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May 08, 2018

5 Lessons I Learned in my Internships that College Couldn’t Teach Me


As a public relations major at the University of Oklahoma, I have learned to write press releases and blog posts at the snap of my fingers. It took internships at top agencies, however, to learn the skills necessary to start a career in the PR industry.

If it weren’t for my internships at Lindsey + Asp in Norman, The Power Group in Dallas and Jones PR in Oklahoma City, I would be stuck thinking PR is easy and colorless. It has actually been the exact opposite – the most challenging, exciting and significant industry I could have chosen, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Here are five things I have learned in my internships that I would have never learned in the classroom:

Explaining PR to people is almost as hard as the job itself
“So, what even is PR?” When I declared public relations as my major, my family and friends had no clue what I was learning in the classroom. At first, my answer was always “Well, I just help people and companies communicate and sometimes I work with social media.” Boy, have I learned a lot since then. My first internship taught me that this industry has SO much more to offer. In class, I was taught the definition of PR was to build and maintain the reputation of a client, but it is truly so much more than that. My answer now is different every time, but I am much more passionate about what I do now that I have had “real world” experience.

The hard skills of the industry
If I had to give universities or professors one thing to improve upon, it would be offering more classes on the “hard” skills of PR. I am currently in a class at OU called “Life After Gaylord,” and that industry-specific class has taught me more in our once-a-week sessions than I have learned in all my PR classes combined. You truly cannot learn everything you need to know for an internship in the classroom, especially with hypothetical situations and clients. In my internship, however, I have learned how to write a concise, clear email to my bosses and clients, how to use resources like Cision, Meltwater and Hootsuite, how to construct a Google search in less than five minutes for something not necessarily “Googleable” and how to manage my time.

Things will never go according to plan
PR pros often say, “Every day in the industry looks different.” I am here to tell you that they are right. When I first heard this as a student, I was thinking, “How hard could it really be? Won’t I just be in the office answering phones and emails?” Nope. I had to learn the hard way to go with the flow and never plan my day according to a strict schedule. Things come up, clients will demand attention and you may not get to that blog post or press release when you wanted to.

You will be thrown in
In starting my internships, I never thought I would be given as much responsibility and tasks as I have. My coworkers depend on my work to help their clients succeed, and I have found that to be extremely rewarding. On the same token, not all of the work you put in will be recognized immediately, so it takes perseverance and passion to succeed in the industry in the long run.

Prioritization, initiative and willingness to learn
Going along with being thrown in, you will have anywhere from three to nine projects running at a time, and you need to communicate to prioritize your day and make sure you’re being efficient. This industry might not require an IQ score of 180 or the technical skills necessary to fix a computer, but the emotional and interpersonal intelligence of a PR professional is what is imperative to have in this industry.


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