This summer, I had the opportunity to intern and study abroad through BU Abroad’s Dublin Internship program. Dublin has a phenomenal growing start-up scene with tremendous opportunities for any aspiring public relations professional looking to gain more experience in the tech sector. As a public relations and social media intern at a children’s developmental product start-up, I was able to refine my engagement evaluation and analytics skills and cultivate mentorships with my supervisor, a self-made entrepreneur. Why do I think every PR student should intern abroad? Read on.
1. Gain an international perspective on the industry
It’s no secret that PR is a global industry. Practicing PR in a foreign country can give you good insight into what it’s like to work with professionals from all over the world. It can also give you a better idea of what aspects of public relations vary by country versus those that are a global standard. For example, the way an Irish press release is structured is very different from the way an American press release is.
2. Network with global professionals
Interning abroad gives a whole new definition to the concept of networking. Rather than limiting your professional network to just American practitioners, you now have the chance to interact with professionals from all over the globe. This is particularly helpful if you plan to specialize in corporate or political public relations where you’ll often find yourself in multinational situations.
3. Earn college credit
If you’re a public relations major at BU, you already know that you have to complete at least one four-credit internship for graduation credit. I decided to kill two birds with one stone and knock out my internship while studying abroad. I earned four credits through the BU Dublin Internship program plus another four credits for the history class I took through Dublin City University (bonus points: that class completed my minor!).
4. Discover a new country (or continent!)
Interning isn’t all work and no play. Obviously, one of the best parts of interning in a foreign country is being able to travel and explore during your off-hours. In eight weeks I travelled all over Ireland as well as Spain, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. While I loved my internship, one of the best parts about being abroad this summer was exploring outside of the office and classroom.
5. Diversify your resume
At career fairs, I’ve found it to be a great talking point to discuss with potential employers that my most recent professional experience was interning for a burgeoning start-up in Dublin. I’m interested in working in a technology or corporate setting, so employers immediately recognize the value of my experience in such a competitive start-up city. Having this foreign experience really helps my resume stand out too!
Written by Dana Finley
In the world of public relations, more and more emphasis is being placed on diversity in both the organizational and personal setting. In college, that means taking more than just some random elective or going to the museum every now and then. It means getting involved in extracurricular activities on campus that widen the scope of your interests. The most unexpected club or organization could lead to success later in life.
For example, I joined Model United Nations (Model UN). This group is essentially a simulation of political bodies. It doesn’t always have to be a UN committee that you’re simulating, though. I’ve seen terrorist organizations, national cabinets and consulting firms—even the Board of Directors for Google— simulated as committees. In order to compete and succeed in Model UN, you need to know how to win over your fellow competitors to get them to work with you on passing resolutions. In short, you need to learn how to network. You also need to prove that you’re a person that people want to work with by making passionate and convincing speeches on the topic of discussion. Not everyone can elicit an emotional response to the Eurozone crisis, but I’ve seen it done. When staffing a conference, you quickly must learn how to command the respect of a room full of your peers. In crisis committees you must learn to adapt quickly to a multitude of situations and guide your committee in the direction you believe is best for them.
So without even knowing it, I was learning some of the fundamental components of being a good PR practitioner. I can now network efficiently, speak confidently in front of others and communicate my ideas in a way that will advance my goals. This is what happens when you branch out and join new clubs in college. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that you want to expand your horizons and do it with activities that interest you. I’m also a Political Science major, so Model UN was a natural fit. To the PR student interested in medical communications, Peer Health Exchange might be a nice choice. Not only do you expand your mind, but you might unknowingly expand your resume as well. So, in short, never discount an organization or club that may not seem to fit you as well as you’d expect it to. Because maybe you fit it better than you think.
As I read through the speaker list, goosebumps formed over my arms. I skimmed the list and read the following organizations next to each speakers’ names: Harvard Business School, Oxford University, former Secretary of the Department of – whatever it was, every name had an impressive title, showing how much they had accomplished in their lives. And that was just the speaker list.
This past weekend I had the honor of volunteering at the 30th Annual Aurthur W. Page Society Conference. The Arthur W. Page Society is comprised of the top communications professionals in the world. Arriving the day before the conference, I was mostly involved with stuffing bags and arranging research material into folders. Just by doing that, I was coming across the names of people I admire and individuals that I hope to resemble one day. Slipping the research into the folders, I caught glimpses of fascinating new ideas and theories. Without the conference even beginning, I was already inspired.
Day two: I was thrust into the thick of things. Running microphones this way and that, escorting members from this room to another, and reprinting the members’ nametags that got misspelled. But in the middle of all the chaos, I got the opportunity to stop for a moment and listen to the speakers. They spoke about new research, their own experiences in the corporate world and how they applied those experiences to their lives. I was in awe. At end of the day, there was an awards dinner for the society’s honorees and I had the chance to hear both of them speak. Listening to their stories of career obstacles and how they overcame, I was struck with one thing. These people, these CEOs and CCOs of the top companies and firms around the world, were once just like me. Students struggling to navigate career choices. Someone who, like them, just knows that if they were given the opportunity to work hard enough, they could affect change in their organization, in their profession, and in the world. I ended up picturing myself up on that stage in 20-30 years and talking about my story—my varied career—and I knew at that moment, I had made the first important decision in my public relations career by volunteering at the Arthur W. Page Society’s Annual Conference.
Last week, a professor of mine organized a panel to speak to the class about internship experience. The panel was comprised of
upperclassmen studying public relations who also held enough experience to try and advise future interns. They each had great advice for fellow students of public relations looking for their first internship.
To begin the discussion, panelists discussed smooth navigation of the interview process:
A common consensus was that the first internship is the hardest to get. In order to be successful, hopeful candidates must do their research and be persistent. Furthermore, the power of networking should never be undermined and may very well lead to getting your foot in the door. Make use of contacts that you have made as they are there to help you. It is wise to start building a network of trusted professionals now, as you’ll likely never be in a place with this many future public relations professionals and journalists again. Years in college are crucial because your classmates may very well form the foundation of your contact list. Above all, panelists stressed that capability is crucial. Connections and contacts can only help those in a position to be helped. In other words, if you can’t get the job done, why would they help you get it in the first place?
After wrapping up advice on how to successfully prepare for an interview, speakers advised on how best to succeed inside the interview:
Walking into an interview without some specific knowledge of the company is a mistake that is all too easy to make. Taking the time to research the company’s culture, clients and mission may end up being the difference between getting hired and never hearing back. However, research and preparation shouldn’t lead to entering the room with a script. Being yourself and sounding confident are important because if you sound rehearsed, the interviewer will be able to tell. After the bulk of the interview is behind you, it is good practice to ask questions since employers want to see that you are genuinely interested in the tasks they will have you perform if hired. A final important detail is to follow up with the person who interviewed you with an email, phone call or hand-written note. The more personalized, the better; but don’t overstep boundaries of appropriateness.
Final bits of advice from the panel focused on how to succeed once you’ve been selected as an intern:
Once you’ve been hired by a company, it is necessary to begin to understand the corporate environment that you have been placed into and how to interact with fellow interns and superiors. If you end up feeling the pressure on the first day, this is normal. It is important to remember that everyone starts somewhere, and not to freak out as long as you adapt over an appropriate period of time. Keeping this in mind, it is important to ask for help when you need it. Your superiors cannot read your mind, and should not find out that you needed help after you’ve already messed up an assignment. When receiving advice, take notes so that your boss won’t have to repeat what they have said. Internships are designed to introduce you to your field of interest, and you should gain valuable experience from them. Dont bother your boss, though, to the point where they are unable to work efficiently. Additionally, it is important to keep networking in mind when getting to know the other interns at the office. They can become your future network, and you make the most of this opportunity.
After receiving all of this valuable advice, the class felt more confident to start searching for internships. The process can be very competitive, and it is important to utilize the advice of those who already have a foot in the door because that’s exactly where you’ll want to be.
There are few things public relations companies value more than experience. In a field so heavily based on hands-on practice, and previous job and internship experiences, you might find yourself struggling to land that first position without prior industry involvement. This vicious cycle can be broken, though, much more simply than you think.
As a college student, you’re likely exposed to various unconventional public relations opportunities that you might not even be aware of. In addition to joining nationally renowned PR-specific clubs – such as PRSSA – become involved with on-campus clubs pertaining to extracurricular activities that interest you – if they have a public relations team, even better! They don’t have a PR team? Start one by creating something as simple as a Twitter or Facebook account for the club, where you can post meeting times and upcoming activities, or other relevant content. Engage with and gain followers with interactive posts.
Perhaps you have a hobby that doesn’t have a club; take advantage of that. Start a WordPress or Tumblr, and post content consistently. Link it to your other social media, and have your friends share your insight. Creating a unique blog does not necessarily secure you a job, but it could distinguish you from a competitor. Additionally, having a respectable online presence would be beneficial.
Another way to become involved is reaching out to companies to see if they have campus brand ambassadors. Oftentimes, larger companies will have tools and materials they use for promotional purposes. Simply passing these things out on campus and representing the brand can prove helpful; the company gains a presence on campus while you gain PR experience.
You can stray from campus to get involved, as well. Interested in entertainment or music PR? Various companies, media conglomerates, and record labels offer street team opportunities where you can promote artists, album releases, and concerts in the area. This type of involvement is much more hands-on than other traditional practices, as you’ll be consistently interacting with consumers. Hanging posters, passing out fliers, attending shows with promo materials, and other “missions” are common with street team work. Similar to being a brand ambassador, this involvement is mutually beneficial as well.
These are just a few simple, unique ways to gain experience that will set you apart from other applicants, and hopefully help you break into the field with that first internship.