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[I am participating in PRSSA’s “Progressions Writing Prompt” exercise for April 2014. To learn more, check out this post for details.]

Long nights. Plenty of caffeine. It is that time of year. In between all the studying for finals, we often find ourselves filling out countless internship applications. We meticulously take the time to cater our résumés to each position and try to craft a perfect, creative cover letter. It is a daunting task, but if we work hard, we know that we will score our dream internship.

I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but not everyone ends up landing their dream internship. Over the next few weeks many students, even you, may receive a letter from Ketchum, FleishmanHillard, Edelman etc. that more or less reads, "Dear _____, Thank you for your interest in ______ and the _____ internship position. While we think you have an impressive background, we have decided to move forward with other candidates." After reading such an email, many students will often consider themselves a failure. I personally have received my fair share of these in the past few weeks. Despite the initial feelings that accompany rejection, I have quickly come to realize that there are more opportunities out there.

This past weekend, I had the opportunity of attending the SincerelyPR PRSSA regional conference, organized by San Jose State University. While there, I had the opportunity of touring Weber Shandwick's Sunnyvale office. I asked one of the employees, "What advice would you give to someone who hasn't had a lot of agency experience?"

Her advice was to,

  • Work in your student-run firm
    Many schools have a student-run PR firm. If your university does, work there and gain agency experience. This past semester, I served as an Account Executive for the Allstate account. We were tasked to conduct research and find out how Allstate could better reach future potential agents in the state of Utah. We provided them with several strategic recommendations. This experience has proved to very valuable and I plan on continuing to work for our PR agency, Bradley PR.
     
  • Work for a boutique/smaller agency
    If you didn't get the dream internship at a "big" company, you can still work for a smaller, boutique agency. The basic skills that you learn at a small agency will prepare you for your future work at a bigger one.
     
  • Volunteer
    Even if you do not have a student-run PR firm on your campus or cannot work for a smaller agency, you can still volunteer. Approach local businesses and nonprofits and ask them if they could use any "freelance" social media work. More often than not, they will say yes. Volunteering can open many doors.

My overall takeaway from my visit was just because you don't obtain a big agency internship, doesn't mean your a failure. As you continue to stay busy, in a productive way, you will be ready for the day in which big agency does extend you a job offer.