With only four short years to gain the experience needed to enter the public relations profession, the pressure is on for undergraduates to enhance our skills, broaden our networks and determine which path we will take within the industry. Without the pressure of full course loads and extracurricular activities, summer is the perfect time to do just that.
Don’t be discouraged if the position you have taken isn’t quite what you expected. There is value in taking time to determine your interests and better prepare for the opportunities ahead. Completing an internship you’re unhappy with can teach you just as much as one you love.
Make the most of your experience by applying these lessons:
Understand the business.
Embrace opportunities to learn, regardless of how interested you may be in the subject matter. In an industry as integrated as public relations, the skills learned in business, marketing, and the wide array of other disciplines you may encounter as an intern will only better prepare you for a career in the professional world.
Make an effort to network with both career veterans and your peers. Professionals can offer insightful advice, but your fellow interns can be a great resource, too.
Research the companies you are interested in and see if anyone you know is working for them this summer. Don’t be afraid to reach out to an old friend to ask about their experience and see if the internship might be a good fit for you in the future.
It can be disheartening to realize an opportunity you worked so hard for isn’t exactly what it seemed, but savvy students know to take advantage of an unexpected opportunity when they see one. Accepting an internship isn’t just for your own benefit. Employers and a team of coworkers are investing in you, too. Take the time to develop your skills and become a valuable member of the team, even if you’re no longer interested in vying for a permanent position.
Live and learn.
Being an intern isn’t just about finding your niche in an industry and taking root there. It can also be about discovering the things you could never spend your entire life doing and re-evaluating what is important to you, such as the number of hours required, company culture, location and responsibilities. Don’t be afraid to live, learn and let life experiences lead you to the next big thing that is sure to come your way.
Whether your summer internship hasn’t quite lived up to your dreams or you’re still on the hunt for your first professional opportunity, be sure to make the most of your situation and use your experiences to fuel a fresh start this fall. How will you make your time count?
Callie Curley is a junior studying journalism and international agriculture at Penn State University. Follow her on Twitter @curleycallie or connect on LinkedIn.