Eight Questions to Ask Before Accepting an Internship

Once again internships are prominent in the news. Just last week, we learned from an article in the Atlantic that barely one-third of the U.S. Senate pay their interns. The White House also was recently chided about not paying interns.  Even the foundation of the COO of Facebook has finally and reluctantly relented and has announced that the foundation will begin paying interns.

I have written before about the internship on behalf of the Public Relations Society of America and have not changed my opinion one iota. Internships are legitimate work and should be compensated. PRSA is so adamant about the issue that it published an advisory nearly three years ago for its 30,000 members about internships. As noted in a past post  on internships, PRSA believes it is ethically improper to employ anyone who adds real value to a public relations agency or department without compensating them for their work – whether that compensation is monetary or in the form of educational credits. If billable work is being performed by an intern, he or she deserves some form of legal compensation.

There was a time many years ago when internships were employed by organizations to give back to society by offering summer employment to students in disciplines related to their academic studies. Later, the internship evolved to a way for organizations to solve interim staffing issues. On the candidate side, the internship was a way to get practical, real-world experience in the field that would supplement academic training. Somewhere along the way, internships started to be viewed as a volunteer function and organizations treated them as such.

Let’s be clear though what constitutes volunteerism. Helping a charitable organization tend to the needs of the underserved is volunteerism. Assisting an organization to sell books or some other product or service is not.

As young professionals, your goal is to secure a full-time professional position in public relations. Here are several metrics for evaluating the efficacy of internships after you have graduated.

  1. Is the internship a paid position? And is it well above minimum wage? This is a critical question for which the answer is simple. If it is not paid, steer clear.
  2. Is the compensation reasonable for the role? You should expect no less than $25 per hour, particularly if the job involves content creation, including writing releases, case studies, blogs, speeches, tweets, Facebook posts and yes, even questions for Quora or content for Pinterest.
  3. Is the internship/job a 40-hours-a-week gig and/or are you expected to put in inordinate time that is not compensated? Most jobs are reasonably 40 hours a week or at max 50 hours. Investigate if there is the opportunity for paid overtime or compensatory time.
  4. What is the probability that the internship will lead to a full-time position? Assuming you excel in the job, will the employer agree to put it in writing ahead of time? As Ronald Reagan once said, “trust but verify.” If a permanent position is not in the cards, make certain other conditions are sufficiently compelling to make the internship worth your time and labor.
  5. Is the organization a leader in its category, whether a non-profit, corporation, institution or agency? Your credibility, integrity and personal brand are all built on your associations. Make certain that the organization is a thought leader or at least “reputation safe.”
  6. Will the internship help to appreciably increase your skills, broaden your understanding of the field and augment your network and sphere of influence? These are all vital characteristics that should be inherent in your investment in the internship. If they don’t contribute, think hard and long before you accept.
  7. Can you use the content you create as part of your portfolio? Will you be able to take credit publicly for your intellectual labor and resulting product? It is wise to have some evidence that you can use to validate your accomplishments.
  8. Will your employer give you time for other pursuits, including volunteer work, professional affiliations and networking? Don’t be chained to your desk. Make sure there is adequate freedom to network, volunteer and attend to other professional endeavors.

If you decide to go the internship route while you job hunt, exercise caution in doing internships that do not help fulfill your career goals and strategy. What other red flags have you seen associated with internships? Have your internship experiences proved valuable in your professional growth?


Gerard CorbettGerard F. Corbett, APR, Fellow PRSA, is 2013 immediate past chair and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America; chair and CEO of Redphlag LLC, a Silicon Valley Strategic Communications Firm; and the PR Job Coach.  He can be reached at gerard.corbett@redphlag.com

This Labor Day, Escape the Cubicle to Learn

One of the things you hear the most from employers and employees is the need for experience. When you get your first job, you have experience from your internships and college public relations/marketing classes. As you add years onto your career, you gain the experience from working with clients, writing media advisories and releases and researching potential clients.

But, the office isn’t the only place you gain experience. As a matter of fact, it’s absolutely paramount to get out of the office to really broaden your horizons. Your experience grows when your mind can take in knowledge outside of the “four walls.”

The office is for work, a large percentage of the time. While I learned many things in the office, I grew as a professional outside of it. As a solo public relations pro, my knowledge has grown exponentially not being in an office setting.

Here are some things you can do to expand your professional experience.

  • Twitter chats: Twitter chats may seem very obvious these days. You can learn a ton from Twitter chats and network at the same time. Many of the chats have seasoned pros run and/or take part. Chats I recommend are #brandchat #solopr #NPRSSA (obviously) and #PRStudChat. You will always learn something important from these chats. Make it a point to try and participate when you can. #BrandChat and #solopr take place weekly; #NPRSSA and #PRStudChat are monthly.
  • Conferences: The great thing about conferences is that most companies will pay for you to go because it is part of your professional development. Never miss out on an opportunity to go to one, no matter the size. Whether it is a local PRSA conference or something like Social Fresh, you will grow as a pro by listening to what these experts have to say. Again, it’s the perfect place to network.
  • Podcasts: I love podcasts. Even though I don’t ride the train any longer, I still make the time to download and listen. My business is better for it and my experience is as well. “The Human Business Way” by Chris Brogan is outstanding, as is “The Social Media Marketing Podcast” with Michael Stelzner. You can listen to them on the treadmill, in the car or on a beach (learning and relaxing!).
  • Webinars: Some of these are free; some require you to pay. The good thing about webinars is you can see if the topic may appeal to you before signing up. Look at what PRSA has to offer or check Twitter and Facebook to see what companies like Vocus, Marketwire and Ragan may be offering monthly or weekly.
  • Blogs: While last on this list, it is certainly not least. Blogs are an important tool for information and learning. It’s a good bet that a PR/social media/marketing pro has a blog. Good folks to check out are Deirdre Breakenridge, PR Breakfast Club, Shonali Burke, and SpinSucks. You’ll get a mix of traditional knowledge as well as build up your new tool arsenal.

Gaining knowledge is up to you. Don’t rest on what is in front of you; look beyond the now, and see the future. YOUR future.


Jason MollicaJason Mollica (@JasMollica) is the president of JRMComm, a public relations and social media marketing consultancy. He combines knowledge of the broadcast news industry, traditional public relations expertise and today’s new and innovative social media tools. Mollica operates his own blog and has guest blogged on several others, including the respected Ad Age-ranked PR Breakfast Club, Ragan.com and PRSSA’s Progressions.

Networking Defined: Three Tips to Stay Connected

Networking is easy to define, but can be difficult to practice on an ongoing basis, especially when starting a new job with new responsibilities and demands on your time. You don’t want to lose the network you’ve worked hard to build, and you also want to create a stronger one. These simple steps will strengthen your connection pull and help to remain in touch with key industry professionals.

Discover connections through professional organizations

Professional organizations have a variety of resources available to help you meet new professionals and keep in touch with those you already know.

PRSA New Professionals Section

Even though PRSA New Pros only hosts in-person events during New Professionals Week in November, there are plenty of ways to get involved and connect with new professionals through:

Social media

  • Comment and post questions on PRSA New Pros’ social media pages: blogFacebookTwitter and LinkedIn
  • Participate in monthly #NPPRSA Twitter chats
  • Attend a webinar

Member directory

  • Reach out to others in your PR industry or location through our Section members-only directory. For example, I met with a PRSA New Pros member in Chicago for lunch, and she’s in government PR. In such a niche industry, she can connect with others across the U.S. with a similar profession or interest by using the directory.

PRSA New Pros Executive Committee

  • PRSA New Pros has 15 Executive Committee members who live and work across the nation, from New York City to San Francisco. We are extremely involved in Section and in PRSA as a whole and are always willing to connect with our members. Reach out to any of us here.

PRSA Professional Interest Sections

  • PRSA New Pros is one of 14 PRSA Interest Sections. Take advantage of other PRSA Sections, especially if one matches the PR industry where your interests lie.

PRSA Local Chapters

There are more than 120 local chapters of PRSA. Find the one closest to you and see how you can get involved in a face-to-face setting. This participation could include :

  • Networking events
  • Breakfasts, luncheons and/or happy hours
  • Workshops and webinars
  • Social media and discussion opportunities

For more on this subject, check out the blog post by Brandi Boatner, “Powering Partnerships through Local Leadership as a New Professional.”

Establish bonds with first, second and third degree connections

Connect with Co-workers

Look for mentorship programs, sports teams, happy hours, volunteering opportunities, young professional groups and planning committees to establish ties with co-workers outside of the usual work setting.

If your company doesn’t offer many ways to get involved, seek out co-workers you admire as mentors. Ask them to grab coffee or lunch outside of work.

Utilize LinkedIn and Twitter

Similar to PRSA New Pros’ directory, you can research and connect with professionals in your field through social media. Find companies and groups to follow, engage in discussions and build networks with professionals all across the world.

Search through companies for professionals with whom you share a connection. Ask for introductions and expand your reach to connections outside of your own circle.

Keep in regular communication for mutual benefit

Take a look back at your network and ask yourself, “From whom can I continue to learn and whom can I help learn and grow professionally?” Make sure to not lose touch with those professionals.

Hold on to their information

Save their business card and add the date you met and a small tidbit about the person or the conversation you had to the back of the card. Once you reconnect, you will have a reference point to continue the conversation.

Keep in Touch

Now that you’ve put the tools in place to know what to say, put them to use.


  • If you haven’t already, connect with them on LinkedIn (with a personalized message!) and follow them on Twitter.
  • Every few weeks or months, follow up with them. Email, tweet or send a LinkedIn message with an article you think they might find interesting, with great news to share about a project/client or to congratulate them on a new job or professional success. Also, saving emails is a great way to keep tabs on the last conversations you’ve had with your connections. Tools like Contactually can help you organize the inbox overload with tasks and reminders to follow up with your network.


  • Once every few months, try to meet up for coffee, lunch or drinks. Ask questions, but also share what you’ve learned so far as a professional.

PR is a small world. Once connected to a few professionals, you’re just a few degrees away to hundreds of other professionals.

Creating connections and keeping your network strong can help you tremendously along your career path. As a bonus, some of those connections can turn into the some of your closest friends and mentors.

How do you define networking? What types of networking techniques have or haven’t worked for you to connect and keep in touch?



Nicole BersaniNicole Bersani is an assistant account executive at Social@Ogilvy, where she works on social media for six global brands. She graduated from Ohio University in June 2012 with a degree in journalism/public relations. Bersani is the membership co-chair for the PRSA New Professionals Section.

Career Limbo: Transitioning from Entry-level to Mid-level Positions

Breaking out of the entry-level barrier to mid-level positions is not easy. Many times, it means getting past the catch-22 of needing the experience to get the experience, but there are avenues to make the journey easier:

  1. Always exceed your employer’s expectations: This work ethic will get you noticed and shows you to be a team player. Sometimes learning a new skill simply means volunteering for it. You may have to work a little bit later – but if you want to become a social media expert, for example, the best way is to enthusiastically take on the new work responsibility.
  2. Volunteer pro-bono with other organizations, local charities and religious affiliations: If you are not getting the type of experience in your full-time job that you need to move on to the next level, try local affiliations or industry associations and chapters for experience. They will appreciate the free assistance, and it’s a wonderful stretch to try your hand at new tactics.
  3. Network with purpose: Nowadays, it’s not enough to hand out business cards and think you made a bonafide contact. Learn about the individuals that work at the organization you are aspiring to join. Visit their LinkedIn profiles and Facebook pages. What are their likes? Did you go to the same school? Are they traveling to an area with which you are very familiar? Can you make some restaurant recommendations or suggest vacation spots? When you meet someone – state your vision. Who are you? What is it that you want to do? What was the biggest problem you solved in the workplace?
  4. Perfect your personal branding: Your personal brand is something you should be working on upon graduation. Positioning yourself as an expert is all about your blog content and your contribution to the industry. If it’s too early in your career to develop your own content, work with Google Reader, have the content come to you and then share it with others. Learn about the relevant content sites out there and get involved in Twitter chats. These outlets will help grow your reputation as a thought leader. Also, consider writing some short dos and don’ts about your field of expertise. It may sound strange, but “don’ts” always pull more clicks. People are always most afraid of making major mistakes.
  5. Research, research, research: Getting to the next level means knowing exactly what the position entails. Learn about the keywords used and all the qualifications. Be sure you can back this up with tried-and-true experience. Nothing aggravates a potential employer more than someone that lists keywords on their resume but doesn’t have the actual practical experience to go with it. Choose about 25 key companies for whom you’d like to work and research them on Vault.com and GlassDoor.com. Become acquainted not only with the company’s business, but also their corporate culture.
  6. Know how to make that salary and position jump: You may now be at the stage where you are qualified to do a job that pays $20,000 more but still getting paid $20,000 less. How do you address the salary question? Always remember to come from a positive place. You never want to say that your company was holding you back or that they don’t pay well. Whether you like your current job or not, never back-bite. You are heartbroken to leave your current company, but this opportunity is a dream job, and you feel you can make a real contribution.
  7. When asked about salary – you have a few options: You can always turn it back to the employer, asking what they’d consider based on your qualifications. However, that may lead to a game of salary Ping-Pong. The next option is to give the potential employer a very wide salary range. The range can be as wide as $10,000 or $15,000. The next option of course is to let them know that it was key at the time to gain the skills you needed to excel in your field. Now that you have those skills and the practical experience putting them to use, you are ready to earn the salary that more closely matches your skill set.

Most of all, have faith that you will get to that next level. Remember that 20 percent of job rejections eventually result in a job offer – so don’t give up.


Richard Spector is the manager of client services for PRSA Jobcenter.

Intro to Political PR

Growing up, I knew I had to be involved in politics. From the time my mom took me to a presidential rally when I was only five years old, her political enthusiasm rubbed off on me. I helped knock on doors to get out the vote in high school and registered to vote the day I turned 18. There’s nothing like the thrill of election night, when all the hard work pays off and the candidate you believe in is allowed the privilege to work on behalf of the people.

Working on campaigns, Capitol Hill and in the executive branch has given me a unique perspective on how the political world works. Political PR is not for the faint of heart – expect long hours, unexpected demands and job uncertainty because of elections. However, it’s incredibly rewarding when you see major legislation, which you helped guide through, passed and signed into law.

As I knew the natural progression of working in political communications leads to Washington, D.C., or a state capital, I have learned a few things throughout my journey that can help tremendously if you’re looking to break into political PR:

1)     Always network. In an extremely competitive environment like politics, it may seem tough to break into the industry. Not having many political connections myself, I worked hard to connect with anyone and everyone who would meet with me. Make the most of your friends, classmates and their connections. Once you identify someone whose work and experience interests you, ask for an informational meeting and always be thankful for their time. Even if a position isn’t open at the moment, there might be one down the line, and that person can help you land it.

2)     No position or task is beneath you. Although you may have graduated from college, politics is all about working your way up the totem pole. Many young professionals make the mistake of thinking they are qualified to be a press secretary without any experience. It’s important to find solid internships, perhaps on the Hill, which will help you gain skills applicable to a legislative office to be considered for entry-level jobs. If you want to do communications, ask to help the press secretary or communications director with drafting press releases or coordinating social media.

3)     Join a campaign. Often, some of the best hands-on experience you can gain is to join a campaign and work on the trail. A lot of people begin their political PR careers on campaigns, which always need extra help. If you join a race at a more local level, you are more likely to earn more responsibility.

These are just a few takeaways from my time spent in Washington, D.C. One of the most important rules is to have fun. I’ve had made some of my best friends through working in politics. Also, pay it forward – someday, when you’re a big shot, remember there will be people looking for their start and how you have been in their shoes. Happy politicking!


Kate EnosKate Enos is currently an account executive at GYMR Public Relations. Previously, she served as deputy press secretary for the federal agency, the Corporation for National and Community Service. She also has several years of varied legislative and political experience, working on Capitol Hill and on several state and nationwide political campaigns. Enos is the PRSA New Professionals Section mentorship co-chair.