The importance of internships, extracurriculars and befriending professors

Katie Lutz is a 2014 graduate from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Fla. She received her Bachelor of Arts from Flagler in Communication with emphases in public relations and journalism and a minor in advertising. She is currently living south of the border in Mexico City, working as a communication consultant at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT.)

At the start of every year my college’s communication department has an internship panel. Students who complete a successful summer internship are invited to speak to encourage underclassman to strive for similar internships. I didn’t find it necessary to attend the panel until my junior year, at this point I had not completed an internship and I hadn’t joined any extracurricular activities. At the end of the panel I felt embarrassed, I was amazed at how much these students had already accomplished and I turned to my best friend sitting beside me and said, “I am going to be on this internship panel next year.”

Fast forward a year and I am sitting on that panel telling a room full of freshman, sophomores and juniors about the two internships I successfully held in Chicago that summer.

So, what steps did I take to go from zero to three internships in the matter of a year?

The first thing I did was I sat down and I met with my advisor, we discussed internship opportunities and how I could beef up my resume. That year I became very active in the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) and applied for the on-campus public relation’s firm. I was offered a position in the campus PR firm and from there was placed in an internship, I worked with a local nonprofit doing communication work.

On top of becoming involved in more extracurricular activities and interning, I think the most important change I made was that I began talking to my professors outside of class. I built connections with professors who guided me through the application process for internships and helped tremendously with my resume.

After months of sending out my resume to 87 different companies and organizations in Chicago, I was offered a summer internship as a marketing intern at a radio station; I packed my bags and immediately flew from Florida to Illinois. That summer I decided if I had free time a second internship was necessary and I was lucky enough to be offered a second marketing internship with a small mission-driven company.

I came back senior year, three internships under my belt and more confident then ever. My senior year I continued to intern and became Vice President of PRSSA and Managing Partner for the on-campus PR firm. I had strong relationships with my professors and advisor, who encouraged me in so many ways. I finally understood networking and was meeting industry professionals that inspired me to reach my career goals.

From all of this experience I knew that I had chosen the correct career path, and could even make a further career choice and I knew that I wanted to work in the not-for-profit sector. A week after graduation I was offered a dream job, a communication position at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, and I accepted.

If I could stress anything to you, it would be to get involved with multiple clubs and discover where your interests lie. The same advice goes for internships, start as soon as you can and start interning so you can discover what kind of environment you want to work in. And absolutely, make those connections with your professors; they are the ones that will be recommending you and helping you find jobs that suit you.

Take advantage of all the resources your school has to offer, whether it is extracurriculars or your professors. These are your tools to succeed, don’t waste valuable resources that you will only have access to for the next four years.

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