By Sarah Vander Schaaff
Of course, Vince Vaughn and I are often thinking about the same things. This week, for example, I planned on writing about internships, and sure enough, he beat me to it with a new movie called The Internship.
Perhaps he was also driving in his minivan when he heard a story on Marketplace back in March that put the power of the internship in context.
The Chronicle of Higher Education and Marketplace surveyed employers and found that internships were the most important thing considered when “evaluating a recent college graduate.”
The Marketplace website quotes Dan Berrett, a senior reporter at the Chronicle, saying candidates’ internships were “…more important than where they went to college, the major they pursued, and even their grade point average.”
Will this give students and parents a bit of relief—freeing them from placing utmost concern on the “best college” or highest GPA? Or will it just refocus the pressure onto getting “the best” internship?
If nothing else, it is a reminder, especially for those of us with kids still too young to type a resume, that the road to what we hope will be a fulfilling career is always under construction.
To find out more about internships from an employer’s perspective, I reached out to Jennifer Poston Montlary. She is an account supervisor at the Nashville-based public relations firm, McNeely, Pigott & Fox and oversees the company’s internship program. MP&F brings in four to six paid college interns for the summer, spring and fall terms. I asked her about the program.
Questions for Jennifer Poston Montlary of MP&F:
1. What are the key attributes you look for in the people you hire as interns?
Since we are a public relations firm, excellent written and verbal communications skills are a must. In fact, we ask all applicants to include a writing sample along with their resume and cover letter. Attitude is also extremely important – we’re looking for individuals who will accept big and small tasks with the same level of enthusiasm. Another key attribute we look for in candidates is curiosity. Do they keep up with national and local news? Are they constantly learning new skills? Do they ask good questions in the interview? That’s a big one. It’s very impressive when candidates ask thoughtful questions during the interview. It shows that they have properly prepared for the interview and that they are genuinely interested in our internship, not just landing any internship.
2. What distinguishes an intern once they are “on the job”?
Attitude, initiative and willingness to learn. The work environment at MP&F is fast-paced, deadline-driven and team-oriented, so a great attitude is important. We are looking for individuals who are team players. In addition, interns who regularly volunteer for assignments get noticed. Volunteering is a great way for interns to help shape their own internship experiences. Also, interns who embrace learning new skills stand out. It’s important for anyone considering a career in communications, marketing or public relations to understand that our industry and the way we communicate is constantly evolving, which means successful practitioners are constantly learning new skills to stay ahead of trends.
3. What are the expectations of the interns and MP&F in terms of future employment of an intern? Is there an official process by which you state you are selecting from the pool of interns, or is it case by case?
There are no expectations for employment at the end of the internship. We have chosen to frame our program as an educational experience rather than a three-month interview. We want our interns to have the freedom to try new things, ask questions and make mistakes. The goal of the program is to expose interns to all aspects of life at a PR firm. We spend a tremendous amount of time making sure that each intern has an opportunity to work on several different types of projects for a variety of clients. That said, we have hired interns, but there is not a special process for them; they apply and follow the same process as any potential job candidate.
One former intern, Tara Knott, recently did land a job at MP&F. She wrote an insightful blog post on what interns, at any firm, might want to keep in mind. If you have a minute to read her post, you’ll see why she got the job.