As well as gaining an education, your time at university is (amongst other things) about becoming more employable as you prepare to join the working world. There’s more to a CV than an impeccable university transcript and your presidency of the Real Ale society; it’s also important to have something to make you stand out on your quest for employment.
That something is an internship. Summer breaks are long enough to allow you a meaningful placement, which, with the right company, can stand you in great stead for work after uni. I’m working for a month in leafy Richmond with the CommsCo, and here are three lessons I’ve already learnt:
Nothing beats first-hand experience
Settling on a career path can be an intimidating prospect, and it’s OK (and very common) to feel unsure about what you want to do. There’s a limit to what a Google search can teach you about a job and what it entails and, as good as sites like prospects.ac.uk are, there’s nothing quite like first-hand experience. This is the first and arguably most important benefit of bagging yourself a PR internship.
Interning develops a greater knowledge of the industry and everything it entails. Beyond gaining skills for your CV, first and foremost it enables you to find out if it’s the career for you. This is especially the case when it comes to PR as it is an area so hard to experience in any other way – budding journalists can write for a student publication and enthusiastic young actors can join the drama society, but it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll find a university ‘PR Society’ to join.
An internship is the perfect opportunity to throw yourself into a role, learning about every aspect of the job, from the glamorous to the more mundane and ultimately discovering if it’s the career for you. An internship allows you to learn more about yourself as well as the industry as you discover what it is you like (or dislike) about PR and where your specific skillset lies.
Sometimes, smaller is better…
Although larger companies can sometimes seem more alluring, it is often the case that the smaller ones will provide interns with a more hands-on experience. Although an almost-hourly ritual in the CommsCo office with approximately 1,573 cups of tea having been drunk so far according to the counter on our website, interning here involves much more than making regular trips to the kitchen.
Regularly working in a team of ten or less means the tasks you are assigned are much more varied than those you’d be doing for the larger companies. For example, writing blog posts such as this and posting to social media for a whole range of clients: ultimately, you’re learning skills that will make your CV glow.
Beyond getting to know the industry, an internship is also an opportunity to get to know your co-workers. Working in a smaller team means you’ll be working alongside the Managers and even Managing Directors of the company, providing the perfect opportunity to learn from (and impress) some very experienced PR professionals.
Take your chances
Despite unconvincing research suggesting the contrary, it is undeniable that an internship will set you in good stead for a career in the industry. It is indeed apparent that in the larger companies, internships and grad schemes can often be repetitive and menial free labour exercises, with young and enthusiastic candidates working unpaid with the nebulous promise of further paid employment for a small successful percentage: these schemes merely create an animalistic, competitive and generally poor working environment for all.
Yet, in the smaller companies where your work as an intern will have more of a visible effect, don’t look at it as unpaid work (and in some instances you actually get paid!); internships are an opportunity to prove yourself, more of an extended job interview and a chance to show that you are suitable for any openings the company may have in the future. It is an opportunity to prove your capability which, in turn, may lead to the organisation rewarding your efforts in the future in the form of a more permanent position and possibly even fast-tracking your ascent of the career ladder. The only way is up!