Guest post: Making the most of every opportunity

In this guest post, the brilliant Katya Hamilton-Smith writes about her internship in the Corporate Communications department of Visa. She also gives a great advice on how to make the most of such opportunities.

Over the course of this summer I completed an internship in the Corporate Communications department of Visa, a payments technology company and number 5 on Brand Finance’s list of most powerful brands (!). I spent my summer getting to know the dynamically changing payments industry and of course finding out how a huge global payments company goes about its PR and communications.

Although this wasn’t my first internship, I wasn’t any less nervous on my first day at Visa than my first day at any other company. This was the first time that I had worked in a corporate environment and it was completely different to anything that I had experienced before! I spent my first week getting to grips with the company and all the services it provides to its many clients. I was even lucky enough to continue this education in San Francisco on my second week, meeting Visa interns from all across the world and listening to the CEO and other influential speakers talk to us about Visa and the payments industry.

Great British High Street Awards and ‘Gareth Southgate’ station

While at Visa I had the opportunity to write press releases, spokesperson comments and strategy plans for new initiatives and campaigns. I was even able to witness the way that Visa responded to the service disruption earlier this summer. During the summer I was lucky enough to work on some brilliant campaigns, from the beginning of this year’s Great British High Street Awards to the renaming of ‘Gareth Southgate’ Tube Station following England’s success at the World Cup. Within these projects I was given real responsibilities and trusted to manage elements of media relations through the Visa press office, I also found myself at the newly named ‘Gareth Southgate’ station taking photos with a Gareth Southgate lookalike… it’s true what they say, every day in PR is different!

My summer at Visa was my first experience of working in-house rather than in a PR agency, although during my internship I was able to work alongside a number of agencies on different projects. Seeing the relationship from an in-house perspective was particularly interesting and a hugely valuable experience with which to enter my third year of university. It was also my first experience of working in the tech industry and I have to admit that it completely changed my mind. I hadn’t truly considered tech PR as a potential career path but the industry is exciting and constantly evolving and understanding how major players like Visa interact with new FinTech companies or work with new regulation is fascinating.

Try new things and get to know people

Over the summer I was given lots of valuable advice about starting a career in PR so I thought that I’d share it with those looking to gain some experience in the industry. I have learnt so much from such incredible people so here are some of the best bits…

  1. Always be willing to try something new. When I started at Visa, I didn’t know much about the tech industry but I jumped in head first and now I love it! Trying out different areas of PR will help you to decide which sector you want to work in when you graduate and internships are by far the best way to do this. It is always worth trying something that you’re unsure of, you never know, something might surprise you!

    Trying out different areas of PR will help you to decide which sector you want to work in

  2. Get to know as many people as possible. Internships are a great way to meet people in the PR industry and grow your personal and professional networks. You never know who might be able to help you secure your next job or give you a glowing reference that seals the deal.

    Internships are a great way to meet people

  3. Make every moment count. Internships are a great way to show off your skills and your work ethic to people who really matter. Showing that you are always willing to take on responsibilities and give everything a try will go a long way with employers. Having the right attitude is key and though no one is expecting you to be a PR master they will be expecting you to show the will to become one!

    Having the right attitude is key

This summer at Visa was by far one of the best experiences of my life. I was trusted with real responsibilities, I learnt from the best in the business and even managed to bag a visit to San Francisco (best internship ever?!). So, my biggest piece of advice to any budding PR professional would be to grab any opportunity that arises with both hands. You never know which doors it could open for you in the future.

***

This is a guest post from Katya Hamilton-Smith. Make sure to connect with her on Twitter, @katyaroseh, see her LinkedIn profile, and her blog.