It has recently come to my attention that I am a source of knowledge for the public relations program I graduated from a year and a half ago. PR students want to know what to expect from their internships, and if they’re going to find work afterwards. Here’s my advice:
Embrace it as a learning experience
Internships will be released in a huge overwhelming wave. Apply for everything you find interesting. You will most likely have to miss class to interview. People will start coming to school in interview wear, and gossip will spread about where everyone’s interviewing, who got the job. Then class will be over and you will start the internship, and you’ll hear about how the job really is.
Most will be underwhelming learning experiences. A select few will love their internships, and even fewer will have horror stories. Some will get paid nothing, some will get a small honorarium, and very few will get paid a fair hourly wage. If you want to try agency, then do it. Your teachers will say “do it while you’re young,” but enthusiasm is more important than age. I’m older than most of my program and I did it. I have friends who are in their 30s who did it as well.
Do something that makes sense to you
As someone who did a variety of jobs in the arts for many years, PR seemed like the right choice for me, and I’m glad I did it. I find my artsy cultured ways bring something new and valuable to my work, and this was definitely true of my internship. I organized an in-house gallery with local artists, got craft beer event sponsorships and honed my years of writing experience into an editorial direction. I knew all along that there wasn’t a job available at the end of my internship, and that it’s tough for recent grads to find work. I tried to learn new skills, get good advice and make it count.
The hustle is real
The year after graduating was hard for me. After my internship, I went back to my part-time job while constantly applying in my field. I did a lot of info interviews, kept writing, and joined a choir that does charity work. I ended up organizing a huge charity concert, while also co-organizing a new media conference: I kept busy with volunteer work that honestly gave me some of my most employable experience to date. I also got freelance work doing things I enjoy, namely writing and event coordination.
I had two brief full-time jobs (one through a job agency, one through Craigslist) that were honestly the worst jobs I have ever had in my life. I won’t go into detail, but they were both huge learning experiences.
[This whole time I was lamenting over all the time I was wasting, while a bunch of my classmates were already one year into their jobs: don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens. It’s normal. There are people from my program who still aren’t finding work.]
You’ll eventually find something that fits
A few months ago, I applied for my current job as Marketing and Digital Content Manager of the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre; a place I have frequented for many years, and one that combines many of the communities I am passionate about. I ultimately got the job because I showed a lot of enthusiasm, and my strengths are well suited to the position. Every day I go to work and I am happy and grateful for the caliber of work and people around me.
Non-profit allows for creativity and trying lots of things. Sometimes I am jealous of my classmates working in government (especially of how much they’re making), but then I remember that they have to go through ten rounds of approvals to get anything done. I have a lot of freedom in my current position. I’m trying to use it to challenge myself in the short time I have (while covering a maternity leave until September 2016). I’m analyzing how our e-newsletter affects sales, introducing new kinds of content creation, learning basic html and how to clean up code, experimenting with Google and Facebook ads, editing copy, taking photos and more: it’s fun.
What do all these experiences since my internship have in common? They challenged me, reinforced what I’m good at, and taught me that I’m qualified for more jobs than I initially thought. Trying a lot of things helps you get there faster. So do that now.