I began my summer expecting to have more of a marketing than a public relations role at my internship. I also thought that I would have more of a role working with clients in New York rather than those based on the West coast but that was a smaller detail. Due to the planning we had to do for this internship program through Jepson, I was able to recognize from the beginning that this was not going to be the ideal environment for me, due to the fact that I was the only person my age in the office, I was only working with girls, and I was in an isolated cubicle all summer (which, obviously, was much different than my ideal work environment which was on a boat coaching sailing with a team of other instructors). I took this offer because I did not really know what kind of work I wanted to do, and public relations seemed like a function of marketing that could be really interesting. I am glad that I had this opportunity, but I do not really forsee myself working at an organization like this in the future.
It became evident early on that the goals I had originally set for myself would have to change as the summer went on and my responsibilities changed from day to day. One goal I set for myself was to increase the speed at which I sent out daily news briefs about the accounts I was working on. Each morning I was responsible for creating a report that included mentions, industry and competitor news for each account I was on. In an effort to do a thorough job, this task took me a while in the beginning since I did not want to miss anything. My supervisor realized the struggle I was having between wanting to do a good job and get it done in a timely manner, so we came up with a time limit that is a reasonable amount to spend on each account depending on how much media attention they were getting. After a few weeks, I was able to get a sense of which articles to ignore and which were more important to include. This is a skill that has definitely helped me in interview processes because I am able to do an efficient scan of different companies to see what kind of media attention they are receiving.
Another goal I had was to improve my digital marketing skills through studying social media activity the accounts I was assigned to. I did not realize how important social media presence was to building brand identity and customer relationships until this summer, so it is something I paid close attention to and learned about how revenue can be directly correlated with an active relationship between brands and consumers on their social media platforms, because this strengthens their brand loyalty. I studies the kind of language that different accounts opted to use on their posts so that one day if I am in charge of a project that involves social media, I can do a good job portraying the brand’s vision and aesthetic, which sounds kind of silly but I promise it is not.
Lastly, one of my goals that developed throughout the summer was to take my own time to learn about the different fields of public relations, just so that I was not counting out the field as a whole just because of one summer at a less than ideal firm. From my research, I learned that financial and political public relations seems to be far more exciting to me personally than regular public relations for random companies. If I decide to pursue a career in marketing, it will be internal, at a company that has a strong marketing department and developmental program so that I can learn throughout my experience. Financial and political public relations seem like way more fun, since you have to deal with more crisis situations and it is more high energy and fast paced. This would allow me to really combine my economics and leadership studies majors at a higher level and work on my communication skills in a less casual setting.
Having reflections was helpful because it allowed me to take time to reflect on my experience. Reflections are something we do regularly in the Bonner Scholars program to reflect on our time at our service sites, and see if there is any room for innovation or movement within our organizations, and while they are tedious and I complain about them all the time, looking back on the past three years they have been very helpful. Something that I think could be changed about this program are that the reflections we do are sometimes lengthy, and for Bonner there is a Google form with a few prompts that require shorter answers for numerous different prompts that you can choose from. Similar to Jepson, you can look back at your old posts, but no one else can which is maybe something I could introduce to them to make it more of an open forum for discussion.
Something random that I noticed is that the other employees took little to no breaks… basically ever. I would go to the bathroom numerous times a day, tried to go on some walks or at least walk up and down the stairs just to get my blood pumping, but the other employees rarely left their desks or even talked to each other, which I found to be a little bit unnerving. Why would you want to sit next to each other all day and literally not say a word? I understand why in more stressful environments like banking or something more technical this could be the case, but in this sort of collaborative field I found this random lack of human interaction quite shocking.
I found that working in a world dominated by females was not as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it is also not something I am looking for when I start my full time job search for after graduation. We learned that sometimes females can get ‘petty’ with each other and compete for status, which is something that was evident in some of the calls I got to sit in on throughout the summer. Additionally, in professional settings I have only ever worked for female bosses, and they have been much more laid back than I would have liked them to be because I want a little bit more guidance so that I know if I am doing my job well or if I can be improving on a day to day basis.
There was little to no social element where I worked, and company culture is something that is very important to me as I feel it is important to develop close relationships with your coworkers so that you are not miserable at work every day. I do my best work when I am passionate and happy about the work I’m doing in the environment I am in. Additionally, there were little to no check ins with the person who was supposed to be in charge of my internship since she had to travel for work (and also not for work) quite a bit throughout the summer so I did not get to see or learn from her as much as it seemed like I was originally going to. The motivation and enthusiasm of the other people in the office seemed to be low, which also made it difficult for me to get excited for feel optimistic about the work I was doing on a day-to-day basis. I do not see myself fitting in here because I would not be able to stay at a job where I am isolated for 95% of the day and have little to no face to face interactions with either coworkers or clients, I am way too social to live like that.
Unless someone is super passionate about public relations, I would not recommend interning at this firm (at least in the New York City office) until they expand the number of people they have in New York City and create an actual internship program with a summer-long project or something like that so that you can develop skills beyond doing the extra work that your supervisors don’t have time for. On the bright side, the diversity of the accounts I worked on have given me insights into industries that I had never considered a career in before but am now very interested in. I now know that I would rather do internal marketing for a company that I am passionate about, rather than doing work at an agency or other external marketing or public relations firm. Even though I was doing much work than I originally anticipated, I consider myself to be a highly adaptable person, and I was able to excel in the new role that I found myself in, even though it it not exactly how I saw my summer playing out.