From the Intern's Desk

thoughts, tools, tips, and tricks from the perpetual intern

Archive for the tag “career”

On Higher Education – Should You Go to Graduate School?

The movie “The Graduate” may feel familiar to recent college grads. Not the having-an-affair part, the “so what are you going to do with the rest of your life?” question asked time after time once you cross the stage. Is it all too overwhelming? It was for Benjamin Braddock:

Mr. Braddock: What’s the matter? The guests are all downstairs, Ben, waiting to see you.
Benjamin: Look, Dad, could you explain to them that I have to be alone for a while?
Mr. Braddock: These are all our good friends, Ben. Most of them have known you since, well, practically since you were born. What is it, Ben?
Benjamin: I’m just…
Mr. Braddock: Worried?
Benjamin: Well…
Mr. Braddock: About what?
Benjamin: I guess about my future.
Mr. Braddock: What about it?
Benjamin: I don’t know… I want it to be…
Mr. Braddock: To be what?
Benjamin: [looks at his father] … Different.

(courtesy imdb.com)

We recently had a guest speaker in my introduction to public relations class. His name is Dan Schawbel, and he’s known for speaking and writing about “personal branding” in many different venues. Dan gave us tips on how to create a name for ourselves in the competitive world of job hunting. He also told us he never planned on going back to school to get his master’s degree unless he planned on becoming a teacher. Our instructor, Dr. Dawn Gilpin, also said she recommends getting experience in the work world so you know what you want to do before you make the grad school investment.

Personally, I intend to graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Master’s in Mass Communication. Concurrent degrees, four years and a scholarship and I’ll be done. My major reason for doing this is that I think it’ll give me a competitive edge when I apply for jobs. I want to make the most out of my experience here, and (of course) the most out of my tuition.

Not everyone is in the same boat as I am when it comes to getting a graduate degree. How do you know if it’s worth your time and money? We all may have the desire to learn, but not always the resources to do it. Here are some reasons why graduate school may be right for you – even if it isn’t for Dan Schawbel:

  1. You don’t have a full-time job (or you have the opportunity and the means to be without one) – Unless you’re lucky enough to work for a company that will pay for school,  you need to make a plan as to how you’re going to get by without one. (Speaking of companies paying for school, see this great article to find how to get someone else to foot the bill.) Being a fresh graduate can be an advantage in this case. Look around and see what’s required of your desired career. Experience can range from having 3-5 years in corporate or an advanced degree, so evaluate your situation. Are you willing to go through more schooling? Bringing me to my next point…
  2. You’re a hard worker who doesn’t mind the idea of being a student – If you couldn’t wait to get out while you were still in high school, going to graduate school may not be the best for your mental health. There comes a time when what’s on your résumé isn’t as important as your personal well-being. You won’t want to put in the effort that grad school requires if you dread being there.
  3. You have an unbridled passion for your chosen field – You’d know this if it applies to you. You majored in something that you really loved. You breezed through your intro classes and relished completing the projects that few were brave enough to tackle. You’ve had at least a few internships in your field and plan on keeping those relationships for the next few years. If this sounds like you, your love may translate well into a higher learning environment, where you can blossom with your peers in geekdom.

But the number one reason grad school might NOT be for you:

  1. To you, it’s the destination, not the journey that matters – Dan Schawbel brought this up in his presentation. I think it’s his excuse for never wanting to get more education. Relish the experiences grad school brings. You never know who you might meet. If you’re focused on getting to X company and being in this position by X year, start getting jobs that will put you there. Intern, network and establish your identity. Grad school can wait until you change your goals to reach higher things.

What are some other reasons why you should go to grad school? Why you should not? Leave your answers in the comments.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite “Graduate” quotes. For Benjamin, the game wasn’t worth it. But is it for you? Only you can answer that.

——————

Benjamin: It’s like I was playing some kind of game, but the rules don’t make any sense to me. They’re being made up by all the wrong people. I mean no one makes them up. They seem to make themselves up. (imdb)

Interviewing Tips and Tricks

“How many job interviews should you expect to have before you land an actual job?”

This question came up in tonight’s #prstudchat. Many people had different answers, but the 5-6 range seemed common.  All the great networking you’ve been doing (after learning some great techniques, of course) is paying off. Now you’ve landed multiple interviews. What should you do?

Don’t Sell Yourself Short.

Come up with a game plan in your head. Role play. Imagine yourself walking through the door, into the interview. What are you wearing?

Look professional when going on a job interview

Tips On What To Wear:

Men – You can never go wrong with a suit. I define a suit as a jacket, dress pants, button-up shirt, tie and well-shined shoes. The jacket and pants match. The tie and shirt coordinate. Suits are impressive, regardless of whether the job would require you to wear one every day. If it’s too hot for the jacket, bring one anyway. Some places are cold and air-conditioned. You don’t want to be shivering in a thin shirt. Plus, jackets hide sweat stains.

Other accessories: belt, cuff links if necessary and a watch.

Colors must be subtle yet refined. Dark navy, brown and grey are the most neutral. Black may be too formal. As for the tie, ditch the happy face one your grandma gave you for Christmas. Stick with a small pattern or stripes. The shirt should be an accent color in the tie.

Remember, these are just suggestions, but together they create the most basic look that you will certainly feel confident wearing.

Women – Stay conservative. No short anything, no low-cut tops, no stilettos. If you wear a dress, make sure you can sit comfortably in it. No spaghetti straps. Bring a cardigan. Suits are also a good choice. Lighter fabrics like linen are great for the summer. Wool is a classic for winter.

Colors are more flexible for women, but stay in the neutral range. Add an accent color with a bright blouse or accessory but nothing too overpowering. Keep the patterns to a minimum. Heels must be a comfortable height for walking and in good condition. Flats are also perfectly acceptable.

Grooming Tips for Men and Women – Neat and clean. Brushed hair, brushed teeth. Tamed facial hair for men (preferably none) and light makeup for women. The best tip is to look natural.

[I borrow some of these tips from Virginia Tech’s Career Services office, where you can also find more detailed suggestions]

Continuing with the role play, you walk into the office and greet your interviewers. What do you do?

Be confident when shaking hands and introducing yourself

Shake Hands: Grip firmly, but not too tightly. Look directly into the interviewer’s eyes or at the space between their eyes (they won’t know the difference) and smile. Pump once. Let go. Remind yourself to breathe.

Introduce Yourself: “Hello, I’m Sara Steffan. Thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet with you today.” Be sincere. Make them have no choice but to like you.

Back to role play. After you greet, now what? Follow their lead. If the interviewers sit down, sit down as well. Make sure everything is prepared to give to them: your résumé, cover letter, writing samples, etc. Also, make sure you have enough copies for everyone who’s interviewing you. They don’t like to share.

Question time. Are you prepared for everything they’re going to ask you? This is where the role play comes in handy. Imagine the kind of questions they’re going to ask you. Maybe they’ll ask about your experience, or what you’d bring to their team. Write down a few key points and memorize them. You want to sound natural, so don’t memorize a whole speech.

For a more detailed approach on what to do during every step of the interviewing process, I like these points from the Connecticut Department of Labor. They offer several different strategies, like arriving early, that will help get you the job.

Before you know it, the interview will be over, and you’ll be hearing, “You can start on Monday.” With these tips, you’re on your way to getting the job.

What are some other important things to remember when interviewing?

Networking Techniques

Everyone talks about it. No one defines it. It’s extremely important when looking for a job, but what exactly is networking? I define networking as pursuing relationships and maintaining them on a professional level. Meeting new people, promoting yourself and creating connections are the building blocks to landing a job.

Exchanging information is key when networking

Important Things to Remember about Networking:

Take advantage of the 145 Million registered Twitter users – This statistic gives you a HUGE reason to be on Twitter. Your chances for networking with the right people go way up when you use Twitter effectively. Interact with future employers by using hashtags and retweeting their posts. Have a complete profile so employers can visit your blog and see your bio.

Success story: A Cronkite School student saw a retweet from Cronkite Student Life about USA Today looking for college life writers. She told them she would like to write for them and pitched her idea to them. The editor accepted it. She got published because of Twitter.

Overcome shyness – Being shy will only hold you back. Think of networking like dating. If you don’t put yourself out there, you’ll never meet your match.

Never feel like you have to apologize for asking for help. According to a CIO article, don’t see networking as imposing. See it as building relationships. You can learn a lot from a person just by having a conversation.  And one day, you might be able to return the favor.

Go to events – Besides Twitter, the best way to find professionals all in one place is to go to a conference. ONA is both a conference and online journalism awards. It takes place in Washington, D.C., in October. If online is your field, everybody who’s somebody will be at this event. You’ll be guaranteed to meet people who have contacts in high places.

Organize yourself – Get into a routine when you meet someone new. Write his or her contact information down. Terry Lynn Johnson of PRSA suggests writing on the back of the person’s business card 1 – what you talked about and 2 – how to follow up with that person. Attach his or her business card to an index card and write more details about the person. File it away somewhere important.

Watch this informative video from Howcast about the basics of networking. It may be simple, but it refreshes principle ideas that everyone should know.

How to Gain Valuable Internship Experience

Seek and you shall find ... if you're looking in the right place, of course.

…without killing yourself. Here are some tips from my own experience as well as from other bloggers:

  1. What’s your value? Job experience, career exploration, résumé building – there are many reasons why you should intern. Determine the most important one to you. Tailor your cover letter to each employer – don’t just send out a generic letter. Show an employer why you would add value to their company.
  2. Where to intern? Analyze your needs and wants. Do you need a paying position? Do you want agency experience? Nonprofit experience? There are many outlets to develop your skills, but not all will be a perfect fit. Many internships are unpaid, but they offer college credit. Make sure to talk to your major adviser so they can approve your enrollment and even give you suggestions as to where to apply.
  3. Who can help you land your dream internship? People with contacts in your field, like a professional who can mentor you, would be great. You can develop contact at organizations that may have a local chapter, such as PRSSA or IABC. And of course, there’s always the career services office like the Cronkite Career Services Office for example that have a wealth of information. Make sure you’re on your college’s mailing list!
  4. When should you apply? EARLY. Early, early, early. Internships have deadlines. When I applied to an internship I saw in a career services email, I heard back right away because I was one of the first ones that applied. A job won’t wait around forever, especially if it’s one a lot of people want. Research upcoming opportunities, and if you see one you like, send in an application. Even if you don’t, anticipate the needs like how this One Day One Internship post said to search the Wayne Gretzky way. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
  5. What can you do to standout? Be creative. Emphasize your strengths by creating a social media plan for yourself – your Twitter page, YouTube, LinkedIn and how you communicate using these tools. Tell your employers how you did it. Advertise yourself. Use Prezi to put together a unique résumé that employers will remember. Reach out to employers on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. (see other good Twitter resources below)
  6. How do you move on if rejected from an employer? Don’t give up! Every setback is a new opportunity to find a better fit. Change your approach to networking. See if you get results. Internships are not jobs, so not as much is on the line. Read more blogs, comment and interact with others. Now is the time to take chances – establish yourself as a brand and identify your strengths and weaknesses.

Before you play the game, you must know the rules. Internships are competitive, especially in public relations. You have to be known before you’re considered for the job. The best way to get known is establishing yourself in the digital world. Use #prstudchat and #internchat hashtags to join the conversation, and find good people to follow.

Follow on Twitter

@YouTern – YouTern is effective because they tweet both companies to intern for and articles about interning. They have a blog offering tips and advice from experienced people that’s updated regularly.

Similar: @VoxPopPRCareers; @PRWork; @InternAlert – All update regularly with job and internship opportunities in the US (and even the UK for VoxPop).

@ComeRecommended – Offering several how-to articles, ComeRecommended works for both interns and their future employers. Their posts offer advice tailored to almost any situation you may find yourself in. You can join and interact with other interns and reach out to employers on their site.

@InternQueen – Lauren Berger, aka the Intern Queen, has years of experience. She had fifteen internships while in college. She offers tips and tricks for breaking into the internship world. Her site allows you to directly fill out applications for internships, even in fields other than PR.

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