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Intern Blog

Sam's Story -- Mass Communication and Business Marketing

Monday, May 2, 2011

Samantha Johnson

1st entry: February 18, 2011

Hi world.  My name is Samantha Johnson and I am a senior graduating in May 2011.  I am a mass-communications major with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in business marketing.  A mouthful I know, but it has been a fun ride.  I am the promotions intern for a department in higher education.  The mass communications secretary emails job postings is how I originally found out about the internship.  My best advice for internship search is to research.  Find companies and positions that you would really be interested and apply.  Have a couple people look over your application materials before you turn them in.  It’s so easy to skip over easy mistakes when you make something yourself.  Also, realize that even applying is marketing yourself so make the best impression possible. 

For this position, we needed to answer three questions, and turn in a resume; I also turned in a cover letter to maybe give myself an advantage over my competition.  I did my research and after my interview, I was awarded the position.  I have been in my internship since last fall and have already gained some really valuable experience.

 To me, it seems like the perfect internship.  I am able to do grassroots marketing and PR for the department and gain real world experience in many areas.  I did a couple internships at small organizations last summer and found out that sometimes that may be the best experience because you aren’t pigeonholed into certain tasks like you may be in a larger company. In the rest of my blogs, I will outline some different promotions that I was able to plan and also a large event that I organized with a team.  I have already learned a lot and I can’t wait to share my experiences with you throughout the semester..

2nd entry: March 1, 2011

I have been at my internship in higher education since the beginning of the school year and will use this blog to reflect on one of my greatest experiences as an intern: event planning.  I have always been interested in event planning, especially since the movie Wedding Planner came out (ha ha). I told my internship supervisor about my interest and although I haven’t had much experience that I would love to try.  She proposed an idea that she had used in a previous business and we decided to partner with another department to sponsor the event.

The biggest thing that I took away from the experience was that event planning was time consuming and stressful, but very rewarding.  The week of the event I was worried about everything, but once everything started and fell into place it was a great feeling.  Second, everything takes longer than you think so plan ahead.  It felt like so many things had to wait the closer to the event when really the only thing that would’ve had to wait was the centerpieces which were made of natural materials.  There were so many things that I could’ve planned for and did ahead of time, that I put off, which made the last week very hectic.  Third, relax.  Everything will turn out fine.  I literally wrote a list of everything that could go wrong the night before; it’s not worth that lost of sleep.  Make sure you plan as much as you can and roll with the punches.  In my case, everything went very well, however, we didn’t have as large of a turnout as we expected which was definitely disappointing.  We also had the speaker who was to give the welcome speech cancel on us.  Both things were very fixable.  We made suggestions for a better turnout next year and had another supervisor give the welcome speech.  The latter was something we definitely weren’t expecting but everything worked out.

3rd entry: March 17, 2011

Building relationships with people has been one thing that has become more and more apparent through my internship experience.  Last summer in my internship, my boss said that if I only learned one thing all summer, it would be to not burn bridges.  He explained that he was not trying to tell me to please everyone, but to maintain a professional relationship at all times.  I totally agree, but I would like to take that a step further.  In an internship, you are in the position to learn (and make mistakes).  If you do make a mistake, this is the time in your career to correct bad habits, etc.  You are also in this position to learn from everyone around you, so take it all in. Whether it’s the janitor or the CEO, everyone there has had more experience with just about everything than you have.  I’m not saying to take everything that your co-workers say to heart but to take the opportunity to learn how things work.  Learn everyone’s name and how they would prefer to be contacted, make small talk in the break room, do the little things that show you care.

For example, going back to the event I planned, I wanted to do everything.  What I didn’t take into account was that before I was an intern, someone in the office had planned events (even if that wasn’t her title).  I found out afterwards that she could’ve helped me with most of the things that gave me headaches (e.g., catering and gifts issues).  I really wish I would have picked her brain before I tried to tackle the event because it would have helped a lot.  Looking back, I have chosen to learn from this mistake.  Before I take on the next project I will ask around first. :)

4th entry: March 31, 2011

One of the downfalls of working in higher education is the schedule.  For a PR person this means that every promotion and message has to not only get through all of the clutter of other messages on campus, but also all of the various distractions during the school year. I am currently trying to think of one more promotion for the end of the year.  All of the major events for my office are over and with the school year drawing to the end it will be hard to get through the clutter of spring weather and final projects and tests to draw students to our office.  I have literally been brainstorming this since I got back from Spring Break.  This block has made me less confident in my ability to be a PR professional.

 Last week, our PRSSA chapter visited an agency in Minneapolis.  They told us about the different accounts they have and offered advice for the future.  One of the professionals told us that after they get a request for proposal they pretty much beat their head against the wall for a couple days just coming up with ideas.  It made me feel so much better that people with tons of experience run into the same problems as an intern. I think the coolest part about internships is the fact that it’s a glimpse into what you will be doing when you will be doing in the field.  Also, you get a chance to try out different industries and companies before you are tied down with a job.

5th entry

In my last entry, I talked about how working in education made it a little more difficult to come up with promotions and events because of the odd scheduling.  It requires a PR practitioner to become a little more creative with their ideas. 

Last week, my internship supervisor sent me a link to another higher education event called “Countdown to Commencement”.  It was an event for graduating seniors to attend to share stories on job search.  I knew that we would not have enough time to organize an event of this size, especially on such a large campus, but I thought it was a catchy name.  I then remembered that we had tons of graduate success stories from people who graduated in May 2010 or December 2010 that have jobs related to their major that we were going to use for a different promotion that fell through.  I thought it would be a good idea to utilize these stories to educate students and soon-to-be graduates. 

I then talked to the communications intern.  We went through the stories and picked out the best stories from a variety of colleges and majors to highlight.  We then made a countdown to graduation and assigned stories to each day.  I contacted University Communications to have them highlight the stories on the university website.

I guess the moral of this story is to look for ideas everywhere: similar institutions, past promotions, ideas that were never implemented, etc. Instead of getting discouraged from time limits and schedules, work around your limitations and make the best of it.  University Communications was happy to work with us and we will be able to share some great advice for current students and students who will graduate in May.

6th entry

Well, here I am sitting at the last day in my internship.  I cannot believe it went so fast; it seems like just yesterday we were training and now it’s over and I’m graduating next week.  This has been one of the most beneficial experiences of my college experience.  I was able to get a variety of experience with promotions, event planning, writing, designing, and working as a team. 

My biggest piece of advice for any new intern is to practice good communication.  I have always wanted to do event planning, I told my boss and she made it happen.  I was lucky to have such a great boss.  Even if they aren’t as accommodating, it is important for them to know exactly what you want to get out of the position.  One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received on internships came from the media relations director at the Minnesota Twins, Kevin Smith who said, “Once you get into a position you can make it your own.”  It is entirely true (to a certain extent).  I did this internship a lot different than my predecessor and probably a lot different than my replacement.

In an internship you have a chance to not only learn about your industry, but also yourself.  It gives you ample time to learn about how you like to work with people, how you are most productive and how you like communicate.  You also have a chance to try out things that you have never done to see if it’s actually what you think it will be.

In conclusion, an internship is the perfect way to apply what you are learning in the classroom and gain meaningful experience that will help you land the job after graduation.  No matter if it is paid or not, it will be worth it in the long run.

Well, here I am sitting at the last day in my internship.  I cannot believe it went so fast; it seems like just yesterday we were training and now it’s over and I’m graduating next week.  This has been one of the most beneficial experiences of my college experience.  I was able to get a variety of experience with promotions, event planning, writing, designing, and working as a team. 

My biggest piece of advice for any new intern is to practice good communication.  I have always wanted to do event planning, I told my boss and she made it happen.  I was lucky to have such a great boss.  Even if they aren’t as accommodating, it is important for them to know exactly what you want to get out of the position.  One of the greatest pieces of advice I have ever received on internships came from the media relations director at the Minnesota Twins, Kevin Smith who said, “Once you get into a position you can make it your own.”  It is entirely true (to a certain extent).  I did this internship a lot different than my predecessor and probably a lot different than my replacement.

In an internship you have a chance to not only learn about your industry, but also yourself.  It gives you ample time to learn about how you like to work with people, how you are most productive and how you like communicate.  You also have a chance to try out things that you have never done to see if it’s actually what you think it will be.

In conclusion, an internship is the perfect way to apply what you are learning in the classroom and gain meaningful experience that will help you land the job after graduation.  No matter if it is paid or not, it will be worth it in the long run.

- Samantha Johnson

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