Getting Our Feet Wet: The Potential Intern’s Struggle

Several weeks ago, my school held an internship expo exclusively for School of Communications students.
This was my time to shine, to get my feet wet, to start the path that will hopefully blossom into an exciting job in the world of Public Relations.

The room was filled with potential employers, from agencies to not-for-profits to professional organizations.

After putting the moves (along with a fine-tuned resume and snazzy business card) on a few groups, I finally gathered up the courage to approach the one place for which I wanted to intern. And they paid.

I approached the table, and introduced myself. One of the recruiters recognized me immediately, based on connections we’ve made on Twitter. SCORE! Right?
After the initial interaction, I began to talk about my knowledge of the company and their recent campaigns they’d been working on.

Now, see, normally a conversation goes as follows:

  • Person A speaks, B listens.
  • B provides feedback while A listens.
  • A sends feedback again. Return to Step 1.

This is not the case. These recruiters were cold and distant, hardly making it seem like they cared about what I had to say.

Well, in the weeks following, I was privileged (ironically) to be chosen as a finalist for this agency.
At the same time, I was also offered an unpaid events/exhibits internship at one of my favorite places in the world, the Missouri Botanical Gardens. Immediately after I enthusiastically accepted this spot, I called this agency–as a good professional would– to respectfully decline the opportunity.

I did exactly as I had learned. I told them (genuinely, of course) that I appreciated the opportunity, but because of my new position, I’d like to leave the opportunity for an equally deserving candidate. And that I hope we can work together in the future.

Feedback? “Okay, thanks. Bye.”

I am a full-time student who also has to work part-time to pay for rent, outside of being highly involved on campus. With taking on this scary new responsibility of keeping track of internship interviews, the last thing I want to do is feel more intimidated by a potential employer.

The negativity was the #1 reason as to why I rejected an interview for a paid internship over an unpaid one. My interview at the Gardens went very well, being more conversational and welcoming. I was regarded as an adult.

I am speaking for all students looking to get their feet wet when I say that yeah, we are ready for this whole new level of responsibility, but the least you should do is make us feel welcome.

Paid through money or experience, internships are the first step into the wading pool before diving head-first into the real world. The more we we are addressed not as fellow professionals and adults, the less likely you are to get interested candidates.

We know the level of work you’ll give us in our positions, and we’re ready.
Just recruit, focusing less on the work, more on the work environment.
Let the intimidation take care of itself when our work begins.


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