Career Development Series: Turning Your PR Internship Into a Full-Time Job

Welcome to the first of PRNewser’s four-part “Career Development Series.” Over the next four Wednesdays, we’ll be exploring some of the career development issues that PRs at different levels in their careers are faced with.

This week, we’re starting at the start: how to turn that internship into a full-time job. We talked with firm execs and a former intern who actually made the leap to learn the best ways to make this happen. What we found out is that interns have a responsibility to the firms they’re interning with, and PR agencies have a responsibility to their interns, a point that sometimes gets overlooked.

Click through for more.

Two years ago, Molly Biddiscombe was an intern with MSLGroup’s Summer Insiders program, the firm’s summer internship program. In fact, during my time with the firm (10 months) I’d actually worked with her on a project.

Today, Biddiscombe is an assistant account executive in the firm’s consumer marketing practice, working with clients like Puma, GM, and Charmin.

“I had little formal experience in PR before the internship,” says Biddiscombe. Now she assists with client work daily.

MSLGroup’s Summer Insiders program runs between six and eight weeks. Swati Goel Patel, HR director at MSL New York, says the program is 70 percent account work (research, media lists and monitoring, with some administrative work thrown in) and 30 percent work on a summer project. The project involves intern teams who have a real client with a real campaign that the teams have to construct. At the end of the summer, they present the work they’ve done and a winning presentation is determined.

“Many ideas are actually integrated into the campaign for the following year,” says Patel, who emphasized that the work is done with the client’s approval.

MSLGroup’s Summer Insiders program is one of many internship programs available throughout the PR industry. Throughout the year, college students and others looking to get a foot in the door in the PR industry take an internship in the hopes that it will lead to full-time employment and, even more, a public relations career. Making that happen requires effort from both the intern and the firm.

“Interns shouldn’t treat internships as internships,” Patel continues. “They should not only take their jobs and tasks seriously without complaining, they should also be networking with people throughout the organization, going to brainstorms, happy hours, and other events, and making sure their voice is heard.”

Moreover, they should be presenting themselves in the most professional way, showing up for work on time, in professional dress, and with enthusiasm.

Biddiscombe also recommends that interns step up to offer help, volunteer to attend conferences, and otherwise get involved. And, while asking questions is great for both learning and for clarity, be resourceful and take the initiative to find answers when it’s appropriate.

“Really position yourself as a full-time new employee at the company,” advises Sandra Fathi, president of Affect, “constantly seeking to provide more and more value to the organization by making allies outside of your immediate circle. You have three months on the inside to find out where those opportunities are and make a positive impression on the people who will make that decision.”

Fathi says Affect currently has three people on staff that started as interns. Each year, the firm hosts a competitive search through the New York Intern Project, which offers $5,000, a $2,500 housing stipend to live in New York, and the opportunity to work at the firm for the summer. Katey Kimpel, a senior at the University of Akron was this year’s winner.

“I’m not interested in using someone who wouldn’t be doing real work, participating and being part of an account team,” says Fathi. Even when the work includes organizing a lunch menu or getting supplies, it’s in the context of some sort of internal or external project.