By Kelly Gibson, Communications Committee
In high school, students are taught that to get into college, they must have exceptional grades, a severe level of involvement and leadership experience in extracurricular activities. Now that we are in college, there is another very crucial addition to this list in order to proceed successfully into the next stage of life: internships.
Internships, especially in public relations and communications, are an essential element to any resume, not only for putting your name out into the professional world, but also for obtaining the “real life” experience that matters outside of the classroom.
Glorified in television and in movies, internships, however, are not obtainable by simply walking into the right room at the right time or just submitting an application. There are certain steps you must take to ensure you find the right one and obtain it strategically.
1. Get your act together.
Do you have an ‘internships’ folder on your computer yet? You probably should. Is your resume polished and complete in PDF format? You might want to convert that, as well.
If you don’t have a resume yet, this is the absolutely essential first step to take. There are plenty of websites explaining how to properly format a resume, and once its done, you can use it for pretty much everything.
After you have your resume finalized, the next thing you’ll need to start brainstorming is your cover letter. Most internships require both a resume and a cover letter, so having a set format will speed along your application process. A cover letter can be tricky to write, but you can find some tips here.
Now that you’ve got your resume and cover letter ready to go, now it’s time to figure out where to apply.
2. Really do your research.
Too often, college students find themselves with a certain company in mind and immediately rush into the application process. Do your research on every company, regardless of how well you think you know it. Google them.
Do they have any history with fraud or plagiarism? Have they had any major scandals in recent years? In this business, your name and everything attached with it is absolutely everything, and interning somewhere with a negative track record can be detrimental to your overall image to future employers.
Besides fact-checking companies you know of, try looking for ones you’ve never heard of. For example, if you’re interested in magazine internships, a great resource is ed2010.com. There are hundreds of other websites devoted to providing you with internship information.
Besides using Google as a tool, check on companies’ websites and social media. Usually, in the contact section, there is information on how apply for an internship.
3. Never be afraid to apply early.
In a lot of cases, companies will have deadlines for fall, spring and summer internships. Never be afraid to reach out or apply earlier for a time period far in advance. Even if it’s months in advance, submitting your information early shows your dedication and interest in a particular opportunity.
Reaching out and networking are two crucial elements of making it in public relations, so shooting an email to your ideal company, even just to introduce yourself and ask about the application, is always a good start.
4. Follow up.
Whether you apply a few weeks ahead or months in advance, following up is always an important step for being remembered during the search process. In a lot of cases, companies receive hundreds of applications for only a few coveted positions. Your name and resume may be very similar the other 200 qualified undergrads who applied the same opportunity.
If the deadline passes and you haven’t received a response, send another email inquiring about the status of your application. Reiterate your desire for the position and why you think you’re the best candidate (keep it one or two paragraphs). At the very least, the hiring manager will be reminded who you are.
There are so many factors that go into the internship process, they cannot possibly be contained to one blog post. If you’re unsure about the steps you must take you have lots of resources to turn to. Find a blog dedicated to the internship hunt. Visit one of the PRSSA executive members during their office hours (they’ve all been through this too). Hop over to Penn State Career Services. You can never be too prepared for this process.