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Two Sides to an Internship

Just over a week ago, PRSSA members and I had a unique opportunity to learn more about the internship world.

Mike Murtaugh, a business development manager at Hirons, and Carrie Latimer, a business development intern for Mike this semester, both shared their experiences in the agency world.

Key takeaways from the meeting included networking and interview tips, as well as insights to what critical skills are necessary to succeed in a PR agency internship.

1. Networking

As a public relations student, I’ve been told the importance of networking multiple times. However, this meeting gave more insight into how to network. A connection on LinkedIn isn’t quite enough. Mike encouraged us to establish meaningful connections. He suggested reaching out to professors, bosses, and other potential connections for informational interviews, over the phone or meeting for coffee. It’s through these kinds of connections that you’ll get the strongest letters of recommendations.

From Carrie’s perspective, networking is extremely important for getting your foot in the door for internships. Carrie had met Hirons employees over the past few years, and this repeated networking gave her an edge in the internship process.

2. Interviewing

This section was my favorite, because I really enjoy interviewing and I like to learn new ways to improve my first in-person impression with employers. To start, Mike outlined three key aspects that he takes out of an interview. First, is the interviewee talented? Second, would they make a good intern (being trustworthy, competent, etc.). Finally, he determines if they would be enjoyable to work with. This final point struck a chord with me, as I had always considered interviews to be strictly a talent assessment, not a personality evaluation as well.

From Carrie and other students’ perspectives, the importance of following up and preparing for the interview were emphasized. Handwritten notes are a great way to stand out after an interview, but emails will also suffice. For preparedness, it is not enough to simply look at a few recent tweets from an organization’s social media. Knowing the company’s values, recent work, and clients is more useful, and can allow for more informed responses in an interview. Additionally, by researching the company, you can come up with ideas for what kinds of questions to ask the employer. However, both Carrie and Mike agreed that personal questions, such as what the interviewer does and doesn’t like about the job, and other general questions are also useful.

3. Key skills

With the fast pace of agency work, skilled interns are a must. Attention to detail, professionalism, independence, time and task management, and being able to hit deadlines were given by Mike and Carrie as the most important skills for incoming interns. If students don’t have a past internship experience(s) to draw these experiences from, Mike suggested participating in clubs and providing examples of class work in addition to pushing intangible skills, like hard work and the ability to learn quickly.

During one of the Q&A pauses, I asked about the transferability of skills that I would gain in my upcoming in-house communications internship. In his response, Mike acknowledged that these skills would be transferrable because I would be learning how the client-side would work, which could help me in working with clients in an agency setting in the future.

All in all, there was too much helpful information to distill down into a short blog post. Getting the opportunity to listen to both an interviewer and an interviewee give advice was such a unique and helpful opportunity. Previous to this discussion, I had no interest in working in an agency setting. Now, I have begun a list of agencies I hope to apply to next summer.


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