Career Moves: Staff & faculty advice lead to PR internship
Strategic communications major Edith Veremu '13 sought guidance from the Student Professional Development Center when applying for internships.
Edith Veremu '13 knew she wanted a career in strategic communications and that internships would be a critical component to building an attractive resume for once she graduated. What she didn't anticipate was the level of competition for those spots, with few of the firms she contacted even acknowledging her query letters.
It certainly didn't deter her. The native of Harare, Zimbabwe, quickly turned to staff members in the Student Professional Development Center and faculty in the School of Communications for advice, and soon after she landed a summer 2012 internship with a high-profile business communications firm.
Veremu is the latest person to be featured this year in a series of E-net profiles on the recent experiences of students and alumni who use the Student Professional Development Center to not only find job and internship openings, but to prepare for interviews and improve applications with guidance from Career Services staff.
She answered questions recently from the Office of University Communications.
Tell me about the company and your role as an intern.
Gibbs & Soell is a business communications agency headquartered in New York, with offices in Raleigh, Chicago and a joint venture in Switzerland. The agency focuses on business-to-business marketing relations, event management, and employee engagement and places a large emphasis on corporate responsibility and sustainability efforts. Gibbs & Soell has expertise in the agriculture, chemical, technology and home furnishing industries.
As an intern, my writing skills were put to the test since I mostly wrote articles for the internal employee newsletter and blog posts on behalf of clients. I also helped in new business development by coming up with ideas to pitch, and I also assisted in event management for both the agency’s employee engagement program and some of the agency’s biggest clients’ showcase events.
How did your interest in the internship develop?
When I came to Elon, I knew I wanted to do something in communications and writing and the fall of my sophomore year, I narrowed it down to public relations/marketing. I initially wanted to do advertising but I realized how quickly advertising was changing and becoming more business communications, instead of graphics and commercials. Through my strategic communications major and professional sales minor, I have been able to apply my passion for advertising, public relations and marketing in different ways and also merge them into a holistic approach.
I was drawn to the internship position at Gibbs & Soell because it offered me the opportunity to work and network with professionals in the industry as well as clarify my career goals. As soon I walked into the office for my interview, I knew I really wanted to be a part of the organization.
What did you learn from the experience?
I was truly honored to get this internship because I had sent out more than 150 internship applications throughout two years and hadn’t received responses from most organizations. A main lesson I learned through this internship is to never give up. There were times through my search that I was sure I would never get an internship but when my supervisor at Gibbs & Soell took a chance on me by offering me my first experience, it was a dream come true.
During my time at Gibbs & Soell, I learned the value of teamwork and what an important skill writing is. As an intern, I was treated like a full-time employee and was trusted to do work on behalf of clients, or work that assisted the senior staff members. I had previous experiencing with writing, ranging from my communications classes to my experience at The Pendulum, and those experiences came in handy when I was tasked to write professionally during my internship.
The internship was an amazing learning experience and I couldn’t have wished for a better internship experience, especially for a first internship.
Who did you work with in Career Services to prepare for your internship, and what help did you receive?
I had been applying for internships since sophomore year and I have since worked with Ross Wade from Career Services. Throughout my time at Elon, he has been extremely helpful and has given me valuable advice. Ross got me in contact with his contacts at various public relations/marketing organizations both in the Triad and around the country, contacts which I emailed and called throughout my internship searches.
Through Ross’s guidance, I have revised my resumé and cover letter countless times to highlight my accomplishments and have received guidance on answering difficult interview question. Without his help, I wouldn’t have known how to present myself as a qualified candidate at Gibbs & Soell and other organizations during my search.
How do you plan on using Career Services and the Student Professional Development Center in the future?
I’ve recently enrolled in the College 2 Career program and I hope to use the resources of that program to secure a job after graduation. I also hope to schedule more mock interviews and informational interviews through Career Services.
What recommendations would you share with other students about the Student Professional Development Center?
I would strongly recommend that students meet with their internship and career coordinators in their respective schools as soon and as often as necessary. I began looking for potential internships the summer of my freshman year. It’s never too late to start looking for opportunities because you never know where your hard work and patience may lead you.
Which faculty members did you work with to prepare for your internship and what help did you you receive from them?
My advisor, Tom Nelson, and former instructor Colin Donohue played an important role in helping me obtain the internship. I had almost forgotten that I needed two letters of recommendation for the interview and at the very last minute on the Friday afternoon before my Monday morning interview in Raleigh, I called both Tom and Colin and asked them if they would be comfortable writing me a letter of recommendation. They were tremendously helpful and were able to get me something in writing within the hour.
After I received other internships offers, I met with my advisor and asked for his advice. He advised me to think about how the different opportunities would benefit me in different ways and he also said “don’t be seduced by New York,” since I had been offered an internship in New York and it had come down to that opportunity versus the Gibbs & Soell position. His advice made me realize that I didn’t have to go to a larger city to seek out opportunities, especially if I was being offered a wonderful one right here in North Carolina. Without Tom’s advice, I may not have accepted the Gibbs & Soell internship.