Starting an Internship: What I Learned in a Long Job Hunt

Kohnstamm Communications Welcomes Eric Wheeler.
A fine welcome indeed. I had never seen my name on a sign before!

Tuesday, Feb. 21, marks the first day of my internship at Kohnstamm Communications in St. Paul, Minn. Yes, the long job search is finally over–at least for a few months.

I learned a lot during my 9+ month job search. I did the typical resume blast using job search sites such as CareerBuilder and Monster, I applied to jobs I found on LinkedIn and Twitter and I did my best to promote myself in the online world. In the end though, it came down to who I know.

Though I landed many phone calls and on-site interviews through the strategy mentioned above–even having employers reach out to me because of my blog or online presence–it was a former teacher who got me the initial contact.

It is definitely nice to know a former teacher believes in me and wants to see me succeed. I had Lisa Heinrich as a professor in both Advanced PR and Media Ethics at St. Cloud State University as I was working on my masters degree in PR & Advertising. One of my favorite professors for her ability to weave in her own professional experiences in lively class discussions, Lisa continued to stay in touch with me after graduation. She would occasionally send me job postings she thought might be a good fit.

My opportunity came when she informed me another former student of hers was looking to hire someone with a little social media experience. I sent an email to Katie Heinze at Kohnstamm that same day and a couple months later I was in St. Paul for an interview.

Though I was not particularly looking for an internship in my job search I felt this was an opportunity worth pursuing for a couple reasons. The position being full time and paid was definitely nice, but I also want to work at a PR agency and this should be a nice foot in the door. I currently do not have any public relations experience in an agency setting so this will hopefully open up new opportunities.

I knew as soon as I walked through the door at Kohnstamm that it was the right place for me. After being greeted by Gail at the front desk, my eyes were drawn to the large sign welcoming me to the “2010 Boutique Agency of the Year.” I had never really seen my name featured on a sign before so I snapped a picture and tweeted about it later that night.

It’s been nearly two weeks since I accepted the position. It may be surprising I haven’t been tweeting about it and posting the news on Facebook, but wanted to make sure my family knew about my new adventure and to make sure I found a place to live in St. Paul. I have made the appropriate phone calls and have found a nice house with a couple roommates (thank you CraigsList) in Midway just a 10-minute drive from the downtown office.

Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and for thinking of me when coming across opportunities. Please continue to keep me in your thoughts. My four to six-month internship will be over before I know it and I will continue to be on the lookout for my next opportunity.

Weber Shandwick Account Executive: Confidence. Initiative. Follow Through.

Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick spoke at a recent PRSSA/AMA meeting.
Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick spoke at a recent PRSSA/AMA meeting.

One of the main reasons I am in Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) is for the chance to visit PR agencies and to attend meetings with guest speakers. Today, PRSSA and American Marketing Association (AMA) at St. Cloud State University was fortunate enough to host Account Executive John Poferl from Weber Shandwick.

After AMA went through its weekly meeting of officer reports, we watched a short video about life at Weber Shandwick and after a quick introduction, John jumped right into questions and answers. Being a young professional (a 2007 SCSU graduate), John was quick to stress the importance of personal branding of both the online and in-the-flesh sense. He found this important because it seems that resumes now are all so good. Keeping up with trends in social media and showcasing that you have a good grasp of how to use online social networks and how to measure and monitor social media is important. However, John did point out that having a reputable social media presence is important, but if you’re not careful, it can bite you. One example he mentioned was someone who made it through a series of interviews and when it came time to take a writing test, the candidate was tweeting during the allowed time.

Most of the questions from students were geared on resume/interview tips and essentially how to land that first job with a public relations agency or marketing firm. John’s story was a testament to showing initiative and the importance of follow through. John was having a hard time finding an internship as an undergraduate and ended up approaching a business group in White Bear Lake, Minn. He essentially made up his own (non-paid) position as a public relations practitioner to help the group promote its services with a small budget. John later participated in Pro-Am Day at Weber Shandwick where he made a great connection and learned a lot by asking questions. He kept in communication during the following months and when an internship opened up near his graduation date, he was contacted. His internship turned into a full-time job and he’s been at Weber Shandwick ever since.

Some of the other main points gained from this guest speaker are to be confident in the job hunt, always have good questions to ask after an interview, content of a resume is more important than design and being a good writer is maybe the most important quality a public relations agency is looking for. I always love listening to someone share their life journey and always find something valuable from listening. What I got out of John Poferl: Be confident. Show initiative. Always follow through.