My first internship was exactly what I expected it to be. I spent seven months driving 2 ½ hours to West Hollywood multiple times a week and did nothing but make copies, waste gas running errands for the account managers and grabbed coffee and lunch for the office staff. There were many days in which I sat at the computer and did absolutely nothing…all for no pay. Although grateful for the opportunity, I knew after some time I wanted to intern at a company where my work and contributions were valued.
On the quest for new opportunities, I joined my local PRSSA chapter and attended every meeting. Luckily, they distributed internship opportunities and I soon applied to DRS and Associates. Within a week, I interviewed with President David Schlocker and became the newest member of his team. At this point, I knew my goals: I wanted any and every opportunity to grow as a public relations professional.
One of the biggest struggles I faced when initially applying for internships was whether I wanted to work for a large, well developed company or a boutique agency; a small, specialized group with a more open environment. While there might seemingly be more of a prestige factor associated with renowned agencies such as Edelman, Ruder Finn and APCO Worldwide, none offer the intimacy and opportunities that DRS and Associates does. I know a good amount of people who intern(ed) at well known firms throughout Los Angeles and they often complained of the repetitive tasks and lack of learning opportunities. The vertical structure of these organizations limits what responsibilities are given to interns. Additionally, so many people apply for intern positions that they eventually hire between 10 and 20 individuals, completely denying any opportunity for pay. While these volunteers can list they’ve worked at a highly regarded firm, often times it’s at the expense of under-developed skills.
What made DRS and Associates perfect for me were the opportunities I was given to grow as an individual and as a professional. When starting with the company, I set goals for myself: I wanted to completely immerse myself in the profession and learn as much as I could during my stay. Initially I did administrative work, doing everything from looking through magazines and Google Alerts for coverage to updating the Cost Analysis, a document tracking our clients coverage and advertising equivalency. It was great to learn the basics of PR and how editorial or online features provide a successful basis for DRS to build on. Along the way, I wrote press releases, HTML’s, product copy and pitched to editors. All of this strengthened my writing abilities and knowledge of the industry. These are opportunities that you can ONLY find at a small firm. It is no surprise that DRS and Associates is a driving force within the kitchen and bath industry, but it was the small environment that allowed me to thrive. While I was still only an intern, I felt part of a team. My coworkers valued me for my work and this was a feeling that I had longed for since I started. Staying with the company was based more on my opportunities, but also a feeling of working with a strong and dynamic team.
Within my 9 month stay, there has never been a day in which I wasn’t thankful for this opportunity. I came in with minimal experience and I am leaving feeling professionally advanced for my age. I was never subjected to any feelings of exclusion and left feeling accomplished every day. The fact that I was able to do anything I wanted and contribute to everyone’s work is an incredible feeling. The only advice I can offer to those looking for internships is A) apply to DRS and B) aim to work at boutique agencies for initial experience. If I had interned at globally recognized organizations, I would still be making copies and grabbing coffee for everyone. I will always be thankful for the experience and have no doubt that success is in my future as a result of my stay here. If I could, I would do it all over again and maybe in the future I will be with DRS again. They say success is a mixture of hard work and dumb luck, but most importantly, it is what you make of your experiences.