By Veronica Fiegel
As many PR pre-professionals know, gaining experience while we are in college is vital to succeeding after graduation. Two years ago, I was sitting in my organizational communication class when my professor, Dr. Padgett, said something that stuck with me: “you have to know how to survive outside of these walls.”
She asked who in the class had already completed an internship. I looked around and saw a lot of hands raised, but mine was not one of them. I was baffled that so many of my fellow students were already gaining experience while I was struggling to find time to fit PRSSA professional development activities into my already busy schedule.
What I didn’t know at the time was that internships are not only a way to gain experience, but are also a transitioning tool. This became clear when I started my first internship. I was hired by Congregation Beth Shalom thinking the most I would gain from working for a nonprofit would be experience on my resume and writing pieces for my portfolio. I was pleasantly surprised when this 10-15 hour a week internship presented me with some invaluable connections and opportunities.
Throughout this internship, I made connections to several communications professionals who worked as part of the synagogue’s communications committee. Their advice, particularly on writing and media pitching, allowed for me to polish my writing and learn the skills needed to gain a reporter’s attention. The pitching I did for Beth Shalom resulted in a strong professional relationship with the story development editor for the “Detroit Jewish News,” whom I pitched to on a weekly basis. This particular relationship led to a freelancing opportunity for the publication following my internship.
These numerous writing opportunities gave me the tools to apply for real-world agency experience at Tanner Friedman Strategic Communications, of Farmington Hills. My internship at Tanner Friedman was intense but it taught me a lot about agency life. I did everything from media monitoring to press release development to media pitching to reporters all over the country. It was incredible to bring the things I learned in the classroom to life for real clients.
In November 2012, my former supervisor at Congregation Beth Shalom contacted me with a job offer. The fact that she kept me in mind several months after my internship ended proved that I made a lasting impression and that my skills were worthy of employment. I gladly accepted and am now working part-time putting together the synagogue’s internal newsletter – their primary means of internal communication with synagogue members.
This new job, along with my job as the public relations learning community peer mentor would not have been possible without my internships and resulting connections.
The tools of transition, such as internships and professional development opportunities presented by PRSSA, are invaluable and should be utilized by any student who is serious about breaking into the profession.