Prof Offers 20 Tips to Land Internships

Clarke Caywood

As a teacher I have spent 20 years helping hundreds of graduate students secure over $3 million in tuition and fees from companies, agencies and NGOs.  Through this experience of matching students with organizations, I have learned a few lessons that might help students and teachers work as teams for securing residencies as we call them.

  1. Contact the human resources department or internship program directors, but personal contacts with professionals in the field are critical.
  2. Use Linked-In, professional association memberships, class speakers and other contacts.
  3. Write finely honed resumes, Linked-In and Facebook listings of client-based projects from courses, summer internships and previous work experience. 
  4. Give the company a choice of candidates (but not too many) since using resumes will make the process manageable for them and the internship team (professor and student).
  5. Rely on experienced staff with relevant contacts at the university who can manage the critical details that professors seem to lose track about. 
  6. Build a website about the program and maybe an old fashioned brochure to allow the agency, company or NGO to show the quality of the school program to others.
  7. Produce a strong video interview on YouTube, Yahoo video or Flickr as a link. 
  8. Use interview skill training for internship candidates. 
  9. Academic credit can be helpful if the professor is involved for a syllabus of expected work to evaluate the internship and intern.
  10. In school-managed programs students should agree to go to the first company choosing them to avoid traditional market job competition.
  11. Students should only apply and be matched to organizations that they are willing to work for.
  12. For 10 weeks students should expect to work like any other employee without special requests for summer time off, weddings, etc.  Work early and work late to show your willingness and passion to solve the organization’s problems.
  13. Having a job description prepared by the faculty and team in advance will allow the student to get to work more quickly.
  14. Treat all staff including administrative assistants with great respect–they can facilitate your productive time.   
  15. Seek out mentoring and learn about the organization over cups of coffee on a break or modest lunches.
  16. Be prepared to do more than the assigned work when they find out you are not the typical intern even if you think you might not want to work there.
  17. Plan the end of the internship carefully so that you don’t leave any work undone.
  18. After you return to school send your contacts an occasional article or reading from your courses that might interest them and keep them aware of your pending graduation date, 
  19. Write a paper on your experience and use of course knowledge for internship credit or for publication in a trade journal. 
  20. When you have established your career reciprocate with internships for the next generation!  Finally, I don’t believe in in “free” internships.  Any company or agency can afford to pay some amount to at least cover your expenses.  School programs should include securing payment for at least the course tuition.  Good luck! 

Clarke Caywood is Director of the Graduate Program in Public Relations in the Medill Graduate School at Northwestern University where he teaches crisis management, communications management, marketing and public relations.

4 comments on this post.
  1. Jesse Davis:

    To start this is some great information. However, I am a college senior majoring in public relations and I am currently looking for an internship. I have been rather successful in finding the right person to talk to or take out to coffee, but I don’t know how to begin a conversation with them without looking like all I want is a job. Do you have any advice to begin to ask people if they are willing to take time out of their day to have a conversation about their job?

    Another question I have is that I really like the idea of a YouTube interview video to separate myself from the rest of the applicants, but how creative or casual should you get with the video to show personality while maintaining a professional image?

    Thanks for posting this blog!

  2. Clarke Caywood, Ph.D.:

    Jesse thanks for being alert to this important blog site. Watch my Twitter site for more clues about PR at IMCPROF. People in our field seem naturally inclined to help mentor the next generation. As long as you are respectful in your request, ask interesting questions (based on your classes and readings) most PR pros will try to be helpful. The creator of this blog, Ron Culp, taught me that meeting young professionals pays off in the long run as you may have an opening for them at some point in the future. They know you want a job or internship. You know they know so just be transparent. “Do you have an opening or can you help advise and direct me toward a career in PR? is a fair question. On Flickr or YouTube (other sites as well) I would use a digital image, on a tripod (to avoid Blair Witch Project look) with a friend (swap out). Casual but not sloppy is fine, look into the camera and say something interesting about yourself and something interesting about the field from your studies. You might mention your findings on a class project for a client. 3 minutes is enough. You might rotate the video or have two titled for a choice. See IMC residencies on YouTube though they are bit dated. Good luck!

  3. Gerry Corbett:

    Clarke:

    Terrific advice all around. In particular, item 20 caught my attention. Slavery was outlawed years ago. Internships must and should be paid. Here is a link to PRSA’s advisory on internships. Good advice for any company considering an internship.

    http://media.prsa.org/article_display.cfm?article_id=1950

    Keep up the good words!

    Best regards,

    Gerry

  4. Clarke Caywood:

    Readers might find Gerry’s Twitter site of value. GeraldCorbett. Also check out the PRSA site he links us to. Some companies called post graduate internships “Externships” and offered classes with their staff for a 6 month trial. My UCLA son took at internship at an NGO for 5 months (minimal pay) to show that he understood the culture of the team and was hired. If you have no PR instruction or experience at all; maybe a post graduate internship might help you. At least you can tell HR interviews at the same time that you are working at X company. You must determine your ovn value. Some companies willing to pay $10,000-15,000 even in this economy for MBAs (there are some 130,000 graduating per year) and for my IMC students (at NU) . Look for an excellent match, have goals, work hard to solve their problems and demonstate you “fit” in the organization. Some firms used to hire 5 new employees to see who would survive. They can’t afford that model today. Now they test you as interns and decide later. Good luck if you are graduating and apply now if your are looking for an internship.

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