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April 28, 2020

Former Jones PR interns: Where are they now?

Andrew Aston – Account Coordinator

April is National Internship Awareness month and to celebrate, Jones PR caught up with some of our former interns with a Q&A to see where they are today and how their careers have grown.

Dea Pennington:

When did you serve as a JPR intern?
Fall 2013, my junior year at the University of Oklahoma.

What are you doing now?
I’m currently Corporate Communications Manager for the world’s largest convenience retailer, 7-Eleven, Inc., headquartered in Dallas, Texas. I oversee the company’s external communications strategy and support the Franchisee communications function for our 9,700 stores in the US/Canada.

What lessons did you learn from JPR that you took into the business world?
Being an intern for JPR gave me the opportunity to work on a large range of clients (public affairs, corporate and consumer) and ultimately led me to where I am today. JPR was my first agency experience and the skills I honed there landed me a summer internship working on the 7-Eleven account at an agency in Dallas. There, I met my current boss who hired me at 7-Eleven after graduating college, and I’ve loved it ever since!

What skills do you encourage students to learn during their first internship?
At JPR, the most important skill I learned during my internship was performing media outreach, which included creating media lists, pitching and monitoring. Media relations is such an important part of my job each day and I’m extremely thankful to have gained expertise early on in my career. While hard skills are extremely important to learn during internships, it’s vital to work on your soft skills, too. Office etiquette, time management, self-discipline and building your office wardrobe are just some of the many important things that will set you ahead of your peers when you enter the workplace.

What advice can you give to students today who are looking for internships?
Get out there! Networking is so important in PR and it pays off in ways you never expect. Although it may be awkward at first, try to meet with as many inspiring people/places of work as possible. If you’re shy/intimidated like I was in college, I suggest joining a group like PRSSA to help forge some of those connections for you and help you learn from your peers on how it’s done. While your network may get you an interview, your skills will secure you the job. Some of my best interns didn’t necessarily have past internship experience, but they did have their own writing samples, researched my company in advance and were eager to learn which all shined through in their interviews and throughout their subsequent internships.

Emily Long:

When did you serve as a JPR intern?
I was with Jones PR from May 2016 - April 2017.

What are you doing now?
I am the digital marketing specialist for the Spears School of Business at Oklahoma State University (Stillwater campus). I oversee their social media, digital advertising and website content strategy.

What lessons did you learn from JPR  that you took into the business world?
I learned so much at JPR but I think some of the biggest lessons were:
• Take a step back and look at the big picture to get a better idea of how a project could work or how to achieve the goal.
• Learn as many different skills as you can. You never know when you will be asked to do something a little out of the ordinary.
• Don't take yourself too seriously.

What skills do you encourage students to learn during their first internship?
Try to diversify yourself as much as possible. Learn basic graphic design, social media writing, content strategy and really anything you can get your hands on.

What advice can you give to students today who are looking for internships?
Apply early and spend a good amount of time on your resume and application. Try to make it really stand out.

Aubree Hughes:

When did you serve as a JPR intern?
I served at Jones PR in 2016.

What are you doing now?
I’m the Director of Communications for a nonprofit in Denver called Mental Health Colorado. We are an advocacy organization working to disentangle mental health and criminal justice and ensure all Coloradans can access affordable mental health and substance use care. Our work ranges from the Capitol to the classroom.

What lessons did you learn from JPR that you took into the business world?
I still have the first press release I ever wrote. I was so proud of it, and then I got it back from Taylor and it had so much red ink that it was unrecognizable. It was a good, hard lesson in how to properly write a press release! And Suzanne taught me how to be concise and “punchy” with my titles.

What skills do you encourage students to learn during their first internship?
Writing is so important in the PR world. If you aren’t already, learn to be organized and self-motivated.

What advice can you give to students today who are looking for internships?
Ask questions, find a mentor, and soak it all in!

Tanner Hawkins:

When did you serve as a JPR intern?
I was with Jones PR from August 2014 through April 2016.

What are you doing now?
I’m self-employed and help run a personal financial services firm in Plano, TX. I’m currently working toward finishing some certifications that will allow me to run an independent office.

What lessons did you learn from JPR that you took into the business world?
Too much to begin to quantify — but here’s the short list:

Time management: I learned to block off my tasks by hourly, 30-minute, and 15-minute increments so that I could always reference back to it for a client, supervisor, or myself of how I was spending my time. I still do this today.

Talking on the phone: Yeah, it’s 2020 and people try their best to avoid it, but learning how to communicate on the phone, on-the-fly, with no visual aid, while still sounding pleasant and genuine is a serious skill that takes practice to develop. I developed that skill at Jones PR.

Being confident when you feel “over your head”: JPR gave me the chance to work alongside people in some pretty important corporate and political positions as a young college student. Even someone with a “average job” can be intimidating to a 20-year-old who feels like they have no idea what they’re doing. My internship with JPR gave me confidence that I carried with me into my personal and professional life. I was asked more than once in my first few years out of college “wait, how old are you?” I owe that to Jones PR.

What skills do you encourage students to learn during their first internship?
Asking questions! Even the stupid ones.
Follow up (phone, email, text, etc)
Time management
Humility (yes, it’s a skill — some of your best opportunities will come when you’re doing things you may feel like are “beneath you”)

What advice can you give to students today who are looking for internships?
“Follow your passion” is IMPOSSIBLE advice for someone in their early 20s to follow. When considering different internship opportunities, pay more attention to the people you will be working with (and learning from) than just the company and job description. They’re both important — but you’ll ultimately take more away from the experience based on who you’re spending your time with.

Megan Donaldson:

When did you serve as a JPR intern?
Summer 2013 and 2014.

What are you doing now?
Now I work as a marketing and public relations manager for Lockheed Martin Distributed Energy Solutions (recently acquired by TRC).

What lessons did you learn from JPR that you took into the business world?
Where do I start! Working as an intern at JPR taught me so many valuable lessons but I think the most important takeaway I gained from my time at JPR was learning how to tackle a challenge. There were many instances where I was faced with a task or responsibility I felt was over my head and was oftentimes nervous to approach (crisis communication in the aftermath of the Moore tornado to name one!). But despite my caution, I learned how to face a challenge head on knowing my team was there to support me through any roadblocks. I eventually came to seek out challenging tasks, which helped me grow exponentially.

What skills do you encourage students to learn during their first internship?
First and foremost, I would encourage student interns to ask questions – even if you think they are stupid questions. It can be intimidating to speak up in a room full of more professionals, but ultimately that’s how you learn and grow. I also think it’s important to learn how to prioritize your work. In my opinion, learning how to prioritize your work while also being effective and producing quality work is the first step to launching a successful career. Work on asking your supervisor to help prioritize your work or get tips from them on how to organize your workload when you’re overwhelmed.

What advice can you give to students today who are looking for internships?
Look for an internship that will provide plenty of opportunity for mentorship and guided growth. I was fortunate to have an internship at JPR because I was surrounded by a team that was genuinely committed to my professional development and provided me with valuable experiences that I still reference today (not just making copies and coffee runs!).

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