10 Public Relations Career Tips: How to Get an Internship
Getting an internship can be an important part of any career's beginning. It is a way to show future and prospective employers that you're dedicated to working and dedicated to the industry you are interested in working in, and it can show that you are able to balance school, life, and work together well. An internship can be a great introduction to the business world and a great place to meet mentors. (I personally have met two wonderful mentors through internships who have in turn developed into friends that I can turn to for help on matters personal and professional.) You will also gain invaluable experience as a student where you can make mistakes and perhaps even learn from others' mistakes.
There are a few ways to get yourself prepared and tips to finding an internship that is a fit for you and one that you are fit for. Some can include the following:
- Create a personal marketing plan. This should involve some things that go into a normal business plan, like your own S.W.O.T. analysis where you can analyze your internal and external strengths and weaknesses. Here, you can set a budget for your job searches, really define what you want to do with your degree or for your career, and how to get there. This is a great place to set goals and map steps to achieving those goals.
- Get business cards. These are great tools to use at networking events and job fairs, and they serve as a quicker, smaller version of your resume so that people can get in touch with you. (Carry your resume with you at these networking events too, but know that business cards are an effective way to get your name and contact information in the hands of professionals.) Print you business cards on a paper or matte material so that the professionals you meet can take notes on your card once they've met you; this can help them to remember you and the conversation you had.
- Create your social media profiles. In particular, create a LinkedIn account. This is a way for employers to see your history, your connections, and places you're involved online. Remember that it is a representation of yourself online so keep it professional. LinkedIn takes minutes to create, and you can even upload your resume, saving you lots of time in the profile-creating process. Use this as a tool to get connected and stay connected with people you may meet at networking events, in classes, or through other connections. Join groups there, too, to get connected to other professionals using LinkedIn. (For PR students and those looking to intern in the PR industry, there's even a PR Intern group.) Even if you do not advertise your Facebook or MySpace accounts, know that you can be evaluated there too, so use professional images, copy, and content.
- Attend networking events. These can be through school fraternities or groups or though a larger organization like the PRSA (Public Relations Society of America) or the AMA (American Marketing Association). For students, prices are lowered to ensure that you can attend, so take advantage of these associations and their events! They are put on to help you as new entrants in the industry and to help companies fuel their companies with new perspectives. Be sure to keep in touch with the people you meet there, as you may have made a good impression.
- Go to career fairs. Even early in your college years, go to these fairs (which are usually cheap to attend) and see what sort of businesses attend and to see if a graduate school is for you. This is great practice for speaking with professionals, getting your information out there, and for finding internships which may be of interest to you.
- Practice, practice, practice. Though this has probably been engrained in every graduate's mind, there is a lot to be said for someone who practices. Preparing and running through questions you may be asked in an interview can create a great advantage over others looking for internships or jobs. Practice may not make perfect, but it can surely improve your answers, speech, and comfort level in the interview. Go to your career center on campus (if you are still in school) and look at their list of commonly asked interview questions, sign-up for a mock interview, and ask them for pointers.
- Dress the part. Even if you are interviewing over the phone, dressing well can make you feel more professional and get you in 'work mode'. Working from home can be dangerous if you are not in the right mind set, too, so go about your days normally as if you were going in to a business to interview or work. This will help motivate you to be more productive. Remember to dress well (business casual) for an interview, at career fairs, and at networking events. You are allowed to ask the representative from the company you are communicating with what the office attire or dress code is; this will show that you are a forward thinker, and that you are preparing yourself. Though appearances are not the end-all, be-all of you success as an employee, it is easier to see your work and your personality when not distracted by worn or overly casual clothing.
- Revamp your resume and write a cover letter. Though cover letters may not even be read, they are a great tool to reiterate your interest in the position, company, and career. It is also an opportunity to take what your resume says and make it relevant to the advertised position. Take the time to figure out who to send the resume and cover letter to, as this can show your attention to detail and your ability to do some light homework.
- Act professionally. Some personalities are a better fit with others, and while you cannot control how your personality is received by people you can act professionally and respectfully to ensure that you put your best foot forward. First impressions are often times difficult to overcome, and with people interviewing dozens (if not more) of candidates, it is vital to your success that you act like a mature professional, even after you get the internship.
- Do your research. And then do some more. Internships and jobs don't usually come out of nowhere, and more often than not they are a result of your networking efforts and the connections you've made. Keep your eyes on job boards at school, LinkedIn, and even CraigsList. Apply to those that you find interesting and personalize your cover letters.
Remember that it will take time to find an internship that suits you, but know that your investments in time, your appearance, and your efforts will undoubtedly help you to find one.
If you are looking for a PR internship, there are a limited amount available through BusinessTraining.com each year. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.)
Any tips you have for finding an internship in PR or other area of business? Success stories?