Your Career and You: "Minorities, Masses and Internships"


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Yep, it’s that time of the year again when the soft breezes waft gently, squirrels play “chicken” with oncoming cars, and students get all googley-eyed at the thought of summer… as well as, for some, their future.

The inspiration for this week’s ruminations was a chat I had with a student in my “Principles of Public Relations” class at Curry College where I oversee the COM Department’s public relations concentration and teach most of the PR courses.

This particular student…a sports-enthusiast (no surprise there)…had learned of possible job openings at ComCast SportsNet in the communications area (BIG surprise there).

Why?

He’s a senior. I’ve known him for about a year. Never a peep about interest in communications as an actual career field.

How can this be, you ask?

Easy. Not everyone who pursues a Communication major actually plans to work in communication. That’s the beauty of this particular major…the knowledge and skills that you acquire in the process prepare you for an amazing variety of work environments.

You pick up, of course, writing and speaking skills. You learn the intricacies of interpersonal communication. You fine-tune your presentation skills. You learn how to communicate both in a business and a social environment.

Take all this and combine it with that particular area of professional life in which you truly have an interest…finance, education, criminal justice, you name it…and you have a leg up on your entry-level competitors who specialized in just one of these areas with no communication exposure.

But, back to my student. He indirectly was asking if I would grease the skids on his application for a marketing position reporting to a friend of mine. I didn’t have a chance to grill him on his motivation, but I fully intend to do so.

Why? Because he will have zero qualifications other than a diploma and a love of sports and hasn’t done anything to differentiate himself from the herd of other applicants who will be vying for this very same position.

It’s a smidge late in the game to turn the clock back and start all over again. Other folks have been racking up internship after internship, homing in on their strengths, preferred work environments, areas of interest, etc.

And it’s not like I haven’t been yammering on and on about the importance of internships in all my classes.

That’s how I got my start in public relations…as a Public Affairs Intern working for the US Army Training and Doctrine Command at Ft. Monroe, VA. Learned virtually everything there was to know about the career field. Took to it like a duck to water.

I was late to the game myself, having entered the world with an English degree and an unnerving interest in 18th century British literature.

Eight years in the Air Force had given me a chance to (accidentally, I hasten to emphasize) develop basic PR skills including writing, public speaking, event planning and management, crisis communication, and a myriad others. Thus to the Army as a civilian public affairs guy.

So, back to the student. I have to get clear in my own mind what it is he hopes to accomplish here. Does he think he is going to waltz into an interview armed with a shiny-new sheepskin and a smile and nail a coveted entry-level job?

I obviously don’t have the answer to this puzzle yet, but I will have before I offer to intervene on his behalf with ComCast SportsNet.

But this episode lends even more credence to my ongoing mantra of “internship, internship, internship.” Why?
> The economy is still faltering along…optimism is dawning but not fully in place.
> Competition even for entry-level jobs…especially for entry-level jobs…is brutal.
> You have to differentiate yourself from the rest of the flock.
> Successful internships make a difference…a big difference.

I hope I will be able to report in a future post the successful resolution of this situation. I’m not filled with great hope, but I’m also not always right. Fingers crossed on this one.

“Minorities are individuals or groups of individuals especially qualified. The masses are the collection of people not especially qualified.”
Jose’ Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses [1930], prologue

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About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 10 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Communication, Curry College, internships, job hunting, job search, public affairs, public relations. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Your Career and You: "Minorities, Masses and Internships"

  1. Kirk — Just talked with a student about a part-time entry level job. She reported that 20 candidates had MAs and 15 had Ph.Ds. Just a little competition.I'm also seeing more part-time communication positions. Seems that companies don't want to commit to a full-time position, but need some help.Here's hoping for the best.John Luecke, APR

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  2. It's definitely not getting any easier, John.All we can do as professionals counseling these young future professionals is be brutally honest and "gently" push them into proactive pursuit of their first "real" job. Fortunately, the majority of them get what we're telling them. The others? Well… :-)Thanks for the feedback!

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  3. Things are a bit different here in Canada. Our 4-year baccalaureate degree here at Mount Saint Vincent University has a mandatory cooperative education component. From the outset students know that they are expanding their minds and educating themselves for a career over that 4 years. They each do 3 full-time, 4-month placements to be awarded the degree. With each work term (all followed by a study term) they come back and we fix the "bad habits' they learn at work. by the end of the program, they have a full year of experience and 95% of them have full-time jobs in their fields. Our new major in communication is designed for people who do not necessarily plan a career in communication — if that is what they want, they pursue the BPR. Just a thought from north of the 49th. Cheers, Patricia Parsons APR, FCPRS, Professor, Department of Communcation Studies MSVUhttp://backstorywriting.wordpress.com

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  4. Thanks for some great feedback, Patricia. Not many of the schools in the Boston area do co-ops (Northeastern U is the only one I can immediately think of), but I certainly can see the value of full-time involvement.What my superstars have started doing (with no prodding from yours truly!) is, if they really like an organization and vice-versa, they apply for a second internship…which occasionally morphs into a job offer.I have quite a few management majors, as well as a smattering of other majors, in many of my PR classes. They all tell me afterwards that they are successfully applying what they learned in their respective areas of study.Hands-on, real-life experience for those who have figured out that public relations is where they want to hang out for the rest of their professional lives; real-life information for those whose interests lie elsewhere.Public relations knowledge and understanding for all. I'm a happy camper!Thanks very much for your report from "north of the 49th"!

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