Today’s post is by Business Outcomes intern, Alex Garay.
This fall marks the second time in my career that I have tasked myself with the difficult, but rewarding act of balancing an internship with school. To some, it may seem crazy to give away time during the already-busy school week (especially on Fridays), but I really think it’s worth it. However, there are some advantages and disadvantages of taking on this type of schedule that you should know about before you decide that it is right for you.
An obvious benefit of undertaking this balancing act is that your time management skills will improve significantly. With a part-time internship during school, you may not have the morning before class to finish an assignment, you may not be able to meet with your group on Friday, and you may not have the whole weekend to study for an exam. There is certainly time lost, but you can make it up – it just means that you have to stay on top of your free time. Your internship will likely have set hours, but your schoolwork does not, which means that utilizing spare time is very important. Get started on an assignment the day it is given. Study for your exams over the course of a week rather than the night before. Prepare your end of group work early so that if you can’t meet as long as you’d like, you will still be able to pull your weight in the team.
As a junior or senior with a full-time internship in the fall, other difficulties arise – the summer internship you undertake after junior year is likely the most important, and of course during senior year it’s important to consider full-time employment. That means that while you’re juggling an internship and classes, you may have to worry about internship fairs, information sessions, and other job-related events that take place during the academic semester. It is difficult to balance so many commitments at once, but it can also be very impressive to potential employers, and should be highlighted when applying for jobs. This relates back to time management, which will be of even more importance in this scenario.
Another benefit of working while taking classes is that you may notice parallels between your work and your studies that help you in one, or both. The first time I took on an internship along with a full credit load, I worked at a record label, and had a class on market research that was helpful to my work in forecasting album sales. This time around, one of my classes on the responsibility of companies and corporations to the public fits in well with the analysis of clients’ PR efforts that I undertake at Peppercomm’s Business Outcomes team. These are just two examples from my own experience – you might find an even stronger correlation between work and school.
Taking on an internship during an academic semester is certainly difficult, but don’t be too quick to write it off. Managing your time well is a skill that you will have to learn at one point or another in the professional world, and it doesn’t hurt to master it while you’re still in school. Plus, you’ll gain valuable work experience that can be combined with previous jobs and summer internships to improve your all-around candidacy for positions that interest you. Of course, some extra spending money as a college student goes a long way, too!
Today’s post is by Peppercomm Business Outcomes intern, Alex Garay.
Ever since I can remember, I was never really a fan of any activity that had one specific, strict way in which it should be done. As a child when learning to play the piano, I abhorred the concept of “piano fingering”, where certain notes had to be played with certain fingers. If I could find a way to play the exact same notes in an easier way, why not do it? If my method works and produces an equal or better result, it couldn’t be a bad thing, could it? Why do I have to do it the “right” way if my way works better for me? Some may disagree, but I’ve always enjoyed activities, tasks, classes, and jobs more when I have the freedom to find a better way. A task becomes more rewarding, exciting, and funner for me when there is more than one way to do it; in school I enjoy classes that involve a creative element (such as strategy, marketing, and some finance) more than classes that teach a subject that has always been done way and is designed to always be done that way. Classes that allow for some creativity often provide example-based experience where you can test your ability to think in new ways, which I think is a more valuable learning experience than simply learning a process. Of course, it’s incredibly important to explore all types of classes so that you know where you stand and can understand what type of work you feel more comfortable with. Remember, however, that there is not always a clear line between by-the-book and creative.
I personally don’t always like doing something the “right way”, but don’t get me wrong – established processes are obviously very important, and they are a testament to the creativity and insight of their developers. Someone, or several people, worked hard to facilitate the future by creating methods that can be followed. But I think that an established process should be a baseline, a benchmark that can then be improved upon and developed further to facilitate progress and ensure that it is still relevant. This could apply to anything, from something as simple as data entry to something as complex as federal tax code. I am a strong believer in the idea that “there is always a better way”, and I also believe that it can be applied to almost anything.
How does this relate to job searches, internships, and PR? Well, I’ve had jobs and internships where I have to do the same thing, the same way, every day, and then I’ve had and internships where I have the freedom to do something a different way if I can show that it’s easier, more efficient, or in some way better than the current way. It’s not difficult for me to decide which of these I enjoy more and get more fulfillment from. Public relations, marketing, communications, strategy – they’re all great industries to examine and carefully consider for someone who seeks that sort of experience. There are others, to be sure – in fact, almost any industry will have a creative aspect. But if that freedom and room for creativity is what you’re looking for, chances are you’ll find it if you involve yourself in one or more of these industries, because they revolve around new ideas – there’s not always a “right way.”
Today’s post is by Peppercomm intern, David R. Jolly.
You walk into a room full of strangers and you pause at the entrance. You’re thinking twice about gracefully exiting stage left, but you know deep down that you didn’t come this far to turn back now. Taking a deep breath, your legs lead you into the room and your eyes scan for a familiar face, but there are no eyes staring back. There are groups of people, usually in sets of three to four and they all are forming circles as if telling you not to interrupt. Before self-sabotage completely takes over, you find the sign-in table and you quickly make your way to it. Being greeted by a warm smile you start to relax, but after placing your sticker name tag on the right side of your chest, you know it’s time to invade these networking cliques and tell the world that you have arrived.
Alright, networking isn’t this intense, but it can be frightening going into a room full of professionals and students without knowing another person. Yet, that’s the great thing about it; you get a fresh start to reinvent yourself for this crowd. You have the power to share or not share details about your career and life. Before you turn back without giving networking a chance, invade those cliques and strike up a conversation with a complete stranger. It may be awkward, but it can be fun, too.
As you get more comfortable with working the room it’s important to not only talk about yourself, but remember to give time for others to speak. No one likes a conversation hog. You don’t have to stick with just talking with professionals; it’s also good to talk with other students/interns. You all can share experiences and tips from your newly begun careers.
Besides bringing the charm, you should also bring business cards to exchange with those you meet. Having a business card as a young professional makes you more memorable. Plus, who doesn’t like saying, “here’s my card.”
You’ve worked the room more than once, made a lot of great connections and now the networking event is coming to an end. You spot the door and now you start gracefully networking your way out. Be sure to grab any handouts, maybe a cookie for the road and make sure you’ve talked with everyone that you possibly could. Now that you’re on the other side of the networking event, it doesn’t stop there. When you get home it’s time to follow up online with those you met.
This is the perfect time to put your cyberstalking skills to good use. Slam your stack of newly collected business cards on the table and start going through them (*tip: write the date, place/event, note to remember that person directly on card). Feel free to type their names in a search engine, connect on LinkedIn and follow them on Twitter. Take it to the next level and send them an email; state who you are, encourage them to connect with you on LinkedIn and Twitter and mention a memorable moment and/or conversation you had with them (if you can remember).
Now that all of that is done, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. Networking may seem scary, but it’s a crucial component of your career.
Do you have any networking tips or stories?
Today’s post is by Peppercomm intern, Mandy Roth.
Senioritis symptoms escalate uncontrollably as the familiar aromas of chlorine and sunscreen ally to invade the residence halls. You procrastinate from studying for finals by determining the exact fashion in which you will dispose of the plethora of lecture notes that has accumulated throughout the semester; whether burning, shredding, or ripping will elicit the most satisfaction. It’s finally May, and in a few days, the freedom of summer will be upon you; all will be right with the world. Suddenly you’re confronted with a petrifying epiphany: your textbook sell back failed to cover your Dave Matthews summer tour ticket and your lifeguard certifications expired months ago. The taste of freedom that has inhabited your mouth since spring break is instantly tainted with the bitter zest of reality. It’s not long before you regret the hours you spent perfecting your beer pong form and re-tweeting @UnluckyBrian when you should’ve been applying for jobs.
“Taking the summer off won’t be so bad,” you console yourself. “I’ll get a ‘real’ job in the fall anyways.” Great pep-talk, except that everyone with previous interning experience is suddenly ahead of you in the job market. “It’s ok,” you reason, “I’ve still got a few days before summer vacation. That leaves plenty of time to land an internship before June!” Your confidence is wonderful, but you’ve failed to consider where you’ll be applying and what you’re qualified for, let alone the millions of other students who made the same classic error you did.
I was fortunate enough to have been advised by my former boss, “Start your job search in the fall.” I’ll admit it seemed a bit premature at the time, especially considering that entry-level positions are often looking to be filled ASAP. In any case, I soon realized the brilliance in my boss’s advice: I now had the opportunity to familiarize myself with companies and programs to figure out exactly what I wanted and what I had to do to get there. An early start turned out to be especially crucial when I realized that many of the agencies I was interested in happened to be in New York City. Since my graduation date was still but a figment of the future, I was able to visit NYC to determine whether I could in fact call home to the city that never sleeps.
While it might be classy to arrive fashionably late to a party, it’s nothing short of dowdy to apply to a job past the deadline. Even if a company notes that they are looking for an immediate hire, it’ll never hurt to put your name in the hat. Doing so might open up a door for the future; perhaps the company can’t hire you now, but will keep your resume on file for future opportunities. Internships are in high demand, especially in this economy, and the number of intern applicants grows exponentially in the months leading up to summer. Instead of applying at rush hour, give yourself the chance to stand out by applying before the traffic gets too heavy.
Bottom line: a job isn’t going to come after you. It all comes down to being proactive, making connections, taking the time to do your research, and ultimately giving yourself the best chance possible. If you take some time throughout the year to break-away from Facebook stalking your Economics TA and research potential job opportunities instead, suddenly your last months of college might bear a rhythm of relaxation rather than a period of panic.