Internship Prepares This Duckling for a PR Career

Kelli’s Note: This is a guest post from SOJC alumna, Kelly Brokaw.  

What a crazy summer it has been! Since July 8th I have been an intern on the consumer tech team at the award-winning firm, SHIFT Communications!

When I was an undergrad at UO, I never thought I would start my professional career as an intern. I had always hoped to skip that step and go straight into an account coordinator position. Thank goodness I did not choose that path!

The knowledge and experience I have gained through  such a short period of time has been overwhelming, but so exciting. Here are a few tips I’ve learned that can help you with your current/future internship:

Be proactive – when you’re not building media lists or performing other timely projects, make sure to do reactive research that can potentially help your clients. You can look at their competitors, search for relevant articles, get updated on the news related to their fields, and so many more tasks that can help your team out.

Communication is key – no matter if your team has 2 or 10 members, make sure to always have instant communication with them. When a team member gives you a project, let him/her know your progress throughout the day. This not only will help eliminate distractions, but it also reassures your teammate that you haven’t forgotten about the project that was assigned to you.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – you’re an intern, therefore people are not expecting you to be perfect. If you are unsure about a project or have general questions, speak up! Your team would rather have you ask a million questions rather than you complete a project incorrectly or inefficiently. Plus, it also shows them you want to do great work.

These are my three biggest tips! If you are a little nervous about jumping straight into an account coordinator position or can’t find one, definitely consider doing an internship.

About Kelly: I am a recent graduate of the University of Oregon. During my time at UO, I was a member of Kappa Delta Sorority, UORotaract and an account supervisor for Allen Hall Public Relations. Go Ducks!

Guest Post: Bright Lights, Big City – UO Duckling Heads to Chicago

saramaya weissman in chicago

Kelli’s Note: I am thrilled to host this guest post from Saramaya Weissman. Chicago is that city that ‘in another life’ I would love to live in. So proud of her for taking this chance and making it work! Saramaya is a 2010 graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. She currently lives in Chicago and interns at Edelman Public Relations. You can reach her via Twitter at @SaramayaFaye.

Exactly three months after I graduated from the University of Oregon I started an amazing and ideal internship at Edelman Public Relations in their co-global headquarters of Chicago. I’m SO thrilled to be here, but the job hunting journey this summer and figuring out “what’s next?” was no easy path.

From a small town in beautiful north Idaho to wonderfully hipster Eugene, I was dying for a big city and had my eyes set on Chicago. After months of applying online, networking events in Oregon, and only a few actual interviews, my resume was unnoticed and I graduated unemployed. But with seven internships and numerous awards, I had confidence I’d be hired soon…right?

The summer flew by and I was still floating around in Eugene. Living off graduation gift money and honestly, feeling like a failure, I wondered when and if I’d ever get my foot in the door. I still had my eyes set on Chicago, but there was one minor issue: I’d never been there before and knew absolutely no one in the Midwest, let alone the Windy City. So, what did I do? Network baby, network.

So, I decided to just do it and do it now. I booked a ticket to Chicago for 10 days and started intense trip prep. I contacted everyone I knew from peers and professors to coworkers and family. “I’m going to Chicago in three weeks, know anyone I can set up an informational interview?!” From there, my trip planned itself. I took advantage of my current network and created one in Chicago.

My trip to Chicago included hours of exploration and meeting with amazing individuals (some fellow alum) in the communications world. After stopping by Google, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, Chicago Cubs, and multiple PR agencies – I kept thinking, “This is great! I’m actually establishing my network,” and hoping to come back soon for real interviews. Little did I know, I’d be moving in two short weeks for an internship at one of the largest independent public relations firms in the world and recently named Advertising Age’s Top-Ranked PR Firm of the Decade.

Special shout out to Kelli Matthews who connected me with a fellow alum at Edelman in Chicago. I met with him, HR, and a junior employee (each individually) on a Tuesday, was asked to take the writing test on Wednesday, had a second interview with senior executives on Thursday, and offered a three-month paid internship on Friday! The day I flew out from Chicago was the day I started planning my move back (across eight states). I did it! I was aggressive with networking (both old and new contacts) and it was worth it! I felt (and still am) ecstatic!

My words of advice if you’re still on the hunt (or feeling like you are in the back-up plan) – don’t settle for anything (in my case, I needed a city and one not in the Northwest). Go for what you want and you absolutely will find it. Just remember to remain confident and even when you might feel like a failure (and I definitely did), know that you simply haven’t found the right fit yet. Just keep looking and you will absolutely find it.

Guest Post: A Perspective on Required Social Media Participation

Kelli’s Note: Diane Gaines, an ’07 graduate was one of the first classes of students that was required to blog in my class. It’s been fun to follow her career and to hear her views on this topic. Pretty rewarding for those of us who think social media are important for you to learn. You can find her on twitter at @drgaines.

Recently, several students posted their concerns about being “forced” to participate in social media as part of their public relations coursework to a student website. As a recent graduate of the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, I feel compelled to share my insight and experience in the workforce.

Millenniums, please know that you are explicitly hired for your innate understanding of social media and digital technology—something your older colleagues struggle to achieve. Your understanding of social media is not only an asset in this industry, it’s an expectation.

The author of the blog post prompting mine said that she can’t imagine using Twitter ever again outside

of her required coursework. As a working adult, I use Twitter every single day. I don’t have much to offer to my followers, but I gain so much from the industry professionals whom I follow. I read industry-related blogs and articles; I watch podcasts and video interviews. In short, Twitter helps me be the subject-matter-expert my employer hired and depends on.

Thankfully, my public relations education focused as much on understanding social media as it did on learning how to write a press release. Not only did I learn how to blog, but I learned how to become a blogger. I learned about social media strategy, and produced a social media communication plan for a real company as part of my coursework. I learned how and why businesses use social networking to reach new demographics and expand their reach. I learned to think of the Internet as a two-way conversation. And guess what? I enjoyed it very much.

Since graduating, I’ve worked as a public relations coordinator for a Fortune 500 company and currently work in internal marketing and communications for a high-tech company. As a student, I interned for a public relations agency and a performing arts venue.

That all being said, I understand that school is school and forced participation is not the same as an organic, voluntary experience. But I would challenge you to really explore what working in public relations, journalism, marketing or communications actually means. Social media is at the core of each of these industries, and if that doesn’t excite you now, it’s probably not going to make you happy long term.

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