How PR entities can woo and retain top-flight Gen Z interns

The up and coming generation is cut from different cloth, compared with its predecessors. Their preferred career paths and workplace interactions hark back to Baby Boomers’ ways.

Agencies and in-house communication departments face a competitive environment for attracting talent to their internship programs.

Interns today have many options when it comes to deciding where they want to gain experience. Data from Indeed’s Hiring Lab showed that in 2018 postings were up, but searches for these opportunities did not commensurately increase.

The numbers challenge—more internship postings than candidate demand—is not the only issue companies face when looking to attract and retain top intern talent. Organizations must first develop a work environment and culture appealing to the newest generation of interns: Generation Z. As Gen Z begins to enter the workforce, PR organizations looking to attract, and subsequently hire, top intern talent must learn what makes this generation tick.

Here are three key considerations:

1. Gen Z wants that dream job fast.

A survey from Adecco Staffing USA found that about half of Gen Z college students aspire to land their dream job within 10 years. This means that an agency’s next set of interns are likely very serious about pursuing a career in PR and are searching for internship programs at companies where they could see themselves working post-graduation.

With this in mind, agencies and in-house communication departments should not only develop an internship program that lends insight into the day-to-day aspects of PR, but also treats interns as they would a new employee. Whether it’s giving interns the same extensive training an employee would receive or taking the time to understand their strengths, weaknesses and goals, PR organizations must prove that their internship program can help Gen Z reach their career goals.

2. Face-to-face communication is not a lost art.

Although Gen Z interns are digital natives and some are younger than Google, 74% prefer face-to-face communication in the workplace. As the intern pool shifts from millennials —the generation that brought tech communication tools to the workplace—to Gen Z, PR entities should take this preference into account when evaluating their internship program.

PR organizations that implement a standard of open, in-person communication with interns will stand out above the rest to Gen Z. Even efforts as simple as introducing the intern to everyone in the office or talking through edits to a press release can go a long way for a Gen Z intern.

3. Gen Z wants career-driven perks.

Unlike millennials, Gen Z isn’t as motivated by the trendy work-life balance perks such as half-day Fridays. Having grown up during the recession, this generation seeks job security and is motivated by career advancement. One way PR internship programs can cater to this preference is by hosting professional development workshops for interns. These can range from topics as general as resume building to industry-specific topics such as drafting pitches or building media lists.

As Gen Z makes its way into the workplace, PR organizations must remember that Gen Z will use the internship experience as a deciding factor when considering whether to pursue a career within the organization. PR organizations whose internship programs cater to Gen Z’s preferences will have an advantage when it comes to building a strong pipeline of rising talent.

Catriona Harris is the CEO of Uproar PR.  

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