Last week, following a speech at the Retail Smarter Conference in Orlando, Florida, I met several college interns whose employers sent them to the 2-day meeting. The students talked about the incredible insights being gained by working for major retailers, and several were confident their experiences will translate well into future PR careers. I agree.
Steve Kirn, executive director of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida, believes the experiences of retail interns will open a wide range of career opportunities. “To communicate, you need a platform — both a fundamental message (as in political party platforms) and a place to ‘stand’ to deliver that message,” Kirn says. “Retailing presents these platform opportunities in every community — local, regional, national, international. This visible presence, from the store to the corporate and even global level, makes retailing a great place to apply communications and advocacy skills in ‘live’ settings, and to build a career as a communicator.”
Kirn correctly suggests that you hone your communications capability by, well, communicating! “Retailing opens doors every day to practice your craft — even if your formal title doesn’t include ‘communications’. It’s a great place to demonstrate what you can do.”
Since there are far more retail openings than PR positions in the world today, PR graduates might consider gaining experience in the real world of retailing. A major retail brand name will stand out on your resume, while underscoring your experience with customer service and one-on-one communication.
Most retailers offer management trainee and internships. The University of Florida’s Retail Center internship program each year places 100 students at the following retailers: Dillard’s, Walgreens, Target, Belk, JCPenney, Bealls, Brown Shoe, Macy’s, PetSmart, Sears, City Furniture, Kohl’s, BrandsMart, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Chico’s, Hess, Mattress Firm, Firestone Complete Auto Care and Tires Plus. Interns get college credit for the program, plus they get paid.