“Before you graduate, try to get one internship at a well-known agency and one at a boutique agency. One will look good on your resume and the other you’ll actually learn from.” That advice came from my very first advertising professor, Ed Russell. That is perhaps some of the best advice I have ever received.
There is no doubt that interning at one of the “top” agencies in any field is going to stand out, but I would argue that doing valuable work — and understanding what it means to work in that discipline — should be more important. That is not to say that these things can’t be done simultaneously, just that it is important to consider whether you are choosing an internship for brand recognition or the opportunity to learn.
Having made it to my senior year in college (where did the time go?) I have been part of quite a few group projects, internships and jobs. People are no longer asking me what I’m studying or even that obscure “What do you want to do with your life” question. They want facts. Where do I want to live when I graduate? Where will I be applying to jobs? Will I go to grad school? Before this summer began, hearing those questions honestly brought me close to tears. Now, the future is still very up in the air, but I feel like I have direction. That clarity is definitely thanks to Impact PR & Communications.
My internship at Impact has truly already been the most rewarding of all of them (and no one is making me say that, I swear). Not only do Filomena Fanelli and her team have so much knowledge to share, but they listen to what I have to say and consistently make me feel like the work I am doing is appreciated as well.
So what is it that I am doing? Before I began my internship, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you exactly what public relations is. Two days after meeting with Filomena and her team, I had written my first press release, learned the art of quotes and worked on my first media placement. I sit in on the weekly meetings where I get to hear about everything the company is working on, any new business matters that need to be taken care of and how the team works together. I didn’t ask to be included in these meetings, as one might at another firm. It was assumed that I would be interested and it would be useful information for me. It might seem obvious that an intern would be included as part of the team, but in my experience, this is out of the ordinary. When I’m asked to work on a press release or send an email to a client or media outlet, it’s not “busy work.” These things need to be done, and I am being trusted to do them. Of course, my work is checked, believe me, but I am learning from my mistakes. I don’t feel worried when something isn’t perfect, I’m able to ask for help and see how to make my work better.
I now understand what public relations professionals do and I am leaning toward this career path. The future is still up in the air, and there are lots of clouds in that sky, but I have learned so much about a career path I wouldn’t have been able to venture into without Filomena and Impact PR & Communications having taken a chance on me.
So I would modify my professor’s advice for those of us who have no idea what the future holds. Try to intern at a company that allows you to learn and grow, no matter how well-known it is, because experience is everything and I have had the most wonderful experience with this internship.
Kerhonkson native Emma Melamed is a senior at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and School of Information Studies. She recently completed a summer internship at Impact PR & Communications, Ltd., a Poughkeepsie-based public relations firm.
This article originally appeared in The Poughkeepsie Journal.