I stepped into the elevator of 140 Broadway on June 3rdand wondered to myself what exactly I had gotten myself into. A million of anxiety-induced, baseless fears filled my head. Zeno Group’s motto is “fearless”, but I was walking in feeling anything but. While I had held intern positions the previous two summers, they were short-term, and this would be the first time I would not be spending the greater portion of my summer outside at a camp of some sort. The apprehension came only in part from the fact that I would be stuck in a cold, fluorescently lit office for 9 hours a day, but I was also second guessing if I was even qualified for this position. I was experiencing the feelings of imposter syndrome for sure. Thinking about spending the next 11 weeks of my summer in the heart of New York’s financial district and tackling something completely new was daunting. I was also scared that this “dream job” in many respects would end up disappointing me, leaving me to go into senior year feeling lost and unsure of the path I wanted to take after graduation in May.
Much to my relief, I can now say that this summer was one of the most informative I’ve had to date. While it was different than teaching kids to kayak and obliging in midnight dance parties, I found myself excited for each day I spent in the office, looking forward to the new projects and challenges that each day brought. Not only have I learned so much about the industry, but also have gained valuable insight into a field that I will confidently step into post-graduation and grow within throughout my time in the workforce. I learned technical, tangible, and applicable skills that I had hoped to as well as things I did not even think about prior to working at Zeno. I’m excited to not only use this new knowledge to further my career, but to also bring back and incorporate into my studies upon returning to school this semester.
One specific thing I touched on in my previous papers was the hope that this internship experience would help me gain confidence in terms of public speaking and risk taking. I found the environment at Zeno so comforting that I had no problem asking any and all questions that I ran into. I expressed in my first two papers that I often struggle with anxiety that my questions or ideas could be viewed as unhelpful, unintelligent, or unnecessary. The environment that is fostered at Zeno in terms of collaborative spirit and free thinking allowed me to voice my ideas and participate in brainstorms and meetings in a truly “fearless” way. Even if my ideas were not the ones chosen in the end, they played a vital role in shaping the brainstorming that followed the suggestion and it was a very rewarding feeling to see how my original idea grew and was combined and refined with the ideas of other’s to become our final product.
I also wanted to make sure I worked on delegating tasks and asserting myself to take on other roles or more responsibilities. It was unsurprising that the delegating I took part in mostly just had to do with the way I personally managed my time when completing projects. Being the only intern in the department, I did not really have anyone to pass down tasks to. When I had longer deadlines, I spread the work across multiple days which I found to be nice as it allowed me to spread the work out as it can be tiresome to stare at the same thing all day.
Going into this summer, I already knew how to use CisionPoint, a critical tool for public relations as it acts as an interface to secure contact details for different outlets and reporters, as well as building media lists for pitching. In addition to sharpening my skills in Cision, I also learned how to use two other tools. The first was Crimson Hexagon, which gathers all social media and news conversation about a selected topic over a defined period and analyzes the data that accompanies it. I used Crimson to conduct research and build a presentation that explained the coverage landscape for contraceptives and birth control over the last two years. The program helped me identify who the top influencers were on the topic, the overall tone of conversation taking place on respective platforms, and the audience statistics for the engagement with hashtags. The second was Creator IQ, which is a database that exists to help organize and vet potential influencer partners for certain campaigns. Having working knowledge and competency in all three of these Public Relations tools will not only look great on my resume moving forward but have also shown me a different side of the industry – one different than traditional pitching and press release drafting.
Going into the summer, I was told I would be working on two or three accounts and oversee the day-to-day activities of each. I was also told that I would not be doing “busy work” or unnecessary tasks, which is something I shared in my papers last semester. While of course some menial tasks are unavoidable for interns – in Zeno’s case, every intern has to work a shift at the front desk about every other day – I was pleased to find that I was doing the same level work as the Assistant Account Executive on one account, and basically assumed the role as an AAE on my other account. I was hoping that similar to my past internships, that I would get to be present in client meetings and calls and be treated like a real employee. At Zeno, this was 100% the case. It’s not common for interns at most places to be introduced to the clients and work as client facing team members, but I quickly found myself being introduced to the clients and actively participating as a member on the team. I was even privileged enough to lead a call on my own once, as a project I had spent weeks researching and creating was being explained to our client and their in-house brand team. This specific instance not only excited me because it was a taste of what a full time position would entail, but it also helped me grow in terms of my anxieties about presenting and public speaking – a skill I touched on earlier that I had wanted to improve over the course of this summer.
One of the last things I expressed in both of the previous papers I wrote about my internship experience at Zeno was that I was hoping it would give me insight into my potential career path post-graduation. In other words, to be completely blunt, I was really hoping it would result in a job offer. I am happy to share that I did receive an invitation to return after I graduate – which is a huge relief. While I am very excited about this prospect, I feel that because of this summer, regardless of if I choose to return to Zeno or not, I am fully confident in my abilities to succeed within the field of Healthcare Communications at any firm or company I find myself with.
I was hoping for clarification about whether this was a field I could truly see myself in and I’m very excited and relieved that I’ve found it even better for me than I thought it would be. I had the opportunity to explore the different types of work an integrated communications group like Zeno does and it opened me up to a whole world much larger than “traditional PR”. I was most excited about getting to work with the Digital Healthcare specialists within my department and gain experience into the digital practice as it was something I had never explored let alone considered and is now something I hope to continue to work on in the future.
At the beginning of the summer, I was unsure of how what I’ve learned in my leadership studies courses were going to translate into the work place. I was more worried about doing the jobs they asked me to do correctly than about observing leadership theories. I quickly found that traces of my leadership studies material were impossible to ignore but easily unnoticeable for someone without a Jepson background. I found this interesting, as I noticed different dynamics and implicit biases present almost immediately, but my coworkers did not until I shared the different topics that I had touched upon in my blog posts with them. Having prior knowledge about the existence of multiple types of leadership and the different approaches leaders take allowed me to feel confident working with leaders of all styles. This is especially valuable in the PR/Communications world as we have multiple leaders to follow – those within our company that we directly report to, as well as the clients who we work for as well – all of which have different qualities and attributes of leadership.
Watching the leader/follow dynamic was something that I found incredibly interesting while working at Zeno. Most of the time I found it hard to identify who on my team held which exact position – I only really knew who was at the very top, and that I was at the bottom. Furthermore, though I had no one working beneath me, I did find that I had the opportunity to exhibit influence. This is due to the collaborative nature of the communications industry. As I touched upon in my blog post about this, I was able to observe how tasks were delegated based off experience, strengths, and skill, not based on seniority. The leaders I worked closely with had a great level of trust with those on their teams and assigned roles based on merit, so the team would produce the absolute best possible result. This helped me in the early stages of my internship as it allowed me to share my strengths and in turn, enable me to work on the portions of the project in which I would excel and had a genuine interest in.
As cliché as it does sound, Zeno’s “fearless pursuit of the unexpected” completely rubbed off on me over the last eleven weeks. Working with Zeno Group this summer and having the ability to view my experiences through the lens of a leadership studies major allowed me to learn more about myself as both a team member, follower, and leader. Zeno’s environment fosters the ability to work fearlessly because of the trust and value each respective leader places in his/her team. I’ve learned that there are no bad ideas, there are only ways to make existing ideas even better. I’ve learned the value of communication – both internally and among clients and how even the smallest tasks play a necessary role in the overall goal of a team. I went into the summer wanting to gain the basic skills of a PR and communications professional, and I walked away with those, but also so much more.