Follow Internship Path to Full-Time

Q.  I am graduating in mid-January and have been replying to job postings at agencies for the past two months, but I’m not getting much interest.  Since I am a good writer and have done two PR internships during college, is it possible for me to do freelance work until a full-time job comes up?   How do I go about it?  -BP

 A.  First of all, you’re applying for jobs far too early.  Most agencies hire entry-level staff closer to their actual availability, not before they graduate.  In the current job market, you might be better off pursuing a post-graduation internship since that’s becoming the most direct route to entry-level positions at many agencies — even if you already have done a couple of internships.  The internship experience is entirely different when you graduate and are available to work full time for three to six months.  You become part of the organization, not a part-timer who goes away at the end of the Summer. 

As for freelance work, it would be hard to set up a viable business without having proven yourself in the real world.  There’s a reason most freelancers have worked for several years in agencies or corporations.  They build a reputation for their work, and they have established a network of colleagues who respect their talent — and will give them assignments.  Working alone as a freelancer is not easy.  It’s important at this stage of your career to be in an office environment where you can learn team skills, and enjoy the fun — and challenges — of working with others.  However, if you are strong in social media, graphic arts or other technical skills, it is possible to find freelance and part-time assignments at smaller agencies and firms that provide services to them.  Some expect you to work virtually, while others want you onsite.  Bottom line, I suggest that you ramp up your search in a month or so and focus on landing a great internship. 

4 comments on this post.
  1. Jack O'Dwyer:

    Having covered PR 40 years in the O’Dwyer newsletter, magazine and website, my advice to you would be to knock on the doors of all local businesses and ask what you can do for them.
    PR is a catch-all job that does a lot of tasks no one else wants.
    Highly successful New York PR pro Ben Sonnenberg got personally close to all his clients and helped them to solve not only business but personal problems such as wayward children, a spouse who wants to get into the right club, getting big play for a child’s wedding in the local paper, etc.
    As a veteran of at least 25 PR Society Counselor Academy spring conferences, I heard numerous times that what counselors do is “anything the client wants.”
    New business was the hot topic but counselors were loathe to share their own sources of new business or new services they were offering.
    PR grads must realize that PR is highly competitive, with far more jobseekers than jobs, and that PR people do not readily share hard-earned inside knowledge.
    How many will tell you that the best first PR job is reporter for the local general or business press?
    Here is where you meet CEOs and community leaders on a daily basis. As a PR person, you would have a hard time getting close to any of these business leaders.
    At least 40% of an agency principal’s time is spent on new business. Grads should join all the local business and charity groups and make as many friends as possible.
    A winning personality is a key asset. You must make the CEOs comfortable in your presence and have knowledge to offer. If you can make the CEO laugh, you’re off to a good career.
    Make hay out of any personal skill such as excellence in golf, tennis, music, skiing, whatever. Be a teacher of client children. Sonnenberg said that doing a favor for a spouse or child of a client meant he would never, ever lose that client.
    I have known PR execs who based their entire careers on a good golf game. They gave lessons to top management and went everywhere with them.
    Don’t be afraid to do such jobs as floor-sweeping, baby-sitting and picking up laundry. These are invaluable bonding opportunities. Many a successful pro started out representing restaurants. You get free meals and the restaurant gets free publicity. It’s a good deal for both. Learn barter. Do publicity for the local car dealer and get a free car. I’m not sure this will actually work but it gives you the idea. Barter is an enormous and largely hidden business.
    Get very close to bosses and clients. Sonnenberg aimed to be the first business person his clients saw in the morning and the last one they saw at night.
    Jack O’Dwyer, O’Dwyer’s newsletter, magazine and website (

  2. Scott Lansing:

    Really interesting information here. Being a recent PR degree recipient and current intern, definitely useful posts. Thanks for the assistance and I’ll be reading in the future.

  3. Dude, Interning’s Where It’s At! « A Protégé’s Approach:

    […] Oct. 17 post, “Follow Internship Path to Full-Time,” caught my eye. As a recent college graduate and current part-time intern, I would love nothing more […]

  4. Scott Lansing:

    Thanks for the response. Appreciate any and all advice and commentary I can get. I’ll be reading.

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