PR and Marketing Internships

I recently got a note from a friend of a former intern who was looking for an internship with my firm.  The note caused me to think back on the many many interns I’ve had over the years and think about what makes a successful intern and intern program.

I also counted on my fingers, I’ve had more than 100 interns work with me over the last 20+ years.  I’m still in contact with a number of them.  Some of them still work for some of my former employers, hired after they got out of school. I’ve been invited to weddings, graduations, gotten baby pictures and, in general, enjoy a great relationship with most of the “kids” who worked for me. Admittedly, some I never hear from again.  Others never rise above the noise, don’t distinguish themselves and disappear from my view screen but if I run into them at some future point, I find they have been successful.

A few years ago I got into an all too public tiff with the then head of the school of communications at one of the local universities.  (This is not the current head who seems like a good guy.)  He rather publicly berated me for “not allowing students to focus on their education during college” by “enticing them” with internships.  I admit I started the tussle by questioning him on his plans for the school’s internship program.

I had not had any interns from his school but instead enjoyed a long relationship with a competing school because of their renowned co-op program.  (The program placed students with area employers for 6 months at a time, full-time.)  It was a terrific program and often students rejoined my teams after their 6 months at school.  The overall program kept them in school for 5 years, instead of 4 but they ended up with impressive resumes and often job offers.  I meanwhile had great teams of junior staffers who helped support a number of projects while they learned.

So, you can see my bias — experience is good.

But I can also see his point of view — that the college years could potentially be a time of uninterrupted educational pursuit.  I just don’t agree with it.  I hire employees based on enthusiasm and experience, and my own experience is that, generally, people who built up their resumes during college are the hardest workers and do the better job.

What do you think?  Best interns?  Best internships?  Big companies?  Small?  Work with one department, or many?  What was your best internship?  Your best intern?  How many internships lead to permanent jobs?

2 thoughts on “PR and Marketing Internships

  1. College should be the time to find out what you like and don’t like, where you fit in, and what you may want to do in the future. If that only includes academic endeavors, that is OK, but it limits your knowledge of the field, especially in PR. Nearly every PR professional I’ve spoken to has stated that internships are a great way to set yourself apart, gain experience, and see if the field is right for you. I came into college not knowing what I wanted to do and managed to secure an internship with a financial services company after freshman year. That internship showed me that financial services was not something I wanted to pursuit. Since then I’ve interned at two PR agencies of differing sizes and found that PR is something I like.

    I’ve gotten a lot out of both internships, but working with a smaller agency has widened my experience in the field. I’ve found that being proactive as an intern translates into more work and therefore more experience.

  2. I agree with what you say about balancing internships with school. To quote Mark Twain in that, “Don’t let Schooling get in the way of your Education,” the college experience should be one of growth, challenge and progression. The great thing about PR is that it’s constantly changing and progressing, so it can’t always be taught through textbooks. Working and having an internship helps you gain real-world experience into PR and communications, which could never be achieved through classes. I think it’s valuable to maintain both as school provides invaluable lessons.

    I think the ideal internship helps the intern explore their interests, challenges them, and gives them exposre to the agency, culture and clients. It’s important to participate in different projects, sit it on meetings, and meet with co-workers. I am grateful in that I had a stellar internship where my supervisor was a mentor to me and met with me weekly to make sure my goals (both personally and professionally) were being achieved, discussing the internship as a whole, and laying out what the company’s expectations were. I also worked on an “intern project” where my co-interns and I owned the research and implementation, which was then presented to the agency. Taking ownership on a project was an amazing experience and gave me great writing materials. Having successful internships in college solidifed my decision to pursue PR.

    My advice to interns is to be pro-active and be vocal about your expectations and goals. This should be a learning and growth period for both parties and showing interest and offering help and asking questions will lead you very far.

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