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The Importance of Internships

Jennifer Prosek  Follow

I read a very sad section in the Sunday New York Times called “Growing Up Then Going Home.” Each essay was written by a recent college graduate, all of whom had returned to their parent’s homes. Most were struggling to find work and collectively feeling a sense of failure and depression.

As the job market continues to post dismal numbers, I have been reflecting on my experience as an intern, as well as the five summer interns we employ at CJP. For me, interning was the foundation of my entire career.

First, I would not have discovered the field. My stepdad at the time ran a law firm and one of the partner’s wives ran a boutique fashion PR shop. Fishing aggressively for an internship, I met her and was hired, not knowing much about what PR actually was. But once I had my foot in the door, it was clear that I had found “it.” I completed two additional internships, one in market research and one in law, but neither of them compared to what I felt working in PR.

My natural skills and interests are a perfect PR fit. And because that boutique agency I interned with had just three employees, I left that internship with the experience of an account executive. Not only was I now on the path to my chosen career but I had experience. And although I didn’t land the job of my dreams post college (thanks to the early 90s recession which looked a lot like our last) I did break into the profession when a guy named Dan Jacobs needed a young person to help him start his firm. I wasn’t thrilled. It was a two-person agency in Stratford, Conn. and had NONE of the features I was seeking. But it was a full-time job with full-time pay and health benefits (little did I know I would stay in that job my entire career and run the company one day). My interning had paid off.

Coming back to this weekend’s New York Times, one thing that struck me about the college grads who wrote the essays was that they had very little work experience to speak of. And in this market, you are dead in the water if you put yourself in that situation.

Compare that to the five interns we have this summer, who not only have work experience, but PR-specific experience. They competed against hundreds of candidates, and they won because they showed a focus on our profession. They will all graduate from their internships at CJP with a portfolio full of high-level work, and their own blog entries to boot! To say they are brilliant young minds is not going too far. These young professionals are a force to be reckoned with.

Growing up with two foreign-born parents who were teachers, I had little guidance in the business world. I was lucky that somehow, I ended up knowing the value of the internship. It’s clear that many parents and young adults don’t fully appreciate the power of an internship. Whatever the reason, job hunting with a lack of work experience on a resume is a difficult place to be. CJP  

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