Q. I’m a college senior and I have never had an internship. These 4 years have gone by very fast and between spending one summer studying screenwriting at Columbia University, one summer dealing with a family illness, and this past one studying abroad in Tokyo, I just haven’t gotten an internship under my belt. I’m an English and Japanese major and I’ve thought for some time now that I’d like to enter PR or advertising, but with the job market what it is I’m thinking I might be severely handicapped while searching for jobs this year. If this is the case, what should I do now?
On a somewhat related note, I have specifically wanted to merge my Japanese ability with my future job/be able to work in Tokyo, but I don’t know whether this kind of job even exists in the PR/advertising world. If it does, how do I even go about trying to achieve this kind of goal? -CS
A. Landing a PR or advertising job without an internship or related credentials is difficult, if not impossible. But you still have a year to beef up your resume.
During your final year in college, you should seek out extra-curricular activities that will support your career goal. Join PRSSA and volunteer to help local nonprofit organizations with their PR needs. Your resume must demonstrate your career interests. You’ll be competing with peers who have had multiple internships and several PR-related volunteer experiences.
Regarding your interest in pursuing opportunities in Japan, I fear you’re going to face similar hurdles–especially if you follow a PR or advertising track. Jon Higgins, CEO of Ketchum’s international businesses, confirms that internships and entry-level positions in Japan are highly coveted. “Most of the larger Japanese PR/ad firms have a rigorous, annual or semi-annual recruiting/screening process,” Jon explains. “It is very formal.”
“Great, unique talent is never out of demand,” Higgins adds. “The trick is to match unique skill sets with an opportunity. My advice would be to thoroughly research the Japanese agency landscape and try to match your skills (native English speaker and Japanese language proficiency is a good start) and personal interests with the kind of work the agency does.” Agency client rosters can provide helpful insights into the types of work they do.
“Set your sights on a short-term internship (be prepared to be self funded), and go for it,” Jon suggests. “Use any contacts or contacts of contacts you can possibly muster. The relationships you create through an internship often lead to that first job (I am living proof).”
Be sure to check out Japan-specific job sites that provide useful tips and job leads. Here are a few that have been recommended to me: