Guest post by Crenshaw Communications intern, Murphy Pressley
College is a transformation for students. We’re encouraged to evolve, both personally and professionally. This transformation does not come easily and is not solely due to the courses we’re offered. As we’re beginning our adult lives and preparing to be more independent, less impulsive, and more in control, a vital tool in any student’s growth is an internship —in my case, at a top PR agency.
For many college students, selecting a job or career post-graduation can be stressful. Many students resort to part-time or temporary employment to earn extra income during college, but many of those jobs are short-term positions with little to no growth potential. An internship, on the other hand, can offer relevant career experience and even help secure that first job.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that, since 2013, 60% of each graduating class had participated in an internship and/or co-op at some point in their college career. On average, students who completed an internship are 15% less likely to be unemployed in the first years after college. It seems that even a single internship during college can increase the chances of long-term employment.
Throughout my time in college, I’ve been fortunate to participate in some awesome internship programs. They helped me determine which sectors of PR I was most interested in, as well as what to look for in an employer and work environment. As an intern, I’m able to build my confidence and my resume at the same time, while also cultivating real-life networking opportunities. Here are key ways interning can benefit any student during their time in college.
Internships offer valuable (and real) work experience
Though formal college courses are presented by knowledgeable professors and test the ability to listen, reflect, and learn, they lack a dose of reality. You cannot teach experience. In fact, the only way to fully grasp what a professional environment is like is to experience it firsthand. When applying to and participating in internships, it’s important to explore your interests. Maybe you started working in the field most relevant to your major and realized it wasn’t for you. Interning is a perfect time to test the waters to see if this is a career you could envision for the next several years. Internships show what the day-to-day looks like in an office while allowing for the application of knowledge and skills acquired in the classroom. One of the best perks of interning at a PR agency is being able to see how my day-to-day tasks are applied to services for our clients. By contrast, the classroom is full of hypotheticals. Through interning, students learn how to interact not only with their supervisors but with the clients themselves. Having these tangible relationships builds an intern’s verbal and written, communication skills.
Explore different career paths
One of the first things I was attracted to about PR was how multi-faceted the industry is. It wasn’t until I started interning that I realized the world of public relations isn’t made up of only social media gurus and celebrity publicists. And while those may be both prominent and lucrative career paths, there is so much more to being a PR professional. In college, I’ve challenged myself to move between various PR sectors. Whether it was for a non-profit, luxury hospitality, B2B Tech, or even working on a popular TV show, PR internships offer exposure to a wide range of clients or situations. For me, each opportunity brought its own set of lessons and unpredictability.
Make a mistake, learn a lesson
An internship is a job. However, unlike post-graduation job placements, internships allow you to shamelessly investigate your field of interest. It’s the perfect time to be inquisitive and test your creativity. It’s also a good time to let yourself make mistakes and shake off any fear of failure. No one is expecting perfection; in fact, it’s expected that you will make mistakes. The defining moment of any misstep, however, is how you recover. This will not only make you marketable to a variety of prospective employers post-graduation, but it will bring a sense of confidence about your area of interest.
Internships bring networking benefits
The best career opportunities often come directly from referrals and personal connections. As the saying goes, “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Meeting new people and practicing networking skills is what entering the workforce is all about. How you lead your conversations and cultivate relationships depends entirely on your willingness to grow and put yourself out there. Also, networking with other people will undoubtedly improve communication skills. And then there are the practical benefits; applying for a position through a mutual connection will probably be more successful than going into the application and interview process blind. Through networking, the possibilities are endless. It’s not just about what others can do for you, but rather what you can do for each other.
Know yourself better
Internships are pivotal opportunities for self-discovery. The internship is a time to develop skills, define strengths, and address weaknesses. Feedback from supervisors will provide unique learning opportunities, so if that feedback isn’t forthcoming, ask for it. Whether pre- or post-internship, learning to assert your own opinions and express ideas is a vital aspect of professional development. So, ask questions, observe, take risks, be open to constructive feedback, and adjust in order to succeed in your present and future environment.