27 April 2010

0 New Grads - Embrace the Intern Life

Everyday we hear how the economy is turning around. The DOW is up, the recession is over, blah blah blah. But if you are in the PR industry you have probably scoffed back "Sure it is." In an industry that is often hit the first and hardest when money needs to be saved, as PR people we have become the natural skeptic to all indications that the recession is at an end.

As a person who has worked in Marketing Communications & Public Relations in the various facets from Professional Sports and Travel to Government and now Internet Marketing, I was happy to meet with a group of soon to be graduates from my alumna mater this week. As we sat down to lunch I began fielding the typical "How did you get that job?" "How do I get that job?" questions I have become accustom to at these events. What surprised me was the reaction of these students to my inquiry about their experience (especially since I know that their professor has emphasized the importance of internships). Several soon-to-be graduates had yet to have any form of internship.

When I asked why not I heard all of the typical responses from "I want to intern at an agency," "I can't afford to take a non-paying internship," and "There aren't any internship opportunities where I live." (Maybe I should note that I'm an alumni of the University of Wyoming and there really are very few formal internships in the nearby vicinity.) I thought I'd share my responses to these questions here:

"I want to intern at an agency."
That's great. But you live in Wyoming. Your options are limited. So turn your head eyes to Denver and start contacting agencies. Almost all of them have an intern program and their happy to give new grads some real world experience. However, these internships are competitive so research the agency and don't just apply to one agency. Be prepared for an internship that will help hone your tactical skills, but don't be surprised if your don't receive much high level planning or "big picture" experience. This isn't only an opportunity to grow as a young professional and gain new skills, but this is the perfect opportunity to see if the agency world is right for you and if it is, if that agency's culture is right for you. Just don't expect to get paid.

"I can't afford to take a non-paying internship."
Too bad! That's life and honestly in this job market and industry you'll most likely need to. But don't fret. There are options. 1) Get an part-time unpaid internship that will allow you to gain experience while also letting you work another job part-time to help you get by. Unfortunately that is one of the joys of being a new grad. 2) Talk to your current employer about doing some public relations or marketing work for them! You may not get compensated for it, but then again you just might. Plus this is something you can work on outside your normal work hours so it won't interfere with your existing work schedule.

"There aren't any internship opportunities where I live." 
Yes, there are! They just might not be a formal intern program. First, look to non-profits in your area. They can always use a little extra help. Next look to local small businesses. Often these organizations do not have the capital to pay someone specifically for public relations. Let them know what you would do for them and how their company or organization will benefit from letting you "volunteer" as an intern. Work with them to setup the goals of your internship and the service you will be providing for them.

Internships don't always have to be a formal program that is setup by an agency. Be proactive! In truth, a proactive person who has worked to establish their own internship program will most likely set themselves apart in the job market later on. But no matter what internship you undertake, be sure to embrace the concept. You're future employers weren't too good to be interns in the beginning and neither are you.

0 Welcome the AP style guide to 2000s

As with any official change, it's taken a long time but the AP style guide has finally entered into the new century. We can now officially call it a "website" instead of "Web site" and be grammatically correct!  In honor I'm officially changing all of my tags.