Tales from a Summer Internship

By Samantha Pereira

As summer approaches, so do summer internship opportunities. What can we learn from them, students and agencies alike? Samantha Pereira, recently mentored by PRSA NJ Board Member Ann Willets, has this to say about her internship experience:

“In college, professors and peers alike stress the importance of experience and interning. Personally, I like to focus my attention on the summer, where I can intern full-time and really get involved with the projects and learn, rather than part-time during the school year because my focus is school. My field of study is communications, primarily public relations and advertising. What I don’t think many people realize is how competitive summer internships are, especially for major organizations like NBC/Universal. The summer internship application process for many companies starts as early as November. If a person waits until February or March, the chances of it being far too late are high.

“I’m a strategic and serial internship applicant; I note deadlines and constantly monitor where I might like to intern. Specifically, I have my resume up-to-date and a cover template drafted. I look up organizations I would like to be a part of and see what the internship application process is. Some simply have you submit via email with a cover letter and resume attached, while others require a more in-depth application process to be completed online. For this summer, I applied to many influential and well-known organizations, as well as some lesser-known ones. My goals were to gain new skills from public relations firms, work in publishing, or continue to sharpen my digital skills.

“I have interned at three previous places for a total of about nine months, on top of prior work experience in sales and marketing. What I found was an incredibly high response rate; every four out of every five places I applied to reached out. I was emailed and called about scheduling writing tests, phone interviews, and in-person interviews. I have been on over 60 interviews, between in-person and on the phone, to date. Still, while I was pursued for interviews and writing tests, a long bout of silence would occur after all of these took place.

“While waiting can be stressful, I do appreciate when an organization goes out of their way to at least alert you of their decision, regardless if they want to offer you a position or not. I was turned down by several organizations. I really appreciated it when they told me why. Many of these places turned me away because too much of my experience is digital and social media. One organization went out of their way to express their concern with my minimal public relations experience outside of the digital realm. While that is a fair concern, I also felt it shouldn’t have been a deciding factor when the whole premise of an internship is to gain experience. If an organization wanted an entry-level person with a year’s experience, the position should be labeled differently – maybe as a graduate level position, rather than an undergraduate position.

“The takeaway for organizations, I hope, is how valuable and important a response is. Even an automated rejection letter is appreciated more than silence, for several reasons. Getting a definitive yes or no allows me to plan my semester better. If there is a place I really want to work for and I haven’t heard a response, I’m more likely than not to turn down other opportunities. The feeling of not knowing can be stressful and frustrating. A rejection email, automated or not, allows a person to be settled even if the news is not in their favor. A response also shows me the kind of culture the organization has…and it is always best to leave a great impression rather than a terrible one. Lastly, I enjoy hearing feedback. If I did something wrong in an interview, I want to hear about it in order to better my interviewing skills. If there was just a more qualified candidate and I was a strong one, that’s still something that’s great to hear.”



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