Tales of a Professional Intern

internship by Stephanie Pryor

If you haven't completed an internship, here's why you should:

Ah, the internship. Often regarded as the cherry on top of our academic careers, we’re constantly encouraged to pursue them. After all, internships have this crazy habit of turning into real jobs.

I never thought much about internships as I entered my junior year of college. I had just transferred to a new school, and I was more concerned with graduating on time and making new friends than finding an internship. Luckily, fate (and a particularly wonderful professor) intervened and I signed on for my first internship with the Women’s & Gender Studies department last spring. Since then, I’ve learned quite a bit.

I’ve heard a lot of people make excuses when it comes to finding an internship. “I don’t have time” and “it doesn’t pay” are commonly thrown around. Maybe some majors can get away with an internship-free ride through college, but if your degree is in Communication, it’s time to wake up: Internships can make or break you during the job hunt. I realized this when I arrived in New York City for my second internship and absolutely got my butt kicked. Remember, there’s only so much you can learn in class.

Honestly, there is always enough time for internships, especially if you want to break into the Communication field. You see “Desired Skills and Experience” on job applications because skills and experience are what matter in this profession. You might be able to ace a test on the structure of a PR pitch, but if you can’t successfully pitch to press, you might be barking up the wrong tree. The only way to find out if you like your profession in theory and in practice is by trying it on with an internship.

As I prepare to graduate in May with four internships under my belt, I’d like to think I’m qualified to give this advice. Although my internships weren’t paid, I’ve learned to look deeper than money for the value within them. In my experience, the pay-off comes from the skills you gain and the network you build with experts in your field.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed or you don’t know where to start when it comes to internships, here’s my advice: Start small and work your way up. My internship on campus led to a bigger internship in New York City, and those internships led to positions with a fitness company and an established PR firm. I remember meeting some great people at a PRSA event who were interning with firms like Ogilvy and MSL Group, and they told me the same thing I’m telling you: Don’t bite off more than you can chew, and things will fall into place.

Good luck, Working Girls!

Connect with Stephanie on Twitter, @TheStephoScope as well as on LinkedIn!