PR internship: Why you should start from your first year of uni

During the first year of my Bachelor of Communications (Journalism) degree, I set myself a challenge: land a PR internship.  

Taking on an internship in your very first year might seem like a daunting idea when you’re still finding your feet at university. But starting while you’re fresh at uni might just set you up for success in the long run.  

I wanted to broaden my knowledge and experience in the wider communications industry rather than restricting myself to my study focus of journalism. I thought an internship would also give me guidance as to which electives I should choose moving through my degree, and eventually which career I want to pursue. 

However, the benefits of interning at Sefiani Communications Group are so much more than I first anticipated. Here’s what I’ve found during my internship so far – and what you might experience if you take the plunge and start interning early.  

You’ll develop your technical skills 

At first, I was intimidated by the thought of entering the industry with less than a year of study under my belt. But as the saying goes: the more you learn, the more you realise there is to learn. 

Every day at Sefiani brings a new learning experience. I had never heard of platforms and tools like Telum and Meltwater. I didn’t know how to compile evaluation reports and media lists. These are core skills that are a core part of a graduate’s responsibilities, but they are not taught in your university course. If you can build these skills as an intern, you will get a real competitive edge on your resume.  

You’ll create industry connections and networking opportunities 

Corporate networking during my internship will provide me with support and networks I need when I apply for a graduate position. Sefiani’s has a large, experienced team and they give interns to opportunity to work alongside them across the full breadth of industry topics, including sustainability, creative strategy, and content 

My teammates are also becoming my mentors and role-models. I receive constant feedback which has elevated not only the standard of my communications work, but my university studies. This mentorship comes from multiple levels within the business, whether that be account executives, senior account directors, and even the business directors. 

Constant group learning sessions and coffee catchups with team members allow me to bounce around ideas and brainstorm with the team. These problem-solving strategies are only learnt through practice and are transferable to future careers. 

Interning has also introduced me to the importance of professional networking on social media. Out with Insta, in with LinkedIn. A well-developed LinkedIn page creates a positive personal brand in the industry and can help to secure a full time-position when the time comes. 

You’ll have a better understanding of workplace culture 

‘Shellshock’ is the most accurate term I can use to describe my introduction to the workplace.  

Previously, my day-to-day didn’t have much structure. I had afternoon university classes and worked casual shifts. When I started regular 9am-5pm hours, I had to develop small habits to help me manage my workload and juggle the transition, including walking during my lunch break and breaking my day down into manageable chunks. Mastering the ‘work-life’ balance is essential. The earlier it is done, the smoother your transition to the graduate corporate lifestyle will feel.   

When starting my PR internship position, I was surprised that I struggled with professional protocol, despite etiquette coming so naturally to me outside the office. You might find yourself thinking: ‘Was that an appropriate time to ask a question?’, ‘Is it ok to make a joke?’, ‘Did I sign off that email correctly?’ more than once.  

Appropriate banter, managing up and appropriate office attire are learnt through practice and observation – and if you can learn this from your very first year of uni, you’ll be more reassured and confident when it’s time to graduate and land your first role.  

I also have learnt the importance of contributing to company culture. As an agency, Sefiani’s REAL values of Respect, Energise, Aspire and Learn, are embodied by every team member. Everyone is responsible for contributing positivity – and the supportive team and workplace environment allows me to grow, be curious and learn from my mistakes.   

You’ll become a well-rounded student and employee 

My internship has also provided motivation for my university assignments – especially when they are seemingly not relevant to the workforce.  

Let me set the scene for you: a slightly confused student trying to comprehend how the media could possibly be the fourth estate of government. Connecting this theory to Sefiani’s privacy campaign, which resulted in the criminalisation of intimate image abuse, allowed me to understand the practical skills required to shape public opinion to create impactful change. 

Embargo… Backgrounder… Op-ed. These terms are constantly thrown around the agency and can seem like gibberish to a newcomer. Constant exposure has allowed me to understand PR jargon –and even begin to use it myself!  The nature of my internship, in which I am allocated tasks across a variety of different accounts, has allowed me to develop soft skills including adaptivity and time management. Exposure to different clients also challenged my interests. I thought I would be a travel geek, but I have surprisingly developed a preoccupation with defence. 

Although it may seem daunting, I highly recommend applying for an internship in your first year of university. Using your theoretical knowledge in a practical workplace is just the tip of the iceberg. Networking with industry professionals, understanding corporate etiquette and developing soft skills hide beneath the surface. From one student to another, apply now. You won’t regret it.  

Sefiani intern sitting on a couch with another employee