Interning In Another City: The Big Apple Experience

Cam Robertson

Packing the bags and moving to New York was a big decision, both professionally and personally. Coming from Chicago where there are so many great opportunities in public relations, deciding whether or not to go to New York for the summer was difficult. Ultimately, the corporate opportunity available in the Big Apple proved to be the most valuable at the time, and I of course have no regrets.

I spent this summer at the Estée Lauder Companies in their corporate internship program. Estée Lauder is a $10 billion global company with over 25 beauty brands. I was placed in Global Communications at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics. My team handles PR for Bobbi Brown, the makeup artist and the brand, which Bobbi founded more than 20 years ago.

While this obviously has been an incredible opportunity, the decision to live in New York for three months did not come easy. Here are few things I learned over the past couple months that I would like to share for those considering an internship in another city:

  • Explore. Spending a whole summer in the city gave me the opportunity to understand a little bit about being a true a New Yorker. The city is full of fun things to do, great food and nice people. And yes, I stood in line for three hours for a Cronut.
  • Make friends. Thankfully, I was one of dozens of interns in the program. I was able to quickly make friends from across the country. These were not only a group of people to explore the city with (Happy Hour in New York is surprisingly affordable), but the beginning of long standing relationships.
  • Network. By spending time in a different city, all at once you are surrounded by an entirely new group of professionals. Through some existing connections, I was able to arrange agency visits and meet with several PR professionals based in New York. I also got the opportunity to meet several leaders within the Estée Lauder Companies including Executive Chairman William Lauder, Chairman Emeritus Leonard Lauder, and CEO Fabrizio Freda.
  • Ask questions. This is a given in any internship experience. I was fortunate to have a fantastic supervisor and mentor, Alexis Rodriguez. Alexis is the Executive Director of PR for the Bobbi Brown by day and a blogger by night. Her blog, thePRcloset.com, is an incredible resource for those interested in beauty or fashion PR. I worked day-to-day with Katie Brennan and Kelly Grgich. They both made me feel like I was truly part of the team, and I learned so much. I asked as many questions as possible, and they always had thoughtful responses. Good questions are noticed. One question I asked the top communications executive at Lauder resulted in a one-on-one meeting to discuss further opportunities with the company. The question—what are the opportunities like for men in beauty PR? As it turns out, one of her goals is to add more men to her team.
  • Make decisions. Taking an internship in another city is the perfect opportunity to decide what the first step in your career may be. You never know until you try. For example, I really have loved New York and the Estée Lauder Companies, but for now I am looking forward to returning to Chicago to start my career.

Camden Robertson, an Indiana native, is a senior at DePaul University where he is double majoring in public relations & advertising and political science. He graduates in December 2013 and hopes to land an agency position.

8 comments on this post.
  1. Don Ingle:

    Cam, always knew you were going to be a star in our business! I’m going to share this with my advanced courses at DePaul and Columbia, terrific advice! Congrats on everything you’ve accomplished and can’t wait to invite you back to DePaul as a guest speaker in my classes.

  2. stephanie bird:

    Great advice! How’d you go about finding an internship in New York? I’m a PR major with emphasis in fashion merchandising who will be graduating in December 2013 from Southeast MO State University. I was told that I should look for an internship with a company before I jump into a paid position with them. Do you think that this would be a logical idea? Or, should I go forth with applying to full-time positions without being an intern for them?

  3. Culpwrit:

    Upon graduation it is important to find any position possible in your field. Normally, that’s an internship. However, if you have a chance to land a full-time position, go for it.

  4. Haley Sturguess:

    I am a PR major at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and I have never entertained the idea of applying for internships in another city due to financial reasons. For a college student looking for internships, while on a tight budget, would you recommend that the student look only for paid internships, in another city, or accept an unpaid internship in addition to a second job? Do you think being in the latter position would put too much strain on the student and take away from the over internship experience, especially if the student is interning in another city? Thank you!

  5. Culpwrit:

    I just returned from agency visits in New York with 45 PR/ad students from DePaul University, so I raised your question with a couple of recruiters. Like me, they would prefer that newcomers to the city get paid internships. But they acknowledge that any internship is better than none, so you may have to accept a non-paid opportunity. Working at a paid job while doing an internship is very difficult today since most internships are equivalent to full-time positions. So, my recommendation is to focus on paid internships.

  6. Camden:

    Two great questions. This industry is so much about connections and networking–that’s how I found all of my internships. It really helps to know someone. In terms of paid positions, thankfully most companies now agree that a paid internship is ethical. If you look hard enough (and network) you should be able to find something. Especially in a big city like New York.

  7. Krista Wilson:

    This is such a great entry since I am battling the same problem. I am from St. Louis, MO. I would love to venture out to other cities for an internship that would become a potential career. One question I do have is how did you handle the difference in cost of living?

  8. Culpwrit:

    The cost of living varies greatly from St. Louis and many other major cities. Unfortunately, entry-level jobs pay about the same in all cities. I have long advocated for higher intern salaries, but they remain the same in New York as they do in Chicago and other Midwest cities. That makes it very difficult to move to New York early in your career, unless you have other sources of funds. I once turned down a New York job opportunity since I couldn’t afford to live there. Many others make the same decision every day. I wish I had tried to make it work right out of college rather than after I was already into the eighth year of my career.

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