Converting PR Internship Into Full-time Job

  Matt Soriano

Summertime for businesses means not only softball leagues, company picnics and “fun Fridays,” but also a wave of fresh new professionals eager to trade their commencement gowns for business attire. 

The Council of Public Relations Firms hosted more than 100 aspiring PR professionals (from 14 different member firms) three weeks ago at our annual “Internfest.”  Collectively, this group was smart, energetic and motivated. And fortunate. According to several of our HR Roundtable members, these were the most competitive internship programs in recent memory which means that this year’s crop of interns has already achieved something noteworthy.

Today’s economic realities have indeed created a very competitive environment.  Most college students today are familiar with data points such as these:

  • A recent survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers states that only 20% of 2009 graduates will be gainfully employed following their commencement ceremonies (down from over 50% in 2007)  — 73 percent of which had completed an internship.
  • For those fortunate enough to have landed their first job during these turbulent times, studies showthat they will earn lower wages — between 7% and 8% less — compared to their counterparts hired pre and post recession — over the next 10-plus years.
  • What’s up? Graduate school enrollment. Traditionally viewed as a safe haven during times of economic instability, grad schools have seen an 8% rise in applications in 2009.

How to make a PR Firm Internship Work

Getting placed in an internship program has become a coveted opportunity for the majority of college students in this country. Public relations firms have certainly been a beneficiary of students’ efforts to gain “real world” work experience during the summer months.

So, how does one best leverage this experience to increase the chances of landing a first job?  Here are five key points made at the Internfest:

  1. Make yourself the best possible resource for colleagues – send relevant articles and updates to team members and be that “go to” person.
  2. Despite the recent “dash to digital” make sure you have a firm foundation and understanding of traditional public relations practices. 
  3. Show initiative and offer to take ownership of projects…but know your limits.
  4. Be receptive to constructive criticism – understand that your colleagues want to see you succeed, and accepting their feedback will foster professional growth.
  5. You live in a virtual fishbowl, and you will be Googled as soon as a firm shows interest in you – be smart about ensuring you have a strong online presence and brand that showcases potential employers who you are.

A survey we conducted after Internfest revealed that 51 percent of the interns are optimistic about finding a job after graduation; 48% believe that their internship experience is their most marketable attribute. 

Interestingly, 45% believe their writing ability is their most marketable skill, a claim that some in the industry would find dubious.  Finally, in a generation engulfed in social media, only 12% believe that their personal network provides the best chance of landing a first job. 

Despite, but also as a result the challenges they face, the current class of soon-to-be college graduates have the potential to be great contributors to the industry.  Those who stand out will have shown extraordinary perseverance, drive and integrity necessary to excel in public relations.

A 2008 graduate of Marist College, Matt Soriano did two media-related internships before landing his full-time job as Member Services Coordinator for the Council of Public Relations Firms.  Thanks to Council SVP Matt Shaw for suggesting that I share this post from the Council’s Firm Voice online magazine with Culpwrit readers .

One thought on “Converting PR Internship Into Full-time Job

  1. Matt: This is a wonderful piece sent to me by an intern, William Fitzgerald, who is having a wonderful experience working for Stan Stein and his team at Weber Shandwick in Birmingham, Michigan. I want to chime in by saying that as part of a recent PRSA based survey I completed on the subject of the quality of entry level PR writing (a subject for another day, published in the most recent edition of the Journalism and Mass Communication Educator) I uncovered an interesting factoid. Nearly two thirds of all PR firms expect if not require a recent grad to have done one or more internships, but they also say (more than 60%) that they are inclined to hire from their own base of interns. The message: Want a job — get an internship and then follow the wonderful advice you are giving in your column. Richard Cole, Prof and Chair, Advertising, PR and Retailing, MSU, East Lansing

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