Qualifications are important in any career, but when you are starting out in public relations, experience will give you the edge over other job candidates.
In today’s competitive world, even graduates need to be able to hit the ground running and be able to confidently and effectively deal with anything that comes their way.
Most colleges and universities that offer courses in public relations and communications will provide students with at least one internship opportunity, but if you are passionate about a career in PR, the best thing to do is to be proactive and find your own opportunities.
The following three steps will help future PR pros take advantage of internships to get ahead of the competition:
1. Decide what industry you’re interested in
Start by identifying the type of organization you are interested in and industry sectors you would like to work with.
The more experience you have in different sectors, the easier it will be to know what you are interested in when it comes time to find full time work. It will also help you choose an agency or an in-house position at a particular company.
Each industry sector differs when it comes to the skill set used, as well. Some sectors, such as consumer PR, are fast-paced, with PR pros constantly on the go, turning over work, sending products and writing lots of media releases. Other industries, such as business or government PR, might include more strategy and media relations.
2. Choose an agency
Once you have identified the industry sector and type of role you are after, it is important to do your research and identify the agencies that match your skills and interests. There is no point in approaching a fashion agency if you are interested in finance.
The size of an agency will also play a large role in the skills and experience you gain. Consultants employed at large agencies will often specialize in a particular client type and will have specific duties.
In smaller agencies, there is often a need have all hands on deck and you will be exposed to a multitude of public relations practices, from event planning to media liaison tasks.
Send the firm’s director or (if possible) the HR manager of each agency a personalized email outlining why you want to intern with them and why the agency captured your attention. Send your resume and a cover letter explaining what your professional background is, including education, part-time work and any other experience relating to your chosen field.
If you haven’t heard anything after two days, follow up with a phone call. Be prepared to answer questions and have a note pad and pen available to take notes.
3. Get maximum benefit from your internship
Once you have been accepted for an internship or work experience, make the most of the opportunity. Don’t hide in the background and wait to be given work; instead, put your hand up for any task that you feel able to accomplish. If you take something on and need help, ask for it.
It is important to be proactive and contribute to the team. Your ideas are valid, and even though they may not be used, you will be remembered for speaking up.
A positive internship will lead to positive recommendations, which will ultimately give you the edge over your competition once you graduate. It may even lead to an offer from the company you interned with.
If you don’t feel you gained as much from an internship as you would have liked, or would like to experience a different type of environment, apply for another internship. The more experience you can gain, the better.