As a student journalist, I have consistently been doing internships in my field since I started college. Looking back, I’d say that the first internship I had triggered my interest in journalism. I was a rookie reporter at the local paper, that’s for sure, but I learned that I liked jotting down notes from interviews and then turning that information into art for the summer. I had the chance to shadow the other reporters and see how they operated. At the same time, my work had a limited audience, given that I lived in a small town most people wouldn’t know about.
My experiences at my first internship helped me do well in my beginning journalism classes at UC Irvine. I felt like I had definitely picked the right major and that I was likely going to be a journalist after college. I continued to do two more journalism internships to get a feel for the career that I felt I’d do well in. Each had a different work environment and set of skills.
Then, sometime during my junior year in college I started Googling careers related to journalism and one of the biggest (and most promising) was a career in public relations. The pay for a public relations specialist was significantly higher than for a journalist (about $15,000 more of a median salary) and it seemed to offer more stability. I thought about it for a while. I’d get to write, edit, help clients and companies make the most of their businesses, work with the press, give speeches…it sounded like a dream.
I kept reading to see what the requirements were. A Bachelor’s in either journalism, communications, or English…check. Internships in journalism…check. Friendly and outgoing personality…check! I remember thinking, “People actually get paid to do what I would love to do every single day. Count me in.”
Since discovering that PR was a viable option for me, I have also gotten to learn skills outside of my field. I applied for a summer job which I actually took in the fall as a food service worker at the campus dining commons, and have started working at the campus library as a Special Collections and Archives Assistant. It’s nice to make a little money, and I think it’s also an excellent strategy for this generation of students–the more skills you have, the more employable you’ll be in the future.
Recently I landed a journalism internship at the UC Irvine ANTrepreneur Center. I think it’ll be a great opportunity to network with entrepreneurs, students, UCI faculty and local businesses. I will be doing plenty of interviewing and writing, and my work should hopefully reach a wider audience.
Choosing to work on campus was also part of my strategy. You can make it yours, too. Just think: if you live on campus or do not have to drive, it’s a win, and you have the opportunity to see your school a little differently. If you’ve admired the place you’d like to work for a while, you can become a part of what makes it great, and then you can become a representative and even raise the standard.
While everything seems to be falling into place, I’m scared. In one year I will no longer be in school. I’ll be on my own. At the moment I want to go to the Career Center to talk about public relations and what I might need to do differently next year. Interning at a p.r. firm seems promising, but I need to look into it more.
For those of you who haven’t started an internship or gotten a job offer during school, I encourage you to sit down and think seriously about your professional and personal goals. Consider your interests, as well. Write them down and put them in a place you can refer to often. Since I’m not an expert in career counseling I will not go any further except to say read a lot. In fact, read something of educational value every day, whether it is a short story, play, newspaper, magazine, etc. Just read, and I guarantee you’ll come upon one of your interests.
Do you have similar career strategies to mine? What advice would you give students or people seeking a career they feel is a smart move for them? Share your thoughts.