Hats off to those PR students who recently graduated, and to those who are about to walk, both in your commencement ceremony and into the next chapter of your lives.
You are likely focused on your job search. Many grads will quickly realize that they don’t have what it takes to get that entry-level job. “Entry-level” would seem to indicate that there’s no experience required, but in PR, things work a bit differently. Most entry-level public relations jobs ask for at least one year of experience. In some cases, they may also ask for additional skills such as graphic design, publication layout, and Web coding, which are historically outside the realm of traditional PR or summer internships. While it can seem frustrating that to get work experience, it’s a necessity, and there is a way to get it: the post-graduate internship.
Through various touch points, including being professional adviser to PRSSA-SE over the past few years (and previously PRSA-St. Louis‘ PRSSA liaison), I have had occasion to talk with students, graduates, new pros, faculty and hiring professionals. Post-grad internships seem to be a trend, so I did a little digging, and to my surprise, found it wasn’t exactly a new trend.
I stumbled upon a post from 2009 on PR Channel’s (now abandoned) blog, which quoted Meg Carosello (nee Fullenkamp), who heads up PR at Captiva Marketing in St. Louis. She wrote that even if you’ve graduated without internship experience, it’s not too late.
First, don’t be afraid to do a post-grad internship. My first internship was after graduation at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. It was for 2 months, not much pay, but I learned so much and got to work with major editors at publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Dallas Morning News and more! This internship gave me valuable experience that made me more attractive to employers. Secondly, don’t be afraid to do more than one post-grad internship. After my time was over at Opera Theatre, I landed a position as an intern in the marketing communications group at Fleishman Hillard. I had applied at FH twice before and didn’t even get an interview. My internship at Opera Theatre made me extremely attractive on paper and I landed the job. While my six months at FH were crazy, it was great having such a large agency on my resume.
I reached out to Meg to see how she felt about that quote today. She noted the PR world has changed a lot in the past several years, and by adding web and digital marketing skills, she’s not only keeping relevant but it has made her a much better resource for her clients. She said,”By taking chances on something new and continuing to learn something new every day I have found my niche, even though it was not necessarily my original plan when I graduated. I am much happier now because of it.”
As if to punctuate the point, I found a recent post by Nicole Bersani, who had plenty of undergrad experience between a couple internships and her work for ImPRessions (Ohio University’s nationally-affiliated student-run firm). She still chose to take another internship after graduation. She did this to get her foot in the door at a globally recognized agency, and successfully turned that internship into a full-time job.
Whether you’ve been told you need additional experience, want to check-out a new city (or country), or are simply trying figure out what you want to do, there are plenty of reasons to take a post-grad internship. You should expect to be paid, be committed to the job that you accept, and be willing to work beyond “normal” hours. Be inquisitive. Be open to all opportunities.
Most of all, don’t feel bad if this is what you need to do. The job title doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are moving toward your next goal, which is to find a job that is satisfying.
Tressa Robbins is vice president of media contacts at BurrellesLuce. She contributes to the firm’s blog, where a version of this article originally appeared.