen to you, you cannot second-guess yourself. Here are a few quick tips for when you are on the street:

  1. Know your elevator pitch. Make sure it is not too long and starts off with something that catches their attention.
  2. Don’t think, just do. We all know it’s awkward to approach people on the street, but the more you think about it, the less confident you feel.
  3. Talk to anyone who will listen. You might think you’ll know what kind of person will respond to your request, but I was sometimes surprised by who stopped to listen and sign a ribbon.
  4. Smile! The best thing you can do is to look enthusiastic, confident and friendly. People will be more likely to be excited about what you’re promoting if you are.

Although grassroots work might not be the most glamorous aspect of this job, it teaches you a lot about promotion and awareness marketing. The most valuable thing I learned from this experience is how to craft a message so that it grabs the attention of a passerby right off the bat.

[photo: Cassie Lenski]

Aren’t Internships Supposed to Open Doors?

Preparing to film the “Pittsburgh Welcomes One Young World” video, I decided I would get to work early one day last week.

I arrived at our office building, Starbucks in hand, and got into the elevator. Little did I know that my floor required an elevator key and that you cannot get to that floor unless you unlock the elevator. Normally, the first person to the office unlocks the elevator—and apparently that person is never an intern.

When I realized that clicking the “2” button eight million times would not get me to the second floor, the elevator doors were already closed. Thinking this wouldn’t be an issue, I pressed the “G” button since I was still on the ground floor. Nothing happened. Trying “Door open” didn’t work either. Slowly I became aware that I was stuck in my office elevator.

After calling the other interns and getting no response, and praying for someone to come to my rescue, I sat down with my coffee and tried to relax. Having a problem with closed spaces, I began trying techniques to help calm myself down. These techniques are great when you are trapped in an elevator—or for relaxing in general.

  1. Breathe. Take slow and deep breaths. This helps slow your heart rate and relax your muscles. It also helps you to not get lightheaded or get a headache.
  2. Listen to music. Thankfully, I had an iPod and could focus on music rather than my surroundings. Jazz and soft rock are great options (screamo music will probably make you feel more tense).
  3. Stay positive. It’s actually a great mantra for life. Think of things that make you happy or picture yourself somewhere else, a glass-half-full outlook. I was thinking how great a story this situation could turn into.

I wasn’t trapped in the elevator long. A nice man opened the doors only to find a girl in a suit sitting cross-legged on the elevator floor. I wish I had taken a picture of his face.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes about stress, from author and motivational speaker Bill Phillips: “Stress should be a powerful driving force, not an obstacle.” Even though I had a rough morning, I was then ready to tackle the One Young World video.

Sticky Notes: An Intern’s Guide to Prioritizing Life

In anything we do, I believe we begin as the underdog until we work hard to prove ourselves. To prove myself, over the past few years I have worked hard to maintain a consistent work schedule and use every second of time toward the success of my future. As I have come to my last stretch of higher education, however, I’ve questioned that decision.

How you choose to spend your time reflects what’s truly important to you. Summer classes, congested monthly planners and time sheets have defined college for me and sculpted my professional résumé into a true work of art, but what does it mean? While I believe it is important to complete projects on time in school or during an internship, I think it’s just as dire to make time to embrace friends and cherish family.

Ask yourself these questions to frame your life in perspective:

  1. When is the last time I connected with someone face to face?
  2. In five years, will I be proud of what I am doing right now?
  3. When did I feel loved?
  4. When is the last time I really laughed?
  5. Am I working toward the greater good of myself or my job?

Remember to keep working and propelling yourself toward goals but ensure time for yourself and the passions dear to you. I, too, struggle with the thought of breaking up with years of set schedules and declined invitations, but, reader, our happiness is absolutely essential to personal salvation. Break away from the chains of distraction, and I encourage you to reintroduce yourself to life.

Let us know on Twitter (@OYWPittsburgh #OYWHouse with hashtag #taketheleap) how you will focus your new freedom.


[photo: Stock Exchange]

The Thrill of Immersion

In about two hours, I will be wrapping up my first full workweek as an intern at Euro RSCG Worldwide PR. The exhaustion of being up at 5 a.m. every day that had been wearing on me all week is, minute by minute, being replaced by growing elation and excitement at the prospect of sleeping in tomorrow. But while the mornings have been tiring and the nighttimes short, because of a newly instated 10 p.m. bedtime, my first week at @erwwpr has been unlike any other at a new job.

Upon meeting my fellow interns, and newest friends, on Monday morning, I knew it was going to be a fast-paced summer surrounded by talented people. Within about an hour of introductions, we all dispersed with assignments in hand. That very morning, I learned my first lesson in PR: Don’t be afraid. This might seem silly and obvious, but it became immediately clear that I couldn’t hesitate to ask questions or make my own judgments, or even get something wrong. Fear is the ultimate inhibitor, and to be successful at anything, especially PR, you have to learn to let it go.

Additionally, the pace at @erwwpr immediately caught up with me. But I am learning to adapt to it as a motivator, not a series of unending deadlines. Our work is challenging in its quantity and interesting. Adopting an aggressive, always-say-yes attitude is the best way to immerse yourself, use your strengths, and improve your weaknesses.

This opportunity and experience will certainly be a valuable addition to my professional portfolio. But what I think is an even more valuable component is the chance to work in a predominantly female office. Coming from a political background, I have always been seriously outnumbered by men, and I’m hypersensitive to the 16 percent female leadership rate in this country. Working at @erwwpr Pittsburgh provides countless examples of smart, intuitive, well-balanced women who not only know how to lead in an office but also cooperate and work efficiently. As ambitious and malleable interns, I don’t think there could be anything more inspiring to be exposed to.

Although I’m struggling even now to have time to finish this blog post, and I’m on my third coffee of the day, I can honestly say I have never been more excited for an opportunity. The work is constantly changing, our co-workers are talented and while it’s clear (painfully, at times) that I have a lot to learn, I am genuinely thrilled for the challenge.

The One Young House posts on our blog document the experiences of four students participating in a unique and immersive internship with @erwwpr in Pittsburgh. Our main project is promoting the One Young World summit, a pro bono initiative of @erwwpr and Havas that’s coming to Pittsburgh in October. We will be sharing our experiences with traditional and social media relations, grassroots events and community presentations while living together as a team, operating out of One Young House.

[photo: Cassie Lenski]