How to Stand Out When Landing Your PR Internship
By Alison Lee, Intern
Standing out in a sea of aspiring PR professionals in today’s industry is no simple task. A resume and cover letter are no longer the only items a supervisor reviews when selecting interns. Just as the ‘internship’ has transformed over the years, so have the methods in which internship applicants use to rise above the competition. Here are some great ways that have helped me stand out in the very aggressive and competitive industry of PR.
1. Personal Website
The link to my online portfolio is always included on every part of the internship application. Creating your own website has never been easier with web-hosting services like Weebly and WordPress. From class projects to stories I wrote for the school newspaper, my online portfolio showcases all notable experiences I’ve had across various fields. My resume is also available for download, just in case a potential contact or employer wants to keep it on file.
A custom logo and personalized website layout are nice touches in showing off your personality. Your site is all about you and your work! Color scheme, layout and voice are indirect ways to channel who you are to employers without writing it out in a cover letter. Don’t forget to paste the link on your resume, cover letters and email signature! The more people who click it, the better.
2. Arrive early, stay late
I first heard this at a commencement speech given by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He was offering this advice to graduating seniors who were starting work in the real world; but these words of wisdom are also applicable to internships. Coming in early on busy days or staying late to finish a task shows supervisors your willingness to assist the company and gain experience in the field. Appearing too eager to bolt out the door at 4 p.m. sharp may or may not make an impression on your supervisor, but showing eagerness to contribute or complete a task does. Intern supervisors are some of the first people a potential employer calls for recommendations.
Granted, this doesn’t mean for you to stay up late nights at the office when everyone goes home (they’ll probably kick you out so they can go home too!). Even the small things, like fifteen extra minutes, can make the difference.
3. Learn something new in your spare time
Not just anything, of course. This past year, I took online courses on HTML and CSS coding. Though it wasn’t the easiest subject, I do have a basic understanding of it and can list it under the “Skills” portion of my resume. Enroll in a graphic design class or watch YouTube videos on how to create a website–knowledge in areas that are indirectly related to PR will be helpful in a society where technology is vital to successful career in communications. It also makes you a more competitive candidate for a position, even if the skill isn’t listed under the job description.
4. School = Networking!
Every PR person has heard this a million times—and it’s worth mentioning again! If you’re in school, networking opportunities are everywhere. Career counselors are not just available for advice on which classes to take; they are incredibly well connected with established professionals in various industries. Another great resource for students is your school’s alumni database. I conducted informational interviews with a marketing director at the Brooklyn Nets, an account executive at a local PR firm, a couple of supervisors at Ketchum and more through the database. I was surprised to learn how excited alumni were to share stories of their success and advice with me as a student. Even if you’ve never heard of them, you and an alumnus already have one thing in common, and that’s all you need to reach out!
As a PR major, the bulk of my classes are taught by pros who are well integrated into the industry. Professors are ready and eager to offer advice and maybe even some connections, but the student is responsible for taking the initiative. The greatest insight I’ve received on the PR industry and how to be successful have come from my professors during office hours. Plus, it’s a great way to be remembered in class!
Though there’s no sure formula to guarantee an internship in PR, I’ve found these extra tidbits to come a long way in the search for an internship, the application process and making the most of the work experience. The most important takeaway from all of this: have fun!