Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm account executive, Ali Hughes.
It sounds more exciting (and tasty) then it turned out to be.
My first job was serving ice cream to the masses on the hot, humid days of summer in North East Ohio. Growing up in a small town outside Cleveland, the closest form of civilization (besides farms) was an ice cream window attached to a small pizza shop. I was thirteen and my dad knew the owners, so naturally he introduced me, and got me my first job. At the young age of 13, I pictured a summer full of free food and cute delivery boys. I had no idea that the work would be so, well… hard.
My first day was a quick run through on how to properly mix the blizzards and milk shakes, while managing to not cut my hands off on the machine. I also learned how to fill the soft serve machine, and defrost the buckets of hard ice cream. The second day I was on my own. I quickly found out that softball players can get pretty mean, pretty fast, when their ice cream isn’t made quick enough. Imagine twenty boys under the age of ten standing in front of you screaming out orders of ice cream. Just when I was on the verge of tears, I managed to dump the bag of liquid soft serve ice cream all over myself – missing the machine by just a few inches. Needless to say I went home pretty upset, despite the many dollar bills shoved into my tip can (I can only assume the tips were out of pity).
Despite my well delivered speech on why I shouldn’t return, my parents dropped me off the next day to face my fears of muddy tee-ball players and sticky ice cream machines. I didn’t become an ice cream wiz over night, but after a month or so I could stand on my own two feet. I became an expert at filling a cone with a perfect swirl of soft serve, and could fill the ice cream machines – two bags at a time.
Despite the rocky start, my first job turned out to be a great opportunity that taught me many life lessons.
- If you fail at something, never stop trying to succeed. Failure has a different definition for every person.
- Learn to lean on your coworkers, you don’t have to do everything yourself.
- It’s ok to laugh at yourself, and let others laugh too.
- Learn from your mistakes, and tell other people about them before they make the same mistakes themselves.
- Be very thankful for rainy days.
- You can never have too much crunch coat.
At the time, my job seemed like the most difficult one in the world. Now I look back on it with fond memories, and realize I was lucky to have a dad to push me into the real world of working for a pay.
In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, Samantha Rushovich.
1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
I am a rising senior at Boston University studying public relations at the College of Communications. I’m also minoring in Film & Television and have a concentration in Anthropology . . . so I’m very busy!
I’m originally from Stamford, CT just 45 minutes outside the city. I have lived in the same house my whole life and I love it. I have had dogs since I was about three years old. I am practically dying at school without my pups, but I try to see them when I can. Occasionally my parents will be nice enough to drop off my dog in Boston to stay with me for a weekend before I meet them in Maine (we have a vacation house there). So, yes, I have sleepovers with my dog J.
When beginning my search for summer internships I decided I was going to be ambitious and only apply to the top firms. I knew I wanted to spend the summer in NYC, since it’s closer to home than Boston and I was ready for a new city for a bit. I looked up the top 50 PR firms in NYC and then looked through all their websites to see which ones had internship programs. Peppercomm specifically caught my eye because of the emphasis on comedy and work culture. I was learning through my internship in London at the time, that work environment has a huge impact on how enjoyable a job can be. It gave me that extra push to put just a little more effort into my Peppercomm application.
Oh, and Peppercomm is named after a dog, so I can’t lie, that definitely impacted my decision to work here.
2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
It’s hard to say which area of PR I like the most. I’ve had experience in-house and I have now interned at a couple of agencies and one nonprofit, so my experience has been pretty broad. I definitely see myself going into nonprofit at some point, but I haven’t yet decided if I would want to be in-house at a major nonprofit, like the ASPCA, or if I would want to handle nonprofit accounts at a firm. I love the agency life!
I’ve always been pretty involved in charity and volunteer work. It’s mainly my love for animals that has driven me to be as active as I have been in the past. It’s one of my strongest passions, so it would be great to combine that with my love for PR.
3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
I never expected to have as much autonomy as I do here at Peppercomm. I’m encouraged to throw ideas out there and to follow them through if my teams agree on it. I never imagined my client teams would value my opinions as much as they do. That experience alone has made this internship one of a kind.
I’ve also finally seen firsthand how CRAZY life as a PR professional is. My to-do lists are more than a page long before I have even had my coffee. I have had busy internships in the past, but I usually had a supervisor who told me what my priorities should be. However, at Peppercomm I’m on accounts and don’t have someone managing my projects for me. It’s all on me and I love the busy-ness of it all. I never thought I would feel so ready to enter the workforce, but now I’m eager to graduate and get going with my career!
4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
In the short term, I definitely see myself ending up at a mid-size, full-service agency. After graduation that would be ideal! I also could see myself joining one of the major global PR firms at some point.
WAY down the road I hope to open my own agency that specializes in nonprofits. I would like to cater to them based on their budgets and find ways to provide low cost services that are still highly effective. I have a lot to learn before I can start planning that though.
Working for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) would also be a dream come true. I’ve admired quite a few of their campaigns over the years and am a huge supporter of their cause.
We all have that dream job or dream company we’d do anything to work for. But what happens when an opportunity pops up and you are underqualified for the position? They’re looking for seven years of very specific experience and you have some and you think you can map back your skills to the position—do you apply?
There is no simple answer outside of: maybe. But you first need to be realistic about just how underqualified you may be.
Years of experience aren’t necessarily a “be all end all” requirement for recruiters. The same goes for skills. Perhaps you have similar skills to what is listed and you can make the case for how they transfer easily. And you also are a great fit for that particular team and the company culture. Done. You’re hired.
It’s important to remember that new skills can be taught, so if you’re not that perfect fit according to the job listing, there may be some pieces that can be taught on the job.
Beyond making the case for your skills, using your resources will also be helpful. Look up your connections at a company you’re looking to get your foot in the door with. Those people would be able to let you know if you should or should not apply for that position, and could potentially serve as a reference for you.
Now, let’s think about your industry accomplishments. Let’s say with the example listed above, the job is looking for a candidate with seven+ years of experience and you have two and a half of experience you think is relevant. It might not worth your time to put in for that job. You may feel you have those skills, and you might, but is this a role where you would be directing or managing? You need to consider that you either may not do well in that position or you might not have anyone to teach or mentor you along the way (or both) if you were to get the position by selling yourself up. Your professional development could become severely stunted.
With that said, it is certainly worth going in for an informational interview, referencing that particular job posting and seeing where the conversation goes. Perhaps there is a more suitable job for you that hasn’t been listed or may be listed soon. You’ll have started to make a connection and not overstepped by wasting the time of recruiters by applying for something you shouldn’t have.
There are so many little details and nuances that could have an impact here. Tell us, have you or a friend ever applied for a position they were underqualified for? Any advice?
Today’s guest post is from Meredith Briggs, future PR/communications star and current Peppercomm intern.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a French and American Studies double major at Trinity College, a small liberal arts school in Hartford, CT. The French major is pretty self-explanatory, but American Studies occasionally throws people off. Most people just assume it’s synonymous with American history, but it’s much more than that. This major looks at all different aspects of American culture and lifestyle. For example, why we do certain things and what influences us. I have taken classes ranging from “American Technology,” to “Female Bodies in 19th Century America,” to, my personal favorite, “American Food and Culture.” I chose to be an American Studies major because each semester I was drawn to the classes–there is such a wide range of classes to take. But while I do love my majors, for the past couple of years I have been drawn to the fast-paced PR/communications world. So, here I am today, a PR/communications intern who has never taken a class even remotely close to PR, advertising, marketing or journalism.
When I applied for my first PR internship last summer, the only knowledge I really had about the industry was from watching Kim Cattrall’s portrayal of Samantha Jones on Sex and the City. I’ve come to learn is not the most accurate portrayal of the industry, but hey, what else did I have to go on? As soon as I heard that I had landed an interview with a PR firm I had applied to, I immediately called my dad. Of course he was excited and proud and wanted to do whatever he could to help me prepare and succeed. After we hung up my dad emailed me a document full of practice questions and told me to start practicing.
I sat at the desk in my dorm room and opened the document. The first question he listed was bolded with a red asterisk next to it saying “This will, without a doubt, be the first question they ask you.” Overwhelmed by the thought that I was too simple and had nothing to offer, I called my dad again. “Already?” he said. I started to hysterically explain to him that I would have nothing to talk about in my interview. My dad then asked, “Well, tell me a little about yourself.” I started to give the most basic answers: name, where I was from, school, and majors. Before I could even continue he interrupted me and asked me to explain my majors. After I answered, he asked me to explain why I picked each major. Lastly, he asked me how it applied to the PR world. If he had asked me this right after I had “told him a little about myself,” I would have said it doesn’t at all. But after having asked me the other two questions, I knew there was connection. After taking a few moments to think, I began rattling off different ways in which my majors actually helped me.
While I may not speak French in the office, having spoken French since 1st grade has provided me with many opportunities that allowed me to expand how I saw and thought of the world. I went to an immersion elementary school where all of my classes were taught in French. In 5th grade I participated in a “Back to Back” program, where at the age of 10 I traveled to Brittany, France, and lived alone with a family for a month and a half. The fall semester of my junior year of college I was again given the opportunity to study abroad in Paris. For four months I studied alongside French students, and explored France, along with other parts of Europe, which allowed me to change how I saw the world. Going to a very small high school, and a fairly small college, I was fairly closed minded to any world outside of what I knew. But exploring different cultures allowed me to not only learn about but actually experience different cultures and understand how and why they do certain things.
As for my American Studies major, it first and foremost gave me a chance to practice writing, which is, as you all know, very important in PR. In the PR industry you have to write a certain way for different people, just as you have to with different professors and different topics. Even at Peppercomm I write pitches one way for a financial services client, and another way for a consumer client, because the people I’m hoping to attract are two very different types of people. My American Studies major has also taught me to think about how to approach a situation or topic from all different aspects. My sophomore year I had to write a seven page paper analyzing a medical advertisement from the 19th century. While at first the task seemed impossible, as the ad was relatively small, I ended up writing more than the seven pages. I analyzed how the characters in the ad were portrayed, from their poses to their clothes, how that reflected the time period, the written text, and who the intended audience was, to name a few. These are all critical thinking skills that the industry uses daily, and I was able to learn them even without the traditional PR major.
When I went in for the interview I was nervous, of course, but had a new confidence I was lacking before. While on paper I may not have seemed like the most ideal candidate for a PR internship, I knew I had something to offer them. I was essentially pitching myself to this company for a summer internship position, just as you all pitch your clients to publications. They may not always be the most obvious choice for the article, but as a PR professional, or in my case a desiring PR professional, it is up to you to highlight all of the possibilities your clients have to offer, instead of any downfalls they may have. Fortunately, my pitch was successful and I was offered the position. My summer internship only reinforced my desire to continue in the PR industry, and taught me (along with my dad) that even though I don’t have a PR background, that doesn’t put me at a disadvantage for succeeding in the PR world.
Today’s guest post is by star Peppercomm intern, Mary Insinga.
During my summer internship here at Peppercomm, my entire intern class was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to spend the afternoon at the Council of PR Firms’ annual ‘Internfest’ hosted at NYU. The conference gathered interns from 15 different public relations firms in the area. During the event, we heard from a variety of industry professionals, including keynote speaker CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations; Christopher Graves, Managing Partner at Finn Partners; Gail L. Moaney and four Senior Account Executives from various agencies.
Graves began the conference with a discussion about ‘Reputation Killers’ and outlined how brand reputations are established and highlighted some horror stories about how a reputation can be easily tarnished. Next, Gail L. Moaney’s lecture about specialization in the public relations industry seemed to especially strike a chord throughout the audience. Gail spoke of her focus in the travel and economic development industries, while illustrating the range of specializations that a full service public relations firm often offers. Each speaker opened the floor to questions and after Gail’s discussion in particular, the audience seemed eager to pick her brain.
I began to notice a trend in the questions following Gail’s lecture and during the panel discussion. Questions such as, “how would you suggest we go about exploring other specializations within our firm,” and “have you ever felt pigeonholed in your specialization and have become curious about other sectors?” I realized that these were all questions that have never crossed my mind here at Peppercomm. I even spoke to a couple interns afterwards who also expressed that their internship was a very specialized experience.
On my walk to the subway, I reflected on the past few hours of my afternoon and thought, “did they send us here knowing that this would only further our appreciation of Peppercomm?” Because that was exactly my take away.
As a summer intern at Peppercomm, I work on six different accounts across a wide range of industries and have never once felt pigeonholed or stuck in one sector of the PR industry. I work on a bank, a hedge fund, a skin care line, an art auction, an online credit card marketplace and a leading industrial furniture maker. Each account has quenched my exploratory thirst to survey the industry. Thankfully, I have found myself in a full service communications and Marketing firm that encourages its employees to explore and take risks, always giving us the opportunities to do so.
Each week, Peppercomm offers a PSU (which stands for Peppercomm State University) that every employee is encouraged to attend. The PSU’s expose Peppercommers to the full range of services that are offered to our clients and ensures that Peppercomm employees continue to hone their professional skills. PSU has been a unique part of my internship experience and has been instrumental to my understanding of the Peppercomm culture.
It was actually during a recent PSU that I attended called, “Writing a Creative Brief” that I realized my desire to continue to explore and understand a bit more about the services outside of media relations that we offer.
My educational experience in college was very much a creative one, and after watching and listening to the creative team discuss their role in the firm, I found myself truly intrigued. In turn, I reached out to the Creative Director here at Peppercomm, to learn a bit more about the projects and services they offer our clients. One calendar invite later, and I had a meeting to show him some of my creative work.
Listening to the concerns of those other interns at Internfest who seemed eager to get advice on how to excel and how to break out of their current focus, just made me all the more grateful of the comfort and accessibility I feel here at Peppercomm.
The culture at Peppercomm is what I have found to be the most distinguishing feature of my experience as an intern here this summer. The approachability is unmistakable but it seems like this might not be the case for the rest of my fellow PR interns working in NYC this summer.
Today’s guest post was written by Peppercomm associate, Claire Schutt.
When I was nineteen, I was a nanny. For 10 weeks, five days a week, from eight-thirty in the morning until six-thirty in the evening, I was responsible for the two most wonderful little girls.
The girls and I were very close. Curious strangers would after ask if I was their older sister, or sometimes if I was their mother. In both instances, I was flattered. It was clear that I wasn’t just any adult assigned to oversee two children for the day; I was a part of the family. So the girls and I would giggle and say yes.
Their parents, and technically my bosses, trusted me completely with their daughters. This level of trust gave me the freedom, and the responsibility, to plan each day. I would ask the little girls what they wanted to do and shape each day around that. So some days were spent almost entirely at the pool, while some days were spent at my house trying on old ballet costumes and dancing to the Nutcracker soundtrack. Some days we went grocery shopping, some days we went for ice cream and some days we drew self-portraits on the driveway with hot-pink chalk. Every day included quiet time.
One day the girls were playing tag around the house as I was making lunch. I could hear the younger girl running down the stairs full steam ahead and her older sister chasing her, demanding that she return the ballerina snow globe to its rightful place on the dresser. Suddenly I heard a crash. I dropped the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ran to the living room. The snow globe was smashed into pieces. Sticky liquid and small white dots, meant to be snow, now covered the wood floor. Glass was everywhere. For a second I just stood there, stunned. In my head I was thinking about how to best fix the situation while keeping the peace between siblings. Before I could react, the younger girl turned to her sister and said how sorry she was. The older girl gave her little sister a hug and told her that she knew it was just an accident; she then looked at me and said she was going to get the vacuum from the front hall closet and help me clean up. It was small moments like this that made my job so meaningful.
What did I learn? I learned how to be more patient; a four year old and a six year old might need you to explain the plot of a picture book more than once. I learned how to manage our time each day; their mom once told me that however much time I thought I needed to do something with the girls, like get them ready for camp, to go ahead and multiply that by five – she was right. I learned how to be wrong; sometimes the six year old does actually know the best route from her house to the pool. And I learned how to work hard; when you are responsible for the well-being of two little kids, you can’t give it anything but your best effort.
In today’s post, meet current Peppercomm NYC intern and future communications star, James Stewart.
1) Tell us about yourself—where did you/do you go to school, where are you from and what brought you to Peppercomm?
Well, for starters, I’m a rising senior majoring in PR and minoring in history at the University of South Carolina. I’m from a small coastal town in Rhode Island called Westerly. It’s essentially the smallest town, in the smallest state in the country, but the beaches are amazing and it’s made me a true lover of being on the waterfront. During the summer, I was the town Dockmaster (note Dockmaster, not Harbormaster; told you my town is tiny) for three years and over the course of my time there, it made me realize how lucky I was to be able to sit in a shack on the waterfront. Instead of a computer screen, I got to stare at this all day:
Life was good. But the dock job also made me realize that I love dealing with people (even when I don’t love the people) and a huge part of PR is just that—dealing with all different types of people. I find it fascinating.
I play the bass guitar and have a shameless, secret love for 70s and 80s music (I had an afro in high school.) I also love cars. And time-machines. And Legos. This can best be signified by my Lego DeLorean I bought last week, complete with Marty McFly’s hoverboard. It’s pure awesomeness. This goes back to my love of history; though perhaps I could also be a toddler stuck in the body of a 21-year-old.
I was born in an ’88 Cadillac Eldorado, so maybe that has something to do with my love for cars. Regardless, I would love to be involved in the auto industry someday.
My dad works for a company that is a client of Peppercomm and it was through his introduction that I had the opportunity to meet the co-CEOs, Ed and Steve. After interviewing them and several other employees last August, I walked away from 470 Park Ave knowing a lot more than I’d come in with, that morning.
I had never set foot in a PR firm before in my life, nor did I really understand the day-to-day activities at a firm. Long-story-short, I didn’t know jack about PR (besides the very general survey classes I had taken at USC) I realized immediately that Peppercomm was a place where I could learn far more than school could ever teach me about the industry. On top of this, I fell in love immediately with the work culture, the people and even the reason the company is called Peppercomm (dogs rule).
2) What area of the industry do you find the most appealing and why?
This is a tough question for me to answer; every day I find myself exposed to a facet of the industry that’s a little different. Most of the accounts I support are financial, though I have gotten a decent exposure to the more consumer-based clients as well. As far as actual work, I love dealing with people (did I mention I like people?). From media outreach to client calls, I find myself enjoying the actual points of contact that I’m able to engage with people in.
With that being said, I have to say my favorite activity is dealing with media relations. My parents were both journalists that worked for The Washington Post, Providence Journal and L.A. Times over the course of their careers, so I find a lot of similarities between the journalists and editors I correspond with and how my parents are. In addition, the media is practically the other side of the coin when it comes to our work, so I love being able to foster those relationships that will benefit both parties for the long-run.
3) Any surprises or revelations about your role, the industry or Peppercomm?
To be honest, everything. Like I said, I had no idea what I was getting into, other than I knew PR involved writing and that I liked to write. My biggest surprise is how much responsibility I’ve been given as an intern. It’s absolutely liberating in the sense that my work and opinions hold just as much weight as the associates and account executives I work with. Yesterday, I got to be involved in a brainstorm and my ideas were put right up on the wall and into the mix.
Also, the only coffee I get is for me. Mind blown.
I once heard a story from a friend who interned at a competing PR firm a few years ago and for her last day of work, her boss had her manually transfer contact info from an old BlackBerry to a new one. All I can say, is that at least she was getting paid. I have never once dealt with anything like this. In fact, the opposite—I often find myself being asked to take on more responsibility, and hit the ground running.
But here’s the flip-side. You can seriously mess something up if you aren’t careful. And that is terrifying yet gratifying at the same time.
4) Where do you see yourself going in the industry?
Once I graduate from school, I want to gain employment at an independent firm. This is the best way to get exposed to all sorts of PR work in a wide variety of industries, and from this knowledge I can learn what I love and hate. I want to eventually make the switch from an independent firm to an in-house department in the automotive industry. Ultimately, I hope to follow in the footsteps of Peppercomm’s founders and establish my own communications firm someday. Until then, being an intern is a good step in that direction.
Today’s guest post is by future communications star and current Peppercomm intern, Samantha Rushovich.
During my sophomore year at Boston University, I found myself in a difficult position–I was a film and television major, but quickly learned that it was not the career track for me. By the end of the term I decided I needed to make a decision, and soon, regarding my major. I decided to try advertising.
I took advertising 101 the next semester and kept film and television as my minor (I wanted to continue with my screenwriting classes). I enjoyed advertising, but I wasn’t motivated. I poked around on some ad agency websites searching for internship opportunities, but wasn’t inspired by any of the positions I found.
I did some research into public relations. As I learned more about the differences between the two professions, my interest quickly escalated. PR was challenging in a way that advertising wasn’t. Stuck in advertising classes for the semester, I decided to pursue public relations outside of the classroom. I was determined to get a PR internship for the upcoming summer, but had no intention of going in blind.
I immediately joined Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA )and attended as many meetings as I could. At a PRSSA convention I attended, the first keynote speaker was Rob Flaherty, CEO of Ketchum. I was sitting there confused and nervous when suddenly Flaherty called out a number. I looked down at a piece of paper I was handed when I walked in. He had called my number. I raised my hand and he came over and handed me brand new iPod speakers. If this wasn’t a sign that I had found the right major, then I don’t know what is?
I applied to be an account executive for Unleashed PR,the student run PR agency at BU, where I started acquiring account experience, and a better understanding of how the industry works.
Next, I started hunting for all summer internships I was qualified for in the Boston area. Several interviews and a couple rejections later, I received an email saying I was accepted to be a special events intern at the Alzheimer’s Association, helping organize their annual charity walk that drew thousands of attendees each year. A PR internship that also included event planning and was at a non-profit I was a huge supporter of? I was absolutely thrilled. On top of that I had secured a fall internship for myself at a PR and lobbying firm.
From non-profit to public affairs, I was well on my way to becoming a PR professional just like that. At the start of the semester my future seemed bleak. I was picturing myself waiting tables in L.A. while trying to sell screenplays. Suddenly, my future seemed bright and thrilling, filled with potential success and excitement.
So, what does all this mean? It means that even if you’re not a senior graduate student with a 4.0, you can still land the internship you want. You just need to take the initiative and do what you have to do in order to get what you want. It’s surprising how far you can get yourself when you’re determined.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you would know that when making entry-level hires, Peppercomm looks to it’s current and former pool of interns first. In fact, we’d say about 1 out of 4 of our employees is a former intern. Here’s a few examples of our former interns who now work full-time here (I’m a former Pepperomm intern, too): Maddie Skahill, Chris Piedmont, Mandy Roth, Colin Reynolds and Nicole Hall. Seriously, those are just to name a few, I can certainly go on. A good testament to our retention is probably current senior director and former Peppercomm intern, Sara Whitman.
So you can always go to any of these amazing communications stars for tips and tricks of how to turn that internship into a full-time job, but we also loved the stories in this Forbes article: How To Turn Your Internship Into A Job: Three Real-Life Stories.
After you’ve read that article, let us know if you have any tips of your own or any questions on how to land that dream job.
Want to know what it’s like to be an intern at the very best strategic communications firm in the world? Check out this very special RepTV featuring a current and two former interns (who are now full-time employees.