This article offers reflections from various PRSSA students who participated in “Partners for Diversity: The Internship Preview” a collaborative program created by PRSSA and FINN Partners. To learn more about the program, see part one of our coverage here.
My recent participation in the FINN Partners x PRSSA Partners for Diversity program was an entirely positive experience, especially as a first-generation Latina who is about to venture into the communications industry. From the advice-filled panels to the invaluable meetings with my mentor, every aspect of the experience gave me insight into preparing for a career in public relations. Seeing other people of color excelling in a usually homogenous industry encouraged me and reassured me that this is an industry I want to pursue. I strongly believe that programs such as these encourage multiculturalism within industries that haven’t been as inclusive of diverse individuals and will enable the communications industry to be more representative of their audiences.
It reassured me that there is space for someone of my background within the industry and that I will be able to find mentors just like me that want to see me succeed. Through my participation, I was actually able to find an opening at one of their offices and was encouraged to apply because of their welcoming attitude. Coincidentally, I had already met one of my interviewers through the Partners for Diversity program in the brainstorm session. This program allowed me to form connections that ultimately led me to interviewing and receiving a full-time job offer with them. My first day with FINN Partners is approaching and I cannot thank PRSSA enough for introducing me to the amazing company that has opened their doors and believed in me!
Although the Finn Partners mentorship program was short, it left a lasting impression on me. Each panel had a diverse group of speakers who spoke candidly about their experiences. Their advice and words of wisdom inspired me to continue working towards my goals. My mentor, Dean Fisk, also guided me through the entire program. He answered all my questions about agency life, the PR world and everything in between. On day one, he took note of my interest in travel PR and introduced me to a colleague who worked in the field.
I was even invited to attend a meeting with Dean’s team and saw what they worked on daily. Participating in the Finn Partners mentorship program has shown me that diversity and inclusion exists in the PR industry. It makes me feel optimistic and hopeful for my future and the future of diverse members like me.
After completing the “FINN Partners for Diversity” Program, I have nothing but good things to say. Despite the short length of the program, I learned so much and had a very memorable experience. Whether it was attending the various informative panel sessions or having my one-on-one meeting with my mentor, I am very appreciative of the opportunity. As a minority, it means a lot to have a mentor of color who has had substantial work experience and can offer me authentic and valuable advice and insight into the industry in which I intend to pursue.
The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports that minority students, particularly Black students, are at a disadvantage when it comes to internships. NACE’s 2019 research shows that Black students accounted for 6.6% of graduating seniors but just 6% of paid internships, while 71% of respondents were white but made up 74% of paid interns.
We hope by continuing programs like the PRSSA and Finn Partners internship preview, we will help change these statistics and positively impact the PR industry.
Haniya N. Shariff is the PRSSA 2020–2021 vice president of diversity and inclusion. A recent graduate of the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, she aims to build strong interpersonal networks and create DEI initiatives in her corporate communications role at Radian. Follow her on Twitter @HaniyaShariff and connect with her on LinkedIn.
Caleena Sugiharto is a junior at California State University, Fullerton (CSUF). She is majoring in communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in communication studies. After her time at CSUF, she hopes to work at a PR agency to learn and attain more experience in the PR and communications industry.
Giselle Gallegos is a first-generation double major in Communications and American Studies at California State University, Fullerton. She is the current Chapter president at CSUF PRSSA and is a public relations and social media intern at BLND Public Relations, and an incoming Partner-In-Training for FINN Partners. Outside of her career ambitions, Giselle loves trying all the latest boba and coffee shops in the area.
Zachary Gradishar is a junior at American University in Washington DC, majoring in Public Relations & Strategic Communication and minoring in Marketing. Gradishar currently serves as the vice president of diversity, inclusion & service for AU’s PRSSA Chapter and will serve as Chapter president for the upcoming 2021–2022 academic year. Zachary is adopted from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and grew up in Chicago, IL. Zachary hopes to move out to Los Angeles after graduation and plans to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.