A vast array of opportunities exists for internship experience in the field of public relations. However, unlike all of the other requirements needed to graduate with a degree in public relations, this is one you must seek out on your own. While other requirements merely require you to "sign up" for a certain course, such is not the case with an internship. You must go out and find the experience that will best suit your needs. The opportunities are endless, but the search for the right internship for you requires a bit of work and motivation.
The best way to begin this task is through a process of research. The first step in any research endeavor is to examine the resources that are available and then decide which one(s) will be of most use. One place to start is the Career Center, which offers many services that aid students in locating internship opportunities. You may also want to do a geographic search of internships in a specific area of the country. Some sources that you can use to accomplish this are PR Greenbook, city directories, phone books, and local Chambers of Commerce.
People make good resources, too. Who do you know who currently holds a position in the field of public relations? Who do you know who has held a position in the field of public relations in the past? Who do you know who holds a position in which they may work with public relations personnel? Also talk to other students who are currently doing internships. Oftentimes, companies will take interns from the same college, especially if the college has sent them good interns in the past. This research method is commonly referred to as "networking." Networking simply means that you meet as many people in the field that you can and communicate to them that you are interested in public relations. It is also important to share with them your strengths, skills, and references. The better these individuals know you, the more likely they will be to accept you as an intern, or, perhaps, hire you as a permanent employee.
Some people believe that by networking, you do not have to work to find a position. This is a fallacy. Instead, quite the opposite is true. With networking you may have to work harder. Sure, someone has helped you get in the door, but this is where the help stops. After this point, it is up to you to prove your skills and gain the respect of your employer and the organization. In addition, because someone of importance has recommended you to this organization, it is your responsibility to uphold the reputation of this individual by putting your best foot forward.
Step # 2: Choosing an Internship
In the search for available internship opportunities, it is likely that you will end up with a list of possible companies at which you could complete your internship. However, you must select one, and think carefully about your decision.
First, examine your personality.
- What type of person are you?
- Do you like balancing several tasks at one time? Are you incredibly outgoing, and need to talk to a variety of people throughout the course of one day? Maybe PR agency work is for you.
- Are you someone who likes to complete one task before moving on to another? Are you satisfied working with a small staff and a small sample of clients? Maybe you would do well at an individual company or corporation.
- Do you like to wear suits, or are you more at home in casual wear? This might determine whether you'll be a better fit with a place like IBM (suits required) or a place like Nike (jeans welcome).
- Do you find that you do your best work when you are "championing" a cause, and you have a passion for what you are doing? Maybe non-profit public relations is for you. Maybe you will make your best contributions working for an environmental group or shelter for the homeless.
- Do you like movies and television? Maybe an internship in the entertainment field is for you.
Make a list of your likes and dislikes. Now make a list of the organizations that you researched. Match them up. You'll be much happier, and so will your employer, if you find the right "fit" in attitude, interest, philosophy, and lifestyle.
Step # 3: Setting Up Your Internship
After you have targeted a potential employer, there are a series of steps that you must take in order to make the necessary arrangements. First, work with your employer to decide when is the most opportune time to serve your internship. Consider the timing of your academic schedule. For example, have you completed enough classes in the major to be able to significantly contribute to the organization? The public relations major requires that you complete up to and including the junior sequence before you accept an internship. Based on your academic schedule, you and your employer also need to decide the days and times during which you will complete your internship responsibilities. Remember that, overall, you must complete no less than 160 hours.
Consider also the events and projects of the organization. Research upcoming events in the life of the organization in an effort to intern at a time when such events will be beneficial to your learning experience. For example, if you enjoy events planning, interning at a corporation during the summer months would find you planning everything from golf outings to company picnics to outdoor trade shows.
The second step in setting up your internship is to complete the necessary paperwork. This involves obtaining the forms from the Career Center. There are sections of this paperwork that need to be completed by you, your academic advisor, and your employer. It is your responsibility to make sure that all of these individuals are contacted and the necessary information is filled out. Make sure also that you understand what your academic advisor will require of you once you complete the internship (i.e., journal, paper, essay, portfolio, etc.). The internship is a course (PR 560), and the academic advisor will determine your grade with input from your on-the-job supervisor.