Guest post authored by Jewel Myers, former CMD Earned Media intern.
Graduation is an exciting time. No more schoolwork, no more professors, no more exams and no more getting up early. You think the stress is all over, right? Wrong.
Now you have to worry about getting that first job. In this day and age, you can’t afford to slack off, and when you do land that first job it’s like being back in school. Your boss is your teacher, and this first opportunity is more than a test: There is no redo. There is no starting over. For some, work ethic will come naturally and for others it will take practice. For those still in college, internships are the best way to start practicing for that first job.
As a graduate from the University of Oregon with a degree in public relations, I agree with majority of this New York Times article by Thomas L. Friedman on the importance of internships. I wish I had known earlier in my college career just how important they were. Luckily I was able to secure two during the summer and winter terms of my senior year. It’s not easy to land the perfect opportunity. But if you think getting an internship is hard, finding a paid one is even harder. Eleonora Sharef, co-founder of HireArt, sums it up in the article when she says, “it is almost as hard to get a paid internship today as it is to get an actual job.”
In the article, Nick Sedlet, co-founder of HireArt, discusses the “danger that only rich kids” can afford unpaid internships. I disagree. I would say that not all internships are created equal and that there is one out there for everyone no matter your financial situation. One company I interned for was very flexible with my full-time school and work schedule and let me work the hours I could. Yes, I was either napping or cramming food into my mouth during the almost zero free time I had, but the real-world experience is what I wanted, and it wasn’t going to just happen without hard work. Here, at CMD, I have a paid internship in the earned media group, and they are flexible with my schedule so I can have a part-time job on the side.
In addition to internships, there are some skills and projects specific to my field that I wish I had developed in college, which would have been relevant to my internships so far:
- Research – My professors emphasized that research is important. But, I had no idea just how much that really entailed until I landed my internships. I wish I had fine-tuned my research skills before leaving college and worked with real-world applications such as TweetReach, Compete and Google Adwords to familiarize myself with how each application could help me with research projects.
- Multimedia Applications – I was a multimedia minor, but I didn’t really dig deep into the applications. We lightly covered Photoshop, InDesign, Final Cut, CSS and a few others. I wish I had picked one or two of those to really expand upon and gain expertise in. It’s very helpful and valuable to have skills in other areas besides just traditional PR. I’m currently working on projects that require at least beginner skills in all those applications.
- Blog – I was assigned to start a blog in school, but I really didn’t take it too seriously. It wasn’t until I changed the blog topic to something I actually wanted to write about that got me excited. It’s a good way to express ideas and practice writing on a regular basis. A blog is also a great portfolio piece that can showcase your writing abilities and give a future employer a peek into your personality.
- Public Speaking – Now, I know this is a cliché, but it’s true. My public speaking is terrible. I get the typical dizziness, shaking voice, and hot flashes before having to speak in front of a group. Even though I would’ve been afraid to take the class, I wish I had taken speech in college to prepare me for work presentations.
With all that being said, it’s never too late to get more experience on a topic or application. My advice for young PR/social media pros is to start internships early in your college career and keep improving your skills no matter if it’s in a classroom or on your own. Only you can decide how successful you will become, but either route will take hard work. What’s the most valuable experience you’ve gained from one of your internships?