By Adam Bowers
If you’re studying public relations, you’ve probably heard this countless times from professors, peers, parents and professional connections: It is really important to find an internship. You’re no doubt sick and tired of hearing it, but unfortunately, it’s true. Internships are important in any industry, but they’re especially crucial in PR. The good news is that there are a lot of agencies looking for strong intern talent to support them. Many budding PR pros are tempted to take the first internship offer that they receive, but it’s important to remember that not all internship programs are created equal. There are three things that RLF believes every young PR professional should seek in an internship:
A Mutually Beneficial Relationship
As a college student, you may think that your first internship will involve “paying your dues” on coffee runs, paper shredding and trips to the dry cleaner, but it shouldn’t. Find an agency that is looking for legitimate account support. The best programs give their interns the opportunity to contribute to the firm’s work in significant ways. In interviews, don’t be afraid to ask what kinds of tasks you’ll be working on. (Hint: pitching, writing and editing are good. Cleaning, errands and phone answering are bad). Look for an internship where you’ll be able to contribute to the firm in a meaningful way, while also walking away from the experience with a portfolio of quality work samples.
A Place to Get Connected
I used to cringe in college when someone would tell me, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Let’s face it: That phrase has become incredibly cliché. Unfortunately, clichés become clichés for a reason, and this one is no different. As important as a strong resumé and portfolio are to potential employers, nothing beats a personal connection. When interviewing for internships, ask about the firm’s culture. Is it the kind of place where interns get to know and work closely with full-time staffers? Will you get the chance to learn from senior-level practitioners, or only work with people just a year or two out of college? Seek out settings where you’ll have an opportunity to become close with one or two of your supervisors, as well as get to know top-level managers. And when the internship comes to an end, don’t hesitate to ask your new connections who they know that is hiring for full-time positions.
A Culture of Inclusion
If you’re getting real PR experience and also getting to know your supervisors, you’re in great shape. The ideal internship program, though, will provide interns with both of these things and also fully integrate them into the firm’s team. Interns shouldn’t be treated like second-class citizens. You’ll know you’ve found a genuinely great program if interns are included in account meetings, company-wide brainstorms and invited to social gatherings both inside and outside of the office.
And I’d be remiss not to include a shameless plug for our own internship program: At RLF, we do our best to do all three of these things! We also believe in paying our interns either an hourly wage or a stipend. If you’re interested in applying, you can send a resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org.