Monday, 3 September 2012

Life as a PR Intern #1

This is the first in a series of posts about the world of interning. This week, I've put together some top tips for how to get your foot in the door and secure an internship, based on what worked for me. If you're in the same boat as so many other grads or work experience-seekers, I hope this helps!

When I left university this year, I braced myself for a bloody hard summer. No holiday, no break, no choice, I'm afraid. I was terrified of being unemployed, and I am blessed (arguably) with a tendency to not sit still.

Fast forward to September, 3 internships and 1 horrible part-time job later, and next week, I'll be starting my first graduate job. I overwhelmingly put this down to a shed load of luck. Right place, right time, blah blah blah. But the crucial thing that I HAVE had control over, is my insistence to be in that right place, and damn well make the most of it.

Here are my top tips for finding internships and work experience, specifically in a PR, Social Media, or Marketing environment.

1. Phone, phone, phone, phone, phone.
And if it doubt, phone again. Speculate, ask for advice, ask for a meeting, ask for what you can do.

You do not have to be academic, well qualified, "in the know" or particularly impressive to find, or organise work experience. It helps, obvs, but NONE of my placements have come from the back of a packed CV or qualification. Honestly. A CV is secondary to an actual walking, talking, work-y person (technical term) thinking you've got a smidgen of potential. All of my placements were secured by being confident enough to call up and ask for it. You'd be AMAZED how many people are too scared to pick up the phone.

If there is one thing I have learnt through my internships, it is just how powerful having a good, polite, professional yet friendly phone manner is. I used to be terrified of calling my hairdresser. Trust me - this skill can be learnt.

2. Forget timing
When I left uni I couldn't help but compare myself to every single one of my more qualified, more experienced or more advanced mates. I love them dearly, but it took me months to realise that once you've left education, the calendar doesn't matter. Unlike your whole life previously that was punctuated by the ebb and flow of the Summer holidays, September doesn't mean anything. FORGET SEPTEMBER.

3. Be realistic
Accept that you're going to be knackered for a while. If you're not up to this, a hundred people are. (And, quite frankly, you don't deserve it anyway.)

I realise I am being quite firm here but this steely indignance comes from my downright refusal to believe that gaining work experience isn't possible. I hear too many people claim they cannot get experience for (inadequate) reasons x, y, and z. It is HARD, that is very true, but it's a million times more worthwhile than it is difficult. Realistically though, it is financially draining, which is why you have to....

4. Plan plan plan plan plan
If you know in advance that you have a 4 week placement scheduled, take advantage of that foresight and work in advance to fund it. Finances aside - book up your diary in advance, you can always say no to placements if your dream job materialises. Summer is the prime time for students and grads to undertake placements, so the earlier you get on the hunting bandwagon (I'm talking May and earlier) to fit in interviews and applications, the better.


5. Don't believe the hype
We are bombarded with youth unemployment statistics, reminded by our parents to keep on looking, and constantly compare ourselves to our school and graduate counterparts. There ARE jobs out there. And if there is nothing visibly at first, but you're exceptionally awesome, they might create one for you. TRUST.

There were millions of other tips I could have listed, so next week I'm going to be writing about my experiences during my time on placements. I hope this helps a teeny teeny bit! If there are any questions you have specifically or want advice on, please, please leave me a comment and I'll include it next time.

Lots of love, and luck!
Claire x


  1. This was so lovely and reassuring to read, I'm going into my 3rd year of History, I am absolutely paralysed by the fear of unemployment after my degree. All anyone does is inhale through pursed lips and give you that 'you're screwed for doing a humanities subject' look!

    You've given me hope and thats the best gift anyone can give :) xoxo

  2. I found this post really interesting :) looking forward to the next one! xx

  3. Thank you SO much for this Claire! It's absolutely amazing on giving an insight into what you have to actually do to get your foot in the door. I am terrified of the phone, even more so after I maffed up a telephone interview good and proper a couple of months ago so I really need to build my confidence again and get back on the wagon. I really need work experience but I'm yet to pluck up the courage or find something I really want to do so hopefully alongside your advice I can try and sort my life out (: xx

  4. I can tell I'm going to like this mini series! One more year of uni left before I'll be following.
    WOuld you be able to give advice on covering letters or how to go about asking for a placement? It's something I struggle with!!

  5. I am metaphorically hugging you, grabbing your ankles and weeping because I NEEDED TO READ THIS. I've been having the worst unmotivated unemployed time at the moment, and what you say about the statistics are so true! I cannot wait for the next instalment.


  6. I can't wait to hear more about this from you! I'm going to be looking for internships and stuff in the coming months ready for my year in industry, and these tips are so useful to read! :)

    Rhiannon xxxx

  7. where were you 6 years ago when I finished my undergrad degree?!

    Seriously. You are right. And I'm still freaking terrified of ringing people. But seeing you write that here as your number one point confirms what my boyf is always telling me. Pick. Up. The. Damn. Phone.

    Excellent advice, Claire.


  8. This is the most amazing post! Will be so helpful for my future, can't wait for the next week one. Thank you xx

  9. Great post. Can't wait to read more!

    Ria x

  10. Thank you for writing this!
    I couldn't preach everything your saying more. I spent pretty much the majority of my spare time during my 2nd year of University applying for Year in Industry placements and it was quite possibly the hardest process I've ever gone through. It's disappointing and exhausting but you HAVE GOT to keep going. I think I applied to over 40/50 odd firms and roles over the course of the year and almost gave up until I got my placement as a Marketing Assistant. I'm a month into it now and I love it here.
    I totally agree with No#5. If you you put the work in and look hard enough you'll reap the rewards, simple as. Employers know determination and drive when they see it!
    Can't wait to read more of this series :)

  11. This was SUCH a helpful post! Can I ask what part time job you had to fund the placements? I'm worrying that I won't be able to find a job that will allow me the amount of time off that I'm going to need to do work experience x

  12. Interning WORKS. I was an intern in my current department 9 months ago. Now I line-manage an intern. Madness.

    All of this is really good advice, especially picking up the phone. If you don't ask, you don't get.

    I think too people can often be snooty about taking on placements, as though it's beneath them to work like that. It really isn't; it's a fantastic way to form contacts and learn an industry.

  13. great tips! I went to my university careers dept and they set me up with two weeks works experience in a libray. I ended up staying for a month and helping to cover staff shortages and eventually got a job there!

  14. Such good advice, straight to the point and thorough. You've not only inspired me, but I'm sure everyone who gets to read this too xxx

  15. thanks for writing this post! it's reassuring but at the same time really motivating. can't wait for the next one xx

  16. That's it. I'm going to (try) and force myself to pick up the phone... (ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!)

    P.S. thanks for writing this.

  17. This is really great advice for everyone, I'm getting into a different industry but it's still applicable and right.
    I think the best thing is that you have to try, if it doesn't happen it's because you didn't make it happen - harsh but true.
    Great post! And congrats :)

  18. When I graduated (with a Classics degree!) getting a job in marketing seemed like an impossible task but lots of hard work and a few months of working 6 days a week landed me a pretty near perfect job! Perseverance does pay off!

    Maria xxx

  19. Love this post Claire and great tips. Good luck with your job xx

  20. These are some great tips and even though I have only just started my two year HND I still think about the end of it all. What am I going to do? How I am going to do it etc. It's always at the back of my mind but fingers crossed, with some hard work there will be something out there! x

  21. this is such a lovely post to read!

    you have such a lovely blog too!

    from helen at // @thelovecatsinc

    ps. enter into my brand new giveaway to win a MAC lipstick and 5 models own nail polishes! :)

  22. love this post, everything you've written is so true! xx


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