For a period of six months, I worked as an intern at Weber Shandwick, the second largest public relations agency worldwide. Situated in The Hague, I assisted the Consumer Marketing team with a variety of activities, ranging from pitching ideas to journalists, writing press releases, and creating press kits, but also organizing press events for clients, managing the company’s website and online channels, and setting up the lunch.
On my first day as a Consumer Marketing intern, I found that my highest calling did not involve any calling. After severe journey delays, relentless stress symptoms and pouring rain, I found myself seated at my very own desk, getting explained every single detail of the job. And that also meant to regularly pick up the phone. During my first days, I could effortlessly brush aside this seemingly easy task to the other intern, who happened to have five more days of telephone experience. Plus, she used to work in a call center, so I already endorsed her for being more suitable. But after a week, she ignored the whimpering of the phone while giving me a hostile look, forcing me to pick up this one. I hoped to catch a glimpse of our office manager, but her desk seemed empty at first sight. There I was, finding myself in one of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ scenes, where I had to leave messages for Miranda Priestly, with hardly an idea how to handle the situation. Luckily, I didn’t have to spell Gabbana, the call wasn’t that nerve-racking and I received a genuine tap on the back from the other intern at last.
The next day, I was ready to take any call, with a neat, written-out scenario lying on my desk, in case I would suffer from severely lacking capabilities to put through one journalist to one colleague. But I was assigned another task. If I could call a vast amount of Dutch celebrities to do a commercial for one of our clients. For what price? “Well, we do not have any budget, so they have to do it for free”. As I was escorted to one of the meeting rooms, sweat trickled off my forehead as I saw myself stammering my pitch while begging their managements to cheeringly pop a beer bottle for free. Eventually, I manned up, forgot that I had only been a PR intern for a week without any experience in the field, and freestyled. Although my request was sometimes received with scornful laughter (“For free? Well, our [insert famous Dutch singer] is an a-list celebrity now. So, how about, no?”), I had some hilarious conversations, still convinced a variety of managers to participate and came back to my manager’s desk with a list of notorious Dutchmen and Dutchwomen. I celebrated my modest victory with an after work beer. Well, let’s say, beers.
After six months of interning, I left the office contended and developed. While getting back to my barista job, one of my colleague asked me if I would now easily take a call center job. I wanted to give a quick yes or no answer. But it was still a tough call.