From internship to job – a PR case study

ByAmy Wilson, who tells us her story of how an internship helped her into her dream career.

Job-hunting is never easy and knowing what you want to do is even harder. I now work in PR but to get here I’ve taken big financial hits, despised previous jobs and worked very hard! But I wouldn’t have got here if I hadn’t done an internship. Here’s my story:

I left university with a 2.2 in American Studies and no-one said it outright, but I know that the general feeling amongst my peers and I’m sure some of my family was that I would never get a job. The consensus was that you have to have a 2.1 these days, and if I’m honest, it really got on my nerves. Having a 2.1 is necessary for some career paths but definitely not for all of them. I wasn’t going to let my degree result hinder what I was going to do. Not knowing exactly what that was made job-hunting even tougher but I knew one thing for sure – my hometown Sheffield was not going to provide the answer. After endless rejected job applications for sales/admin/temp roles to get me on the payroll, I made the decision that I had to move to London.

Sifting through vacancies on the most prominent job search platforms I saw endless vacancies in recruitment. They only asked for a degree, paid well and allowed me to move to the Capital; it seemed like a great route to take. I applied to a graduate scheme with a large financial recruitment firm and after two trips down to London and an assessment day, I was offered a job.

Luckily, I had a friend with a flat where I could live temporarily so I packed my bags and moved to Bethnal Green. After no more than two weeks in the job, I realised that I hated it. This isn’t to say that everybody will hate recruitment because that just isn’t true. The prospects that a job in recruitment gives are great with opportunities to earn a well-above average salary, a structured career path, corporate benefits and more: for the right person I’m sure it could be great. But, for me it was just not right. I love communication, creativity, consumer brands, the media and being immersed in culture – a far cry from recruiting finance managers and payroll clerks. I was forced to stick with it for financial reasons and in a way I’m glad that I did. I experienced the corporate world and learnt a lot about client-facing work. But there was no way that I was sticking around doing something that I hated so I made a plan and emailed literally hundreds of media companies.

At this point I didn’t know that I wanted to be in PR, so anything and everything that differed from my role at the time was on the list. After a couple of long weeks contacting agencies, I was offered an internship at a food and drink PR company. After a lot of careful saving and a meeting with the bank, I handed in my notice at my recruitment job and began the internship.

Immediately it felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I was interacting with like-minded people, using social media, working with food and drink brands, being creative and constantly connecting with the media. I loved it. My internship varied all the time and covered a huge range of fascinating things. My tick-boxes for what I wanted from work? I could tick them all. After interning for a few months I was offered a job and haven’t looked back since. It’s been a massive learning curve and I’ve been given amazing opportunities.

If I hadn’t taken on an internship there is no way that I would be where I am today. The majority of industries are moving towards internships as the way into their world due to the abundance of people applying for jobs without relevant experience. As far as I can tell, companies want to see what you’ve got to offer them before they offer you a job. If you don’t (like me) have financial help, you might have to work in something you hate for the short term to facilitate getting this experience, but, trust me, it’s worth it! I’m almost certain that you’ll appreciate where you end up more when you’ve got there from your own doing.

What to do when you’re interning:

• Make yourself indispensable
• Be alert, helpful, thorough and proactive – go above and beyond your role
• Show your enthusiasm – but not too much! Love everything you do but we all know it’s rubbish packaging 200 gift bags – do it without complaining and be humble
• Go to anything you’re invited to and get involved
• Speak to people in your agency – the chances are that colleagues will have worked in other
PR companies and they can talk to previous colleagues making them aware of you
• Have fun!

PR industry tips

• Read, read, read! Newspapers, blogs, magazines, online – familiarise yourself with journalists, columns and trends

• Be active on Twitter – follow inspirational and informative people as well as tweeting yourself – interact with the right people

• Make yourself familiar with the industry – the likes of Gorkana and PR Week will give you a great insight into the world of PR and put you one step ahead of the rest

Good luck and don’t give up!

If you have any questions or would like to find out more about interning and working in PR, ask me on Twitter – @floamywilson and use the hashtag #ThinkGorkana.