Talking Internships: A Q&A with PRSSA National President Andrew Cook

Have you ever wanted to know the perfect recipe for landing a great internship or why having multiple college internships is so important? I recently had the chance to sit down with PRSSA National President Andrew Cook and talk about how he obtained his different internships, as well as how they have helped him become a better candidate for jobs post-graduation.

Cook has had a variety of experiences and has interned with the Barjon Group, BYU Athletic Media Relations, BYU’s Laycock Center, BYU’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, Pfeef Inc., Solutions Journalism and, most recently, the United Nations Foundation. He has also maintained various positions within the PRSSA organization.

Q: Why are college internships important?

A: College internships are important because they allow you to understand what industry you would like to work in. You also learn from mentors and develop important skills. Internships allow you to apply what you learn in the classroom and, in turn, also make you a better student because you are able to utilize real world experience to enhance discussions with your class and professors.

Q: Why are multiple internships valuable?

A: I think it’s important that students seek out multiple internships so that they are prepared to enter the workforce and have a good understanding of the direction they want to go at the start of their career. You can study something in the classroom but until you actually go out and start doing it, it’s hard to have a vision for how you’ll build a career from it. By doing a variety of internships, students expose themselves to various industries and potential jobs. Every agency or organization you work for can offer you something unique. Each of your supervisors or mentors is also going to bring experience that gives you a better idea of what you want to do in your career.

Q: What do you think helped you land your internships?

A: Almost all of my internships came through my peer network that I developed through PRSSA. By talking to other students and hearing about the experiences that helped them grow and progress, I was able to set goals and target internships that I felt could help me grow. Being a member of PRSSA gave me the opportunity to develop skills and project experience that I could immediately talk about during interviews.

Networking is so important. Informal interviews are great ways to learn from the students that are already in the internships you want. Talking to them is a good first step. If you know them already, great. If you don’t, don’t be afraid to reach out to them. After you have created a relationship, you can ask for an introduction to the person who runs the internship program. This puts you in a good position.

Q: What have your internships taught you? How have they benefited your PR career this far?

A: Through my various internships I have learned how to:

  • Perfect my press release writing and AP style skills
  • Develop a keen approach to addressing crisis situations
  • Conduct sports media relations and events
  • Communicate the value of public relations to business executives
  • Create strong communications strategies within startups
  • Develop a global mindset when thinking of business
  • Pitch local and national media
  • Fundraise
  • Develop and execute social media campaigns
  • Tell engaging stories
  • Network

I’ve learned how to “get coffee with someone” and how to develop a mentor-mentee relationship. I have also learned how to use the latest and greatest social media tools, how to keep calm when it seems like the world if falling apart, how to live in a big city without a large income and how to hustle and make things happen.

Test out what Andrew has taught you. What can you learn from him? I challenge you to write down a list of what you can do to land the internship of your dreams.

Alexa Anderson is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations and will graduate in April 2018 from BYU. She currently works as a sports information director in the BYU Athletic Media Relations department, and handles all media availability and coverage for the school’s men’s and women’s golf teams. Alexa studies, lives and breathes PR. She is also that one friend who can’t stop talking about how Taylor Swift is a PR guru.

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