There’s a lot of perks to being in public relations. We won’t be chastised for scrolling through Twitter on the job, we get to learn new things every day, and we can work pretty much anywhere. Just about every agency, business and nonprofit needs a social media presence and a marketing plan of some sort, and that’s where our skills come to use.
A year ago, I had decided exactly what company I wanted to intern for. I kept in touch with a mentor there for a year after meeting her, and was discouraged when she let me know that she wasn’t continuing their internship program that summer. She considered making an exception for me, but my summer study abroad program meant I had less than two months to work.
She was right—what company would want to hire an intern for only six or seven weeks? But I didn’t want that to stop me. I asked her if she could suggest any other agencies that do similar work that I could reach out to. Kindly, she sent me a list of five.
Some agencies had offices multiple locations in the United States, so I made it my mission to email every single one of them. Over a period of weeks, lots of coffee and some schoolwork procrastination, I had emailed everyone.
Many responded that they don’t hire interns. Most didn’t respond at all. Here’s what I did next, and what you can do, too:
- Don’t go for the boss first – find the team member that fits the position you want to work.
One company, Rad Campaign, had a list of their team members and positions they worked. I sought digital strategy, anything to do with writing and social media. That’s where I found Justyn. She was a social media campaigner, and her bio reflected her love for “talking activism and strategy” and that “live tweeting is her jam.” I knew she was the person I should get in touch with.
1. Try creative ways of reaching out.
Once I found Justyn and decided I needed to contact her, I couldn’t find her email address anywhere. It wasn’t until much later that I realized not having her email was a good thing. She’s a social media strategist, so what better to reach out than via Twitter? She was quick to tweet back with her email, and that’s when we got talking.
2. Have patience and persistence.
Sometimes, just when I thought I had the internship, more than a week would pass without hearing from them. I stopped myself from thinking, “Oh well, it was a long shot, anyway” and changed my mindset to “If I don’t get a reply by x day, I’ll try sending another.” Cancellations happen. Things change. You have to roll with the punches and be patient.
3. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.
People told me I couldn’t squeeze studying abroad and completing my dream internship into one summer.
My mom, in particular, was overwhelmed with my persistance. She told me if I did decide to do an internship, I would have to stay local because anything else would be too expensive and too much work. After I got the internship offer, I sent my mom a 1,000-word email of carefully thought-out bulletpoints and plans in how I was going to make it work with the money I had. When she knew how important to me that completing this internship was, she came around to support me, and even drove several hours to move me into DC.
4. Only unpaid or part-time available? Look for alternative options.
Rad Campaign told me they would only be able to offer me 20 paid hours a week, and I knew I was going to have to make ends meet somehow. I didn’t have many contacts in DC, but one person suggested that I check out craigslist. Oddly enough, after sending less than 10 emails to serving positions in DC, I’d secured an interview. That particular restaurant didn’t end up being a match, but after printing out a few resumes and walking to some other places that had advertised they were “hiring” on craigslist, I was already training to serve drag brunch at a bar within walking distance from my internship.
And after three weeks, my internship increased my hours to 30 a week. They’ve even offered me hours to let me finish up a project remotely while I’m in Ohio. If you work hard, your persistence will pay off.
As my time in DC comes to an end, I can’t stress how surreal the entire experience has been. Just a few months ago, I was sitting in my room hopelessly sending emails while Facebook status after Facebook status came up with friends landing amazing internships. It can be disheartening. I understand that every situation is different, and many parts of my process were due to good timing and strokes of luck. However, with enough persistence, creativity, determination and a little networking, I believe that anyone can land an internship that will make them happy.