I am majoring in Business Communication and Public Relations (PR) and part of the learning curriculum. Our curriculum is built in a way to provide student with good theoretical base and tools that we can apply in our profession. It is also an important part of our learning process that each of us go through the practical experience in an organization or field work. To complete the course I was required to complete internship with a company for 120 hours and receive 3 credits as a measure for this practical application of my knowledge.
I believe that business communication and PR is the subject that can only be really learned when we gain significant experience in its practical application, as it is very much about understanding how relationships work and how people build their channels of communication and knowledge transfer. Constantly changing nature of the business in general and it´s growing demand and scale explain the need for PR professionals to be flexible and responsive in their communication style and approach to the business.
As a newcomer to this academic and professional field I set up several objectives and expected outcomes from this internship experience. First of all, I wanted to work side by side with a manager that has extensive experience of leadership and public relationships. This, as I believed would give me an insight into leadership style and attributes that determine successful Business Communication and PR professional. Secondly, I wanted to understand the nature of external communication and customer relationships and eventually gain some simple tools that can be applied in customer relationships on general level. Third objective was to gain some initial insight into administrative function of public relationships department and types of correspondence, releases and communication channels that are used to interact with customers and suppliers. Finally, I wanted to see the business working environment in a large multinational corporation and understand how cultural element and diversity influence the work of PR and Communication department.
With this set of objectives I started to look for the internship opportunities. After brief research of the market opportunities I short-listed two large multinational organizations that were looking for short-term interns in PR department. My final choice was Saudi Aramco, global petroleum and chemical organization with full integration of supply chain from exploration to marketing of petrochemical products. I was lucky enough to be selected for 8 week internship program in one of its locations, Alkhobar and started my work with PR department under the supervision of Salah Mugim. The experience ahead of me promised exciting opportunities and I realized that internship experience is about my personal ability to learn the most out of the opportunity I have gained.
As I had clear picture of expectations I wanted to first of all align these objectives with the expectations of my manager and understand where I could contribute the most to the departmental goals over this short internship period. We set down with my supervisor and developed performance appraisal document that we planned to use by the end of the practice to analyze if I managed to achieve my personal goals and meet the expectations of the management. To support the learning I was responsible for preparing weekly self-evaluation reports to measure my learning curve.
The department was not big and everyone worked in lean structure, meaning that each of us had quite wide range of responsibilities. Some of my core responsibilities included daily communication with the customers, correspondence with partners and suppliers; assist on emergency issue handling and basic customer service issues. As the department I worked for was responsible for creating a communication channel between our Jacobs Project engineering service and the mother company Aramco, daily tasks involved a lot of stakeholder management that my direct manager was fully responsible for. My task was to provide administrative support to him in handling these issues. With that, I learned a lot about crisis management and conflict handling, as several situations, when we had to work under a tight deadline and under strong pressure from our customers and investors. My manager has a lot of experience of handing these types of the situation and he demonstrates some of the characteristics, such as organization, emotional management and other leadership aspects that I found impressive and extremely valuable for his position in the organization.
Communication, as I learned is a two-way process, where first of all, it is important to learn how to build strong and open communication channel within a team and then further transform this knowledge and information into the language of other internal stakeholders and external counterparties. One of the biggest challenges that I faced with during the first 2 weeks of work is to learn the etiquette of the company in regards to external and internal correspondence. Given the complex organizational structure and cultural aspects of Multinational Corporation it is critical for Jacobs to be able to have standardized and well balanced communication guidelines.
Another learning that took me the entire internship time was dealing with time differences and understanding how these differences influence our department and other department work. It was interesting to learn some of the common practices that allow reducing the pressure from these aspects. Such practices at Jacobs included virtual meetings and work in shifts that would allow our department to stay up later and be able to attend to the requests or receive necessary information from our partners in other countries.
I cannot leave without attention one of very important aspects of learning that I brought with me from this internship. We work a lot in our academic groups and I understand the nature of this group work. The experience of a group work that I gained in the company, however, is very different as people that work together has completely different motivations and knowledge base. The department I worked for has very high retention rate and people work with my supervisor for several years. This helped them to develop extremely effective working environment, where each individual possesses different set of qualities and ‘complete’ departmental set of skills. Communication within the department is very structural and there is a high level of trust and division of work that I have never seen before.
Eight weeks at Jacobs Project past very fast and the learning appeared to be even more extensive than I could imagine. Looking back at the performance management reports that I was preparing weekly as well as final conversation and evaluation of my manager I can conclude that I managed to achieve the majority of my initial objectives. I participated in internal and external communication processes and my manager gave me some basic PR tools for correspondence and face-to-face meetings. I even had a chance to be a part of the press release preparation. On administrative side the entire communication etiquette experience made my learning curve extremely steep and I definitely have better understanding of the underlining administrative tasks of Business Communication and project management. My exposure to work in PR department team gave me good experience in understanding business environment team work as well as leadership styles and capabilities. Some of the learning that I would like to take to the future, however, include deeper insight into people management and leadership, especially in crisis situation and conflict management techniques.