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The Importance of Hands-On Experience

When I was in college, it was a requirement as part of the public relations program to complete an internship for class credit. At first, the idea of having to secure one while taking on a full course load seemed daunting and unrealistic. How was I expected to fully immerse myself in schoolwork while searching for the perfect internship, then competing with a handful of other equally qualified students to snag the job? Some how, some way, I managed to figure it out, along with the other thousands of students who pursue internships each semester.

As resistant as we initially might have been toward internships, they are really our first introduction to the field, giving us a glimpse of real world public relations. I had about five internships before getting a full-time position post-college and the experience I gained throughout each of them truly shaped my approach to the industry and my outlook on it overall. Here’s what you can look forward to gaining from a meaningful internship:

Relationships with mentors are formed

Aligning yourself with mentor is nothing but beneficial as you begin to mold into a real PR pro. And what you gain from the relationship is really up to you. If you’re anything like me, you’ll identify someone at the company whose working style is in line with one you aspire to achieve in your career. Allow yourself to be taught and guided, and continue building the relationship even after the internship ends. Having a professional network to tap into, even just for advice, will prove to be very valuable as you begin your career.

Learn what you like and don’t like

There are so many different directions you can go in within the PR industry – agency, in-house, personal PR, etc. Internships provide you with a chance to test the waters, if you will, and find out your likes and dislikes about the job before it’s time to make a post-grad career move. The more experience you get, the more educated you’ll become about what your options are, enabling you to make an informed decision when accepting an offer from a company.

Building a portfolio of professional-quality work

Sure, we all wrote countless press releases and pitches throughout our time in college that we likely included in our portfolios while hunting for our first job. But to be able to showcase written materials that were actually used professionally undoubtedly gives you a big leg up on others vying for the same position, and really legitimizes the you as a solid candidate for a permanent position. Take your work from internships and use it to show what you’re capable of achieving. It’s okay to toot your own horn!

Successful internships can lead to hire

The greatest thing that can come from an internship is a job offer at the end. Which means the company you interned for sees your potential and wants you to officially join the team. That’s one hell of a bonus if you ask me.