Unlike recent years when I encouraged students to delay pursuing internships until spring or nearer their actual availability to start to work, many agencies are actively screening applicants now in anticipation of increasing demand for entry-level talent. That’s encouraging news for many and it’s consistent with earlier predictions of a healthy increase in PR jobs during 2012.
Just as corporations have long sought out top business and law school students months before they graduate, agencies are doing the same as they identify top-tier talent. Students with relevant experience and strong resumes who will graduate in May and June appear to be the focus of this year’s earlier-than-normal intern searches. In most cases, agencies are simply identifying potential candidates now, and job offers won’t be extended until closer to May, but some outstanding candidates are landing offers now.
I asked two top agency recruiters to provide some insights that might be helpful to anyone seeking an internship.
“The truth is, from company to company, interns are interviewed and hired at various times,” explains Edelman’s Travis Kessel. “At Edelman, it even varies from city to city. For example, the Chicago office has a ‘rolling’ intern hiring process where the demands of the business dictate when intern hiring requests are approved. This could be winter, summer, spring or fall—it simply depends on what client demand dictates.”
Travis said Edelman’s New York office, on the other hand, has a structured intern class in the summer and all interns are hired around a specific start date. This makes for a competitive incoming class every summer and interviews ramp up one or two months in advance. The other seasons in New York offer some opportunities for interns as well, though they are spread out and not as predictable as the summer class.
Although hiring of interns still in college occasionally occurs, Ketchum’s Katie McCarthy explains that today’s interns already have their bachelor’s degree. “Students should be open to securing an internship at any time of year. We are seeing more December graduates taking winter internships, for example,” Katie said. “There is less clutter/fewer applicants during the fall and winter and interns are more likely to get true entry-level experience when they are not part of the traditionally larger summer programs.”
Katie says high performing interns will get selected for entry level jobs over outside candidates when the positions become available, and that timing often is outside of the summer months. In fact, at this writing a Ketchum Chicago intern nearing the end of her six-month tour of duty was hired as a full-time employee.
“At the end of the day, predicting timing on internships is important, but the best way to find a job at any level is through the power of networking,” observes Edelman’s Travis Kessel. “If you are not a member of PRSSA or attending local PRSA events as a student, you are truly doing yourself a disservice. Get involved, make connections and give yourself an advantage over your peers even before the internship race begins.”