Posts Tagged ‘internships’

Unconventional Ways to Get PR Work Experience

March 1, 2013

A few weeks ago, while going over applications for our summer internship program, I wrote a post with tips for landing an internship in PR. Shortly after it went live, I got a call from veteran journalist Jack O’Dwyer, who’s covered the PR industry for over 40 years. He said that while he enjoyed my post, the market for internships at traditional PR firms is so competitive, students and recent grads may need to think outside the box to gain real world experience. He suggested that they go door to door to local businesses and offer their services for little or no compensation. “Do anything they need including sweeping the floor and washing the windows. Do what the regular employees won’t. Bring them news of new products or what the competition is doing. Show them how to create a website if they don’t have one,” he said.

At first, the whole conversation made me very uncomfortable. He was essentially saying that people with little to no PR experience should start freelancing. It sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. Interns make mistakes – it’s a part of the learning process, and a traditional internship is a safe, supervised environment where this can happen (usually) without dire consequences. I couldn’t see how any good could come of letting inexperienced 20-somethings run amuck with a company’s public image.

Over the next two weeks we reviewed over 300 applicants and finally hired one. The process made me reconsider Jack’s advice from the perspective of any one of the many qualified candidates we didn’t hire. If you haven’t had much luck finding a traditional internship, you really don’t have much to lose. You don’t have a professional reputation at stake, and you most likely won’t be signing any major clients. As long as you’re careful and only offer services you’re relatively equipped to handle, it just may be what gets your career started.

Andrea Marilyn GarciaJust ask Andrea Marilyn Garcia. Before becoming an Account Executive at Jaffe Communications, she gave herself a head start, making industry connections early on. “While at school I had an art blog for a journalism class and was looking for fresh new media content,” she said. “I realized that if you have a camera, anyone will want to speak with you. I would go to events and take video and interview people. Before I knew it, I was working with PR and marketing people at institutions and events.”

Christina Dela CruzChristina Dela Cruz, now an Assistant Account Executive at a PR firm in Atlanta, got her start with a virtual internship. “I graduated from college right when the economy took a nose dive in 2009, so I found it extremely challenging to find relevant internships in my area. I decided to take up ‘virtual interning’ as a means to gain experience,” she said. “I was able to intern for a small content marketing and digital PR consultant company based out of Virginia (I am located in Atlanta) via email and Skype.”

Nick Patrikis 3Nick Patrikis, a senior at Ithaca College, took a long shot, answering an ad on Craigslist for a VP of Marketing position at a record label startup. Though he didn’t get that job, the head of the company replied and agreed to meet with him. They talked basic marketing strategy and Nicholas left the meeting with his first assignment: developing a new logo for the record label.

The takeaway? Think beyond traditional internships. There are so many small businesses that haven’t even considered PR – each one is a potential client. The owner of my favorite taco truck once offered to pay me in tacos if I’d manage his Twitter account (sadly, I had to decline because I was moving). Though traditional internships may seem like a safer way to get started, in many ways, they may not be as edifying as branching out on your own. Many firms won’t let interns take on important tasks out of fear, precisely because they do have a professional reputation to consider and client accounts on the line. Mistakes will be made, regardless where you work, but fear of failure should never deter you from taking risks.

Diana Kim

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Landing a PR Internship

February 6, 2013

When I was an undergrad, I started applying for internships without a very clear objective. This approach yielded absolutely no results. Through much trial and error, I managed to land two. Now, sitting on the other side, poring over applications for our summer internship program, it’s quite clear what works and what doesn’t, and why I got the two that I did. Here are some tips for landing an internship in PR:

Internship Problems

The Search

  • Don’t spray & pray. Applying for an internship is not like playing the lottery. Spamming any and every potential employer’s inbox with your resume does not improve your chances of getting hired.
  • Don’t lie. If you think you have to misrepresent yourself to get the position, it probably isn’t right for you. This goes for everything from fudging numbers to faking enthusiasm. Insincerity is detectable in text, and this reflects especially badly on you if you’re applying for a position in communications.
  • Get a referral if you can. This often isn’t possible if you’re a student or recent grad with little to no experience, but you should still explore all your options. As this recent New York Times article explains, it’s more important than ever. One thing you can do while you’re still in school is build great relationships with professors in your department. Many have connections with professionals in their industry, and even if they don’t have an internship opportunity for you, you can ask to use them as a reference later on.
  • Don’t limit yourself to what’s on job/internship listing websites. You already know those listings are getting dozens of applicants. Don’t be afraid to reach out to any company you really want to work for – genuine enthusiasm will only help your cause.

The Cover Letter

  • Include one. If you’re applying through a web form, you can still find a way to include a cover letter. The cover letter is where you make your first impression, and without one, most employers won’t even look at your resume.
  • It’s also your writing test so make sure it’s flawless and have at least one other person look it over.
  • Don’t address it to, “to whom it may concern.” Take the time to find the name of the appropriate person. For a smaller firm, you can address it to the CEO. For a larger firm, find out who’s in charge of human resources or recruiting. If you can’t find it on the company’s website, call and find out.
  • Tailor it to the company and position you’re applying for. Show some indication that you’ve taken time to look into the company and what they do. Everyone likes to feel special.
  • Show, don’t tell. Giving concrete examples of how you’ve demonstrated great attention to detail or stellar interpersonal skills is much more convincing than merely saying that you have these qualities.
  • If you have any especially relevant work experience, summarize it here.

The Resume

  • Keep it to one page. No one applying for an internship has so much experience that it won’t fit on a single page.
  • If you state an objective on your resume, make sure it fits the position you’re applying for.
  • If your GPA isn’t very high, leave it off.
  • Think about how you can best outline your work and academic experience for the position you’re applying for. If you’ve held numerous part-time jobs while going to school, you probably don’t need to include every single one. Job descriptions should be tailored too. For example, if you’re listing your experience as a restaurant server for a PR position, you can focus more on the creative problem solving and guest service aspects of the job than the food handling or cleaning duties you had.

What really made a difference for me was narrowing my focus. I started out applying for many positions but then began to concentrate only on positions that I really wanted. That meant spending a lot of time doing research for every position, but in the end, it yielded positive results.

Lastly, if you do happen to come across your dream internship, don’t be afraid to be a little creative so you’ll really stand out. For a writing test for an editorial internship, I submitted my response using the company’s web template, so it looked like I’d really written a post on their blog. There are many famous examples, like this fellow, who designed his resume to look like an Amazon product page.

In the end, getting hired is never an exact science. Do you have any additional tips or success stories to share?

Diana Kim


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