In my 20-year public relations career, I have found myself advising more interns than I can now actually remember. And I realize they always put
up with my ramblings just hoping that I would reveal the answer to the internship holy grail question – how do I land a job when I graduate? Let me just say – while I may work for a pharmaceutical company, my ideas are entirely unscientific.
But I can tell you that I keep coming back to these three main points over-and-over-and-over.
Own the fact that you should leave any internship with 3-4 portfolio pieces. Every intern has been warned that over the course of the semester you will be assigned menial tasks that no one on the team wants to do. That’s fine – and you should accept that as a real world truth – just as long as the overall internship experience ensures you will leave with 3-4 stellar pieces for your portfolio, which you will be able to show-off during any future interview. Be upfront about this with your supervisor so that she can help create opportunities that will result in specific project outputs that you can call your own. Preferably, a couple of these pieces demonstrate that you can write. But remember – it doesn’t need to be a press release for a product launch of a Fortune 500 company. It can be an executive bio you drafted; website content you wrote; pictures from a successful event you supported; or research you conducted and summarized for your supervisor. Not all projects you work on may come to fruition within the company, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in your portfolio. Remember to always ask for permission from your supervisor to discuss publicly anything you’re using – then be proud when explaining your role in the creation of these pieces when you’re interviewing for a job.
#keepitsimplestupid. On every interns’ first day, I teach them one lesson: writing for the corporate world is the exact opposite of writing for your college professors. College professors assign page lengths or word counts to your writing assignments — as if brilliance can be determined by the sheer volume of pages you produce. Your PR intern supervisor, will free you from that arbitrary burden. In the real world, no one is going to read past your first page (if they get that far). There’s just too much to read every day – so everyone just wants highlights and bullet points. I always say, “If it’s a page, get it down to a paragraph. If you can make it a paragraph, then reduce it to a sentence. Now that it is a sentence just get me a few words that capture the idea.” Those among you who can demonstrate the ability to be succinct with an eye for the salient points have a bright writing career ahead of you in the business world. Those of you challenged by this notion, I suggest a career in academia – and wish you the best of luck writing your lengthy master’s thesis.
We like you – we really like you. On every interns’ last day I make one request: please keep in touch and let me know if I can ever help. To my disappointment, in 20 years I can count on one hand the number of interns who have done so.
Your internship supervisor and anyone you may have worked with is your best contact for helping find a job inside or outside of the company. I will let you in on a secret — your work has immensely helped your supervisor; likely brought a new energy to the office; and reminded everyone around you what it is like to just be starting a PR career. We want to help you and we mean it.
So drop us an email every now and then and let us know when you have graduated and where you’re applying for jobs. (Side note: Linked-in is a great way to do this, but don’t be passive and assume everyone is reading your profile updates.) After you find a job, let us know how it’s going, as your contacts are still your best resource for your next career move.
Job hunting sucks – so hold on to every ally you create…and say “hey” once in awhile.