Tuesday, January 5, 2010
On the Value of Internships
I just (finally) posted grades for two public relations-focused internships I supervised this past semester and was re-reading both students' final reflection papers in which they looked back and identified the good...and not-so-good...aspects of their experience. In both cases, the students have recognized the value that an internship brings through exposure to different work environments, varying organizational "personalities," and opportunities to identify areas of personal and professional interest. Both are eager to take on at least one more internship in a different environment so that they can compare and contrast and get a better idea of where to concentrate their job search efforts as graduation nears.
This morning, I received an email from another student (also PR concentration/one internship) who graduated in May '09 and, after several months of searching, found a sales position with a local company. She is miserable and has been looking for other opportunities. She thought this current position was exciting and would be challenging, etc., etc. She has now come to realize that it's just that...a sales job...not what she spent four years studying to do.
My students, advisees, and practically anyone else who purposefully or accidentally asks me all know my opinion on internships. An Army public affairs internship after an eight-year stint in the Air Force gave me my start as a public relations professional. An amazing mentor during my internship gave me a role model after whom I try to pattern my own interactions with students. I absolutely believe in internships and demand that my advisees (mostly PR concentration) complete at least two internships so that they can identify their respective strengths, weaknesses, interests, and passions.
As I gear up for the start of the spring semester, I look forward to counseling young future public relations professionals on their career choices. Internships will play a giant role in those choices.