It’s open season for internship applications, and if you’re anything like my Type-A self, the pressure is on. I remember my own internship search like it was yesterday: The frantic Google searches for openings, the addiction to refreshing my inbox for emails from hiring managers, the Groundhog Day feeling of interviewing three times in one day.
And then there’s the whole catch-22 of trying to get experience…without having experience. Internships are especially tricky because you are asking someone to take a chance on you, and it can seem like an uphill battle in the competitive world of PR.
The good news is that you already have a lot going for you, from your education to your ambition. As the philosopher Seneca said, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and you’re already in the right place to get prepared. Below I’ve shared some of my favorite tricks for landing a PR internship.
1. Create a spreadsheet
Use Excel or Google Sheets to keep track of every internship application you find, the deadlines and the materials you need to track down (like recommendation letters). When you’re applying to a job that revolves around deadlines, it’s not a good look to miss a deadline before you even apply.
2. Create a brag sheet
You’ve gotten your portfolio together, but can you name three concrete examples of accomplishments off the top of your head right now? Make a bulleted list of your highlights reel so that you can cite specific times you did something you’re proud of. Bonus points for measurable results (increased social media engagement by 50% for your sorority, secured placements in local newspapers for a nonprofit, led a team in a capstone project that resulted in a campaign strategy).
3. Send a proactive email or Linkedin message
I got my current job by sending a DM to another University of Missouri grad on LinkedIn (I had no idea who she was but I saw she worked at an agency I was obsessed with). Even if you don’t see a job listed at a company you’re interested in, you can also reach out to their HR director and pitch yourself for an internship. Don’t be shy – you’d be surprised how many people are happy to have a conversation.
4. Apply to jobs you don’t think you can get
Even if that dream internship seems out of reach, give it your best shot because you truly never know until you try. LinkedIn recently reported that women are less likely to apply for jobs – but more likely to get them.
5. Make an AP Style cheat sheet
Many PR agencies will give you a timed writing test as part of the application process. Dust off the AP Stylebook and jot down the basics, like month abbreviations. The last thing you need is to have a brain fart over the right way to write a dateline in a press release.
6. Read an article from your favorite media outlet
If you’re naturally passionate about media, you’re already doing this! For both the writing test and the interview, you’ll need to show that you know what’s happening in the industry and that you understand the media landscape. When I was going through the interview process for my internship at a major beauty retailer, I spent a few minutes each day checking in on Byrdie and Bustle.
7. Come up with an intelligent answer to a common interview question
Chances are, if you’re applying to a job, you will be asked why you are applying to that job. Saying “I love fashion” is not going to cut it when there are likely 20 other people interviewing for the same fashion internship. You can find a list of the most common PR interview questions by downloading the PR Couture Ace Your Interview workbook – it’s totally free!
8. Assemble your interview survival pack
I’m so accident-prone that I stashed everything I could think of in my Kate Spade tote for any and all contingencies on an interview day. I packed essentials like a Tide To-Go stick, blotting wipes, water bottle, Advil, mini sewing kit, deodorant, Mario Badescu face spray (yes, I consider this an essential), change of shoes, anything under the sun that could save the day and help you bring your A-game.
9. Do a dress rehearsal for video interviews
Video job interviews are common these days, especially for entry-level positions. Don’t assume your computer will have the right software installed or that your dorm lighting will be great – nail down the perfect place, outfit and technology you need to be ready for your close-up.
10. Take a deep breath
Seriously. Take a yoga class, go on a walk, whatever it takes to do some breathing and get your mind off the whole stressful search. Always remember to take a step back and take care of yourself (or risk showing up to an interview with bloodshot eyes, more caffeine than water in your body and the wrong copy of your resume in your purse. Speaking from experience).
When you’re applying to PR internships, it’s easy to feel lost in the shuffle of hundreds of other PR hopefuls. But with the right amount of preparation, you’ll be getting your start in PR in no time.
P.S…For some amazing internship opportunities, check out the PR Couture job page. And if you’re really serious about creating the career of your dreams, PRISM has helped hundreds of aspiring PR professionals land positions at places like J.Crew, Net a Porter, Bollare and more!