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interning at a pr firm

Looking for an internship can be, for lack of a better word, stressful. As I entered my final year as a college student at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania this past fall, I started the hunt for what everyone said would make me stand out among the crowd in my search for a job after graduation. 

As a public relations major with a minor in business, I wasn’t the only one thinking of interning at a PR firm – the competition would be stiff. I wasn’t the only one scouting internships. Over nineteen million people in the U.S. enrolled in college for the 2019 school year, with almost two million students planning to graduate. You do that math.

I needed an internship close to school, or something I would be able to do from my college apartment. I first scoured the job listings on all the online job search engines, with no such luck. I thought my academic success and participation in industry related organizations on campus would make me an outstanding candidate, but with a constantly changing job market, you need connections. 

I then heard of an internship position with my university’s magazine. It was for credit, straightforward and easy to work into my schedule. I submitted my application and soon enough, I had one internship down!

Shortly after securing my first internship, I received an email from my wonderful academic advisor, Dr. Carrie Sipes. She thought I would be a perfect fit for a remote internship with a public relations and marketing firm in NYC. Bingo.

I reached out to the founder who is an alumni from Shippensburg, Eric Fischgrund, for more information. We emailed back and forth, and soon after we planned a phone call. We discussed my experience, more about FischTank PR, and what my role as an intern would look like.

I was excited to get hands on experience that can’t be taught in the classroom. I started off the new year and my final semester with my two internships and only three classes standing between me and my degree. 

My first assignment was to build a media list. I was intimidated, as I had done research for journalists before, but more for reports and papers – not a real business. I soon felt more comfortable as the entire team at FischTank took time to explain the work given and answered any questions I had. They also made it clear the whole point of my position was to learn. 

Slowly, I started to get the hang of it. I researched media lists, occasionally proofread work and gained some experience in the social media world. A lot of this was new to me. They don’t actually teach you how to research journalists based off of their beats. Sure, they tell us we’ll have to do it, but now I was putting those lessons into action. 

However, before I knew it the world was changing and I was sent home to finish my degree. As a college student preparing to enter the workforce, I had no idea how COVID-19 would impact my internships. My role with the university magazine continued with slightly different work since they were unable to print the newest edition. 

The next few weeks held a lot of uncertainty for people across the country. Even though my internship with FischTank was already remote, the workload could change. I started to think of how many industries are changing or will change after this is over, or how they will adapt and prepare for circumstances like this if it were to happen again. I know the number of jobs in many industries currently were decreasing due to being deemed nonessential.

Luckily for me, FischTank was able to provide me with the same volume of work. Even though their team was working from home, I got to meet multiple people in the agency who constantly taught me new things. I remember one thing Eric told me during our first phone call: his team wanted to teach people things that could only be learned by doing so in the field, and interning at a PR firm was the best way for me to accomplish that. And that’s what they did.

On my last day as a student, I submitted all my undergraduate work and had a phone call with Eric to discuss my internship. I was a little nervous, as anyone would be to hear their final review. It was great to hear from him how everyone was doing and how we were all handling our situations differently. 

Eric also gave me the choice of continuing my internship with FischTank for the time being, or if I preferred to start my full-time job search, he was comfortable with that too.

His first assignment? To write about my experience interning at a PR firm.

Michaela Vallonio is a Public Relations major who recently graduated from Shippensburg University.

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