Graduate and undergraduate students alike often balk at the thought of adding more responsibilities to their schedules. Carving out time for an internship might seem impossible, but with 65 percent of employers preferring graduates with relevant work experience, interning is crucial.
I quickly realized this during my post-undergrad job hunt - while I was a good student and worked all through college, I had little real-world public relations experience. When I decided to go to graduate school, I knew I needed to intern as much as possible during my program so I wouldn’t confront the same problem upon graduation.
If you’re a student who wants to build a public relations career, consider these reasons for completing an internship while pursuing your degree.
1. Learn how to pitch
It’s one thing to write practice pitches or do pitch simulations in a class, but it’s another to pitch a journalist for a client. At first, it might be nerve-wracking to hit the send button or pick up the phone, but if you want to work in PR, perfecting how you talk to journalists – and building up your personal clipbook - is integral.
At LEWIS, I started pitching for clients in my first few weeks, and over time, I’ve realized which strategies work, how to tailor pitches, and how to help journalists rather than nag them. Seeing how the media’s process works from beginning to end, as well as being able to tell stories about the coverage you generated, will help you market your talents for your next role.
2. Add to your writing portfolio
Most jobs in PR and communication will ask for a writing sample, and even if they don’t, you’ll stand out if you have a collection on-hand for interviews or posted to a personal website. At LEWIS, I’m writing about various technologies every day, but it’s not enough to simply be a good writer – knowing how to tailor work to specific editors, publications, and platforms is also critical. Writing one (or more) pieces of content each day for diverse clients will quickly bolster and diversify your portfolio while simultaneously perfecting your wordsmithing skills.
3. Gain relevant experience
Class projects are great, but being able to explain how you positively impacted a client’s brand demonstrates your capabilities to employers. Applying what you learn in class to “real world” situations proves that you’re taking this knowledge an extra step.
Currently, I’m designated to two accounts, so I’m able to fully contribute to my teams and work through clients’ challenges. As much as reading case studies and participating in simulations prepare me to put theories into action, nothing compares to actually doing the work and learning on the job.
4. Master time management
With my time split between interning, classes, homework, and working as a teaching assistant, I have to carefully plan what I need to accomplish each day. With the fast-pace of public relations, I also have to plan for rearranging and reprioritizing tasks as pressing issues arise. While this might sound hectic, learning to manage my time based on how I work best has made life less stressful.
For example, I know that I work best when I break down large tasks into smaller ones and accomplish difficult tasks first, so I always set daily goals for projects and tackle the most stressful ones early in the day. Since I was able to learn this as a student intern, I know I won’t have issues with procrastination and missing deadlines down the road when life is sure to become even more hectic.
Classroom learning is important, but there’s still no substitute for putting your knowledge to work at an internship. As you grow as a student, be sure you’re also growing as a professional by interning. It may take careful planning and time management, but having valuable experience and a bursting portfolio before you even have a degree is ultimately worth the sacrifices you have to make.
Want to intern at LEWIS? Check out our career opportunities.
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