In the field of Public Relations there is one thing you can do for yourself before graduating college that will have the single biggest impact on your future career. That is the summer internship. Really, any internships, but summer ones get the most attention because you really have the chance to work full time, with no classes in the way, and get a real feel for the working world.
I saw multiple articles just today on summer PR internships. One from NYC PR Girls called ‘Too Late to Find A Summer Internship?” which had some tips on how to get a summer internship, if you haven’t already. And no, it’s not too late- there are always last-minute opportunities, though you may have to look for smaller firms or maybe the communications department within a non-profit organization because it is true that the big PR agencies with super-structured internships have already begun the recruitment process. Expand your search and don’t give up. I got my first summer internship once the summer had already started and I thought I had blown my chance to get one. Then I got a call from a small firm that was more on their own schedule and I went in for the interview the day I was leaving to go home for the week. I found out I got the internship within two days and turned right around to get back to Boston and start immediately. It’s a good thing I hadn’t given up by that time.
Another article I saw on PR Daily was called “5 Things Not to Expect From an Unpaid Intern” which is pretty self-explanatory. The problem is that it described 5 things that are exactly what interns should be doing. Yes, it can be tough that PR internships aren’t paid. Everyone needs to be able to support themselves, but there are ways that you can do both. It is a fact that most PR internships are not paid. You can’t let that keep you from getting the much-needed experience that internships provide. Many interns are only asked to be in the office a few days a week, leaving time for a retail or restaurant job on the alternating days, or even something as flexible as babysitting. Even if the internship is five days a week, you can always wait tables at night and on weekends.
Getting out of bed on time (being punctual), giving it your all, being a team player, hitting the ground running, and being the best of the best are the five things the writer of the second article says not to expect from an unpaid intern, because they are unpaid and therefore have no motivation. But these are the exact five things that I would include in a post about the most important things to do during an internship. An internship is a learning experience, after all. Most students understand this and know that it’s important to put their all into an internship. In addition to the basic fact that someone hired you and you were lucky to even get the internship, (which should be reason enough to show the company you will be a great worker) the experience gained from getting office experience, the actual work, and the connections you can make, all are amazing reasons to get as much out of your internship as possible. This is your chance to show a company that you respect and want to be a part of what you can do, so why would you not bother to show up on time, or be a team player or give it your all just because you aren’t being paid a salary? That is exactly the kind of attitude that will ensure nobody hires you again, either for an internship or a real job when the time comes.
Unpaid internships can be hard. There will be times when you feel unappreciated or overworked. But it’s so worth it. It can be nearly impossible to get your first real job out of college if you have no experience beforehand. In the field of PR, it is so common to have internships that not having one makes you a very undesirable hire. It is easy for the company to find someone with the same exact background as you but with internship experience. I had four unpaid internships throughout college. Through them I learned so much that I was completely ready when I got my first PR job. I also had connections immediately, and in fact took my first paying PR job at a firm I had previously interned for. My internships opened up so many doors (some way more so than others, which is why multiple internships are important) and I’m so glad that I was punctual and reliable, gave it my all, was a team player, hit the ground running, and was the best I could be at all of my internships. And no, it’s not too late to get one now, so keep looking and don’t stop applying until you get one!