By now you’re probably wondering how Miley Cyrus’s new song has any relevance to my personal and professional growth. But, I’m going to (one-time-only) argue in her favor when she says:
And we can’t stop
And we won’t stop
We run things, things don’t run we
We don’t take nothing from nobody
If we look at her new song through rose-colored glasses, the message is one I’ve tried to convey in the past: You control your own destiny. The decisions you make alter the course of your life. Don’t let anyone make you doubt that power.
And with that thought, I’ll answer the pressing question:
How did you get an internship in New York City?
I grew up in the suburbs of Miami in a middle-class Hispanic family. I graduated from one of the top high schools in the area, but never was there indication that my career would take off at age 20. Except for the fact that I had been planning it since I was 16. I took “planning ahead” no another level in this case but I was not willing to take “no” for answer.
Step 1: Write (yes, literally on a piece of paper using this thing called a pen) down your goals for the month, year, next 5 years, next 10 years.
Toward the end of high school I was sure I waned to be in Public Relations — I was lucky. It takes someone, usually, up until their junior year in college to figure out what the “want to be when they grow up.” I do not recommend this. Selecting your major isn’t as important as it seems so that can wait but by the time you hit year two in college, you should have an idea of what you want your life to look like. You need to have an idea of what makes you passionate enough to work. In high school, I didn’t know what public relations was. But I knew I loved being a part of multiple activities so I could “look well-rounded.” I loved Student Government because I could be a part of a team that “makes the school look good.” I loved to represent. I loved to write. I loved journalism (3 years as editor-in-chief). Everything fell into place later.
Start asking yourself these questions. Start seeking your purpose. Soon.
Step 2: Research like a good PR PRO (or science major…)
I spent my first year of college researching agencies that seemed like they were “on top.” Eventually, it lead to creating a spreadsheet of fashion, corporate and entertainment PR agencies that seemed like a good fit for my resume. As the year went on, I filled it with names, phone numbers and e-mails I collected at networking events or through extensive google digging. I made phone calls when I needed and asked about their internship programs and who the prime contact would be (no, don’t send e-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org). Even more so, I began to research the leaders and PR practitioners I wanted to learn from and what agencies they belonged to.
By the time Winter 2012/2013 came along, I had an Excel spreadsheet full of every little thing I needed to know about the agencies I was applying for — from deadlines to compensation to their company culture. It might be specific to my field, but I knew that researching an “audience” was something I needed to do. This was essential as I would soon be “pitching” why they should hire me. And for other fields, hey, employers are mostly impressed by those that took the time to learn about the company and found ways to put their foot in the door.
Step 3: Become a “pusher,” Cady.
So you’ve got the contacts, you’ve got the interview… but are people listening? The most crucial part of getting the internship is standing out. News flash: your resume probably looks just like the other 50 aspiring interns. Whether it’s through a creative cover letter, a “care” package to an employer (be wary of the line between creativity and bribery), or an out-of-the-box way of introducing yourself, you need to do something to show your employer that you and your three years of experience are better than the girl next door’s three years of experience. The following are tips relevant to the PR business:
- Write a creative news release about yourself being on the job hunt
- Create a video campaign on yourself and why you should be hired — simultaneously displaying your iMovie skills
- Start a revolving social media hashtag on why you should be hired. Example: #hireLC2013
- Send them a lightbulb in the mail with an attached note that reads: “I’ve got some bright ideas!”
Step 4: Make backups for your back up. And when you’re done, make a back up.
So, you got the magical e-mail that reads “We’d love to add you to our team.” Now what? Learn how to budget, find housing options, arrange school credit, make a list of things to do in a new city, find a means of transporting all your stuff and make arrangements for the days you’ll be away. Wait, what did I say the hard part was? Luckily, this isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If you make a solid plan — consulting a friend or someone who’s done it already is crucial — then you’ve got nothing to worry about while you’re away. Creating a solid back up plan means when the inevitable happens, you’ll be ready for it. This step is crucial because the less time you spent planning and worrying while you’re actually interning, the more time you have for learning. Note that there are options for everything: look for grants or a part time job is you know money is an issue, call friends and ask about housing contacts, talk to your advisor about credit specifications, etc.
Step 5: Love and enjoy the journey.
I’m not going to lie and say it was easy, but appreciating each hiccup was key. Recognize that this is a learning experience and soak up every moment like a sponge. You have to make it so looking back on your experience brings light into your eyes. With all the work you put into getting your dream internship, you’re deserving of golden memories.