This time last year I was dreaming about life post-college and wondering what I’d be doing those first few months when I was no longer a student – for the first time in 12 years.
I thought about backpacking around Europe with friends, moving home and taking a mental health vacation before jumping into the real world, landing my dream job at a top-tier PR agency, or maybe even gearing up for a fall semester at grad school somewhere. There were lots of potential plans.
I never thought I’d be interning. By the time I graduated, I figured I’d have had enough internships to be ready to take on an entry-level position. Plus, I looked down on being an intern with a college degree. I thought it would be like wearing a neon sign around my neck: Meg Roberts – intern with a B.A., inadequately prepared for life in the real world.
I was very wrong.
My first summer as someone with a Bachelor’s degree just ended, and I spent my time interning with an excellent company in Washington, D.C – VOX Global Mandate. Now that my internship is nearing an end, I’m glad I got over being an intern snob. Interning after graduation was the perfect transition to full-fledged employee, and it was also incredibly rewarding.
Making the jump from my college town (and home state) to a different location was something I wanted to do, but that didn’t make it any less intimidating. Interning in a new city before landing a full-time position gave me a 3-6 month cushion to see if I even liked D.C. It allowed me to monitor my cost of living (which helped in that infamous salary negotiation conversation), and if I could handle the separation from family and friends. If I had hated D.C., it would have been okay for me to head home without feeling like I was quitting a job after only three months.
After graduation, I knew I wanted to leave Florida and try something new. Interning was a great first step in marketing my personal brand in a new town. While social media can help build a long-distance network, nothing beats genuine, face-to-face interaction. As an intern, my company allowed me to participate in numerous events where I was able to meet congressional members, other PR practitioners, journalists, and fellow social media fanatics. I’m not saying that this can’t happen in an entry-level position, but this helped me extend my job search once I was in D.C.
Holding a full-time internship is very different than popping into an office 2-4 days a week for a couple hours at a time. Because I was working every day for 8 hours (or sometimes 10), I got to see a lot of the behind-the-scenes grunt work that goes into public relations (or any industry!). I learned more about company culture and morale – two things any potential employee should consider before accepting a job offer. Since I was there all day, I got pulled into more meetings, worked on more projects, and got to know my colleagues better.
All of these things helped me realize that I chose the right career. But imagine if I found out I hated public relations – I’m the type of person that would feel very guilty about jumping ship, and would probably stay in the industry far longer than I wanted.
Coming into an internship with past experience helped, too. My executive team at VOX let me work on a variety of client projects once they saw that I was capable of pulling from my past internships and integrating them with the my new team’s knowledge. Now that I’ve been interning for a couple of months, I know that my previous work helped me get even more out of this current position.
This summer taught me that being an intern after graduation does not, in any way, reflect poorly on preparedness. So while interning wasn’t on my list of things-to-do-after-college, I’m very happy that it ended up being my plan and I hope others will see the benefits of graduate internships.