How does an aspiring journalist college student with no journalism education (yet) or field work land an internship at the Humane Society of United States’ Public Relations Headquarters?
Well, if you are like me, you apply out of sheer hope, with honesty and determination, and you put your best researcher hat on.
I am not going to lie. I stalled looking for an internship for the longest time. One time I googled journalism and communications internships, and all of them asked for credentials like a bachelor’s in some Communications or English major or 3 plus years of experience in the journalism field. Requirements that a two-year general studies student does not have.
I became so deflated with each scroll down the internship job postings that I was sure I had no chance of getting an internship in the journalism field—or in any communications field for that matter. Not all of them were like this, but I was plain scared that the people I would intern for would think I was dumb because of my inexperience, that I was underqualified. I also doubted my skills…
Yes, the point of an internship is to literally learn and gain experience, but it was not this fact that helped me and encouraged me to apply. It was my mother’s voice one day that carried down the stairs admonishing me for my self-mumbling and groaning about not having an internship. She said, “How do you know you won’t get an internship if you don’t even try!”
This semester I was determined to gain experience in the journalism or communications field by getting an internship. I wanted it to be more than just getting coffees and making copies—although I did not mind if those were part of my job description too—just as long as I got hands-on experience as well. I finally sat myself down and went through intern postings again, but this time with a determination to at least try.
There were many, and I first applied to the HSUS Public Relations internship posting. The job was closest to my home and the position description said it would be very hands-on, but most importantly the HSUS mission was something I believed in. I hoped that my choice of internships would reflect the type of journalist I wished to be. Someone who defends and helps those that are not able to defend or help themselves.
I know that if I had not chosen to be an active member of a college campus newspaper (active is a key word here) than I would have no advantage to help elevate me in consideration for the position. Being an active member of The Globe, Montgomery College’s Germantown campus newspaper, definitely bolstered my resume. I provided a sample of my writing for the application by using one of my articles that I had written for The Globe.
A couple of days passed in pure anxiety as I waited for the email, waiting for either a rejection or congratulations. Finally, I got an email saying the HSUS was considering me for the internship and would like to conduct a phone interview that week. Never have I jumped and squealed in delight like I did in that moment. For someone who kept doubting at every moment of the process, this was more than just a happy occasion—this was a confidence booster. I just could not believe I was even considered and I was so grateful! Granted, the email did not say I had gotten the internship, but my confidence was so elevated that I was actually looking forward to the phone interview. I decided then that whether I got the internship or not, I would no longer bench myself in anything I am certain that I can do just because of nagging self-doubt and pity.
I am also thankful for my current job at a wholesale garden center. With all the practice of answering phone calls and speaking to customers on the phone, I was not so nervous as I thought I would be during the phone interview. Learning to deal with disgruntled customers on the phone helped me acquire a certain grace to talk on the phone. Also, putting my mind in the right mind set before the interview helped. I had to realize that it was just a conversation and whether or not I got the internship at least I gave it a shot.
I decided I would not exaggerate facts when it came to my experience in Public Relations, which in fact means I told the interviewer I had no experience in the Public Relations field… But I did tell her the truth that needed no exaggeration, that I wanted to learn from the HSUS’ public relations team, that I was a quick study and that I would give a 110 % to the cause, one that I completely agreed with and supported. We discussed about myself and my goals in life, and I was as honest as I could be. I thought it went well…until the end, when my voiced kept slightly cracking with nervousness after I was told that I would be sent a writing test.
I was given five days to create a press release with provided information and also asked to submit a document with ideas of who I would pitch the press release to and why, how, and when would I pitch it. The words just flew over my head. After reading what I had to do, I sat down in chair and huffed, “This is just great.” I had my garden center job and did not know when I would be able to work on it. Doubt started to seep back in, but I told myself, “NO! It’s called hard work for a reason, and I am neither incapable nor stupid.”
That’s when the researcher hat came on. Five days would just have to be enough.
For the first two days I had to work at the garden center. I did not even have the time to touch a computer, less alone start on the writing test. Finally, on the third day I got a break. I had a vague idea of what a press release was, so I researched a little more about press releases. Then I researched AP style, a format and style of writing I was completely unfamiliar with, and I also researched what exactly was pitching, besides throwing a baseball to a batter. The fourth and last day consisted of writing the press release and my pitching ideas for my press release. I made sure everyone, who I knew was not busy, checked the press release and asked for their opinion. Fifth day arrived and with no going back, I submitted it the morning of the deadline.
I thought I would be waiting for days before I got a response. I sat at my job just musing over everything. Thinking about what I should have changed or written better. A contact example I could have included for one of my pitching ideas. I kept going in the break room to check my email on my phone. Every ten seconds. Eventually I huffed it all out and just went about my work. I relaxed into what I was doing and let my mind wander to other things.
It is in those moments when you are least expecting it that it makes for a better surprise. Later in the day after lunch I caved in and checked my email. Lo and behold, there it was: “Nicolle — We would love for you to join us as a fall intern in the Public Relations department! Congratulations…”
All that self-doubt and pity is pointless. Perhaps, I am not “qualified” for every position and do not have all the listed requirements, but I just do not know when someone will take a chance on me. I have to take a chance on me first to get any head way. It just goes to show how a little hope can actually get you very far. Hard work and determination is always needed when you want to get something done. Oh, and a good researcher hat is always good to acquire.
I hope this helps any aspiring journalists like me, or even just anyone looking for an internship!
This is me at the Humane Society of United States’s Gaithersburg Headquarters. As a Public Relations intern 😀