It’s a chance to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom, pick up tips from the professionals, and put tentative career paths to the test. Even to learn first hand what a five-day workweek feels like.
It’s a summer internship—and for two SOC students who spent this summer in New York, it was an invaluable opportunity.
Claire Shriver is starting her junior year. Stacey Levine will be a senior. They’re both writers, and they’re both majoring in public communication, with a minor in marketing. So a stint at a leading women’s magazine (for Claire) and at a prominent public-relations firm specializing in women’s consumer products (for Stacey) proved to be a great fit for each of them.
Claire signed on with the features department at Marie Claire magazine, one of many publications based in the Hearst Building, a skyscraper overlooking Columbus Circle on Manhattan’s West Side. (“Nothing beats the Central Park view!” she reports.) She was one of five interns in that department, with duties including plenty of research for the magazine’s editors and assistant editors.
“There are so many women we’re writing about—someone has to look up everything they do.”
With feature sections focused on women at work, at play and in relationships, and on international women’s news, those research assignments could sometimes be very specific. (“We need five more women under 30 in the tech sector…!”), Add to the “to do” list reading and assessing book synopses for possible articles and transcribing interviews.
She even got to write a piece—"10 Alpha-Women Supplies for the Office"—for the magazine’s website.
But probably the most exciting work was: the pitch. At the Tuesday Trend meetings, Claire and the other interns were encouraged to pitch ideas for stories that might appeal to the magazine’s late-20s-to-early-30s readership.
“That was something I hadn’t really experienced before,” she says.
While interns don’t get bylines, if a story idea triggers an editor’s interest, the intern who pitched it is often asked to be part of the team that works on it. One of Claire’s pitches—about women’s roles in movies and the death of the romantic comedy—has become a feature piece slated for the November issue.
Along the way, Claire learned about recognizing a magazine’s distinctive “voice” and demographic profile, and about writing for that specific readership. She also discovered how many people are involved in turning out just one article. “Even if it’s a sidebar—so much work goes into it, even if it’s just 250 words,” she says.
For Claire Shriver, the possibilities keep expanding.
“The more you experience, the more you’re open to more things to do.”
PR Internship Influences Career Path
Meanwhile, in another part of town, Stacey Levine spent the summer before her senior year working for Marina Maher Communications (MMC), a PR firm located on Manhattan’s East Side. As one of seven interns, she worked with MMC’s Creative Catalyst Group, on its Traditional Media and Social Media teams. The Creative Catalyst Group worked, in turn, with the firm’s Health & Well-Being and Consumer practices. Her clients included such well-known brands as CoverGirl, Herbal Essences, Gillette Venus and Arnold Bread, and her duties included not just building media lists and monitoring media coverage, but also making pitches to bloggers and other “influencers,” trying to get stories placed.
“It was really exciting!”
Stacey Levine pictured third from right. Image courtesy of Marina Maher Communications LLC
A particular highlight for Stacey, all seven interns working with MMC staff on the next stage of an anti-bullying campaign targeted at girls, for Secret deodorant. The campaign’s name? “Mean Stinks.”
“We did research and brainstorming and designed strategy and tactics,” Stacey recalls. They got to present their ideas to people working at Secret and then to all of MMC. “The client loved it,” she says.
“It was definitely the most real-world experience” she’d ever had in the field. “We got to develop a campaign and go through every one of the steps.”
In the meantime, she found her writing skills strengthened, whether she was producing internal memos or pitching stories to outsiders. And for someone whose favorite part of SOC's Public Communication program has been the practical nature of its classroom sessions—“They’re so dedicated to teaching what’s applicable,” she says—it was a terrific learning experience.
There were other lessons as well.
She found that consumer goods, rather than fashion, is where her real passion lies.
She found that a mid-size agency like MMC was a “better fit” than an in-house department or a boutique shop.
She saw what it’s like to hold down a full-time job. “Five days—come in early, stay late…I loved every minute of it,” she says.
“It’s very important to find a job where you enjoy the company culture. That was a huge eye-opener for me.”
She’s hoping she’s opened some eyes, too. MMC puts its intern candidates through an extensive vetting process before bringing them on board for the summer, and many of the firm’s full-time hires are drawn from those intern ranks. In fact, of this year’s seven interns, four had just graduated from college—and were offered jobs at MMC.
Would Stacey Levine be pleased with a similar outcome in a year or so? Absolutely.
“When I left, I told them, ‘Take me back next summer!’”