One of the most popular post-graduation career options for public relations majors is to join an agency. Agencies are exciting, fast-paced places to work, and I can say from experience you will learn a lot and quickly during your agency experience. I was attracted to agency life due to the variety of opportunities it offers, including the ability to work on multiple clients and grow quickly as a professional.
However, the popularity of these positions means they can be incredibly competitive. Don't let that intimidate you though! As a member of the Illinois State University Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, you're already a step ahead. Here are some tips to landing that coveted agency internship:
First, know that you will have to intern before you are hired. That's just the reality of agency life. There are exceptions to this rule, but they are just that‒exceptions. Internships are the best way to break into the agency world, and they allow you to discover if agency life really is a fit for you.
Of course, in order to land the internship, you have to apply for it, and one part of the application process that many students dread is the interview. These are a few tips and tricks I've picked up as both an applicant and an employee:
• Do your research: both on the agency and, if you can, on your interviewers. Know why you want to work at that particular agency, and be able to speak about its clients and recent work.
• Practice answering common interview questions beforehand. Always prepare for questions relating to your education and experience.
• Ask questions! I believe that it's a huge negative to not ask questions at the end of an interview. Prepare some questions ahead of time so you are ready to go. Also, if you have multiple interviewers, it's okay to ask the same question more than once. They won't know you did, and you can hear how different people answer.
If the interview goes well, most agencies will send you a writing test. Some agencies allow you to complete these on your own time, while others require you to return to the office; it all depends on the agency. Many students (myself included) share their writing test experiences with Dr. Smudde, so he is a wonderful resource for writing test Advice. For all writing tests, familiarity with basic grammar and AP style is key. Writing tests are also an opportunity to demonstrate creative thinking, your research abilities, and your knowledge of the public relations industry.
Hopefully, after all of that, you were able to successfully land an internship. Agencies are exciting places to start your public relations career. Some of the best advice I heard was to treat my internship like a three-month long interview. Additionally, speak up if you want to be hired full-time! While a lot of hiring is based on timing and staffing needs, you will never get hired if human resources does not know you are interested. I met with human resources halfway through my internship to express my interest, and interns who did not get hired right away have successfully kept in touch via email and been hired later. If it truly is a fit, it will probably work out.
That's a lot of information for one blog post, and there are definitely more ins and outs to the application process I can share; please feel free to ask questions in the comments below!
By Abby Brennan
PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.