At almost all universities (especially in pre-professional schools), the importance of internships is repeatedly expressed to college students. Many employers note that they look for prior experience when considering internship applicants, which presents a difficult situation for freshman like myself who have not yet had a chance to intern in college. Many upperclassmen already have an internship or two under their belt and have plenty of experience to add to their resumes when applying for later positions. But after hearing about the importance of experience from multiple Public Relations professionals, I was left wondering, “how do I get any experience if I need prior experience in order to get hired?”
As I found out, there are many ways to obtain practical skills and build your resume before your first internship.
Even though the world of internships sometimes seems like an impossible cycle to break into, it is important to recognize all of the opportunities available right on college campuses. Organizations such as PRSSA provide an outlet for students to connect with industry professionals. Organizations such as this can give you valuable accounts of what working in the PR industry is actually like. Not only does PRSSA lead to opportunities to meet potential employers, but participation in the group shows that you were making your best effort to gain knowledge about the industry before you had the opportunity for any field experience.
It is not enough simply to be a member of student-professional organizations, you need to be active and get involved beyond listening to weekly meetings. Take note of the different committees within your organization and involve yourself in any that are of interest to you. Committees allow students to actively participate in the functions of the organization and gain hands-on experience in different areas of the field. Choose committees in areas that truly interest you in order to gain skills that may be useful in the specific field for which you would like to intern. Student-run agencies, such as the PR Lab at Boston University, serve as another outlet to practice your PR skills. Student-run agencies provide a simulation of a professional agency, and the experience gained in activities such as PR Lab will undoubtedly show initiative and prove very useful once you’re working in an internship.
I know as well as all other freshmen how daunting it can be to go after your first internship. Until you have the opportunity to start working in the industry, try to take advantage of all of the opportunities to build your resume available on college campuses. Active participation at your university will show potential employers that you are not going into the industry blindly. By involving yourself at your university, you are showing initiative and demonstrating your desire to get involved in the industry. Check out what career-based organizations and activities are available at your university and you may be surprised by the opportunities that await you.