March 6, 2008

Internship advice, from an [almost] pro.

Posted in career, PR tagged , , at 8:51 pm by Rebecca Corliss

Today I went to speak with one of my PR professors, and there was a bunch of students in the “waiting room” who had gotten there before me. I sat in one of the chairs and overheard some girls chatting about finding internships and how nervous they were.

I started talking to one of the girls and asked her what type of internship she wanted. She wasn’t sure, but mentioned that she thought she was too late and would have to wait until next semester, the beginning of her junior year.

Through our conversation, I realized that so many students believe if they don’t rush to apply for an internship months before their expected start date, there’s no opportunities left. I completely disagree. It’s true that many companies do hire interns well in advance; however, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other places to practice your PR skills and learn something extra during the summer. What’s great about PR? Everyone needs it. And everyone loves free interns.

I suggested she look for some nonprofit organizations that might need help. I told her that my first internship was at a very small (yet very cool) nonprofit that holds monthly art events May-September. (At the time, I was specifically looking for creative arts companies when I stumbled upon this organization.) Needless to say, they hired me. On my first day, they basically told me to run free and do everything I could think of to get people to the events. To be thrown in head first is quite a scary thing, but I am so thankful for the experience.

Long story short, my advice to college sophomores and juniors is this:

1) No worries. At this stage of the game, there is no “too late.” If you are proactive enough, you will find something. Applying to internships early is a good strategy, but the experience from even (what someone might consider) a “left-over internship” is more valuable than nothing at all.

2) Collect as many internships as you can. I heard this all throughout my college career, and I’m saying it to the world now. The job market is super competitive, and experience is what sets us apart. If nothing else, learning how to function in different kinds of work settings is incredibly useful. It toughens you up for later.

3) Ignore the stigma that no-name companies are worthless. I think this is incorrect and insulting. None of my work experience is from a big name company, for the most part. I believe there are great benefits to working at smaller companies, because management will probably use you more than the global giants. Most likely, they also will give you more substantial things to do. By working at smaller companies, you can build your portfolio with things you’ve actually written, as opposed to things you’ve cut out of magazines.

4) Volunteer for stuff. Some of my best work comes from random opportunities when I decided to lend a hand. Helping people is a great way to make contacts, and you never know if they will want to offer you an internship/job in the future.

Good luck!

– Rebecca Corliss (RepCor)

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3 Comments »

  1. erinshizuewilliams said,

    Rebecca,

    That is some great advice. Iim still looking for my summer 2008 internship and I was getting a bit worried. But, I figure if I really can’t find anything, I can always volunteer for a non-profit.

    One comment I’ve heard from several public relations professionals is to keep calling. I don’t want to be annoying but at the same time I don’t want the company with my resume to forget about me. Do you have any comments about this?

    It’s always good to hear about what a “newer” professional has to say. I know you were recently in the internship market and have a feel for what is going on currently.

    Thanks!

    Erin

  2. I’m glad it helped! Where do you want to internship? Any particular city?

    As far as calling? Well. Persistence is good. It shows dedication, but don’t go overboard. I trust you’ll know when too much is too much. Twice at the most, I’d think. But spread out your calls. It really is a case-by-case situation.

    They won’t forget about you if they are truly looking to fill a position. And if they don’t choose you, I suggest calling and asking what could have made your application better. It’s tough to get criticism like that, but you’ll learn from it big time. And it shows how serious you are. Maybe you can make yourself even better and try again next summer!

    The fearless are winners. :)

  3. erinshizuewilliams said,

    I want to intern in Portland, Ore. That’s where I’m originally from and where my parents live.

    Of course, many of the internships I have came upon are in Seattle or in San Francisco. Not many between though!

    I’ll give them another call and let you know how it goes!

    Thanks again!


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