From College to Internship: The stuff they don’t teach you in college


collegeLeaving the University of Oregon, and starting my first internship in the PR field is a rush. The knowledge and various skills that I learned over the past four years to prepare me for this moment have flown out the window and down the block.

This past weekend a good friend of mind asked me something that really stuck with me, “How much of the knowledge you learned in school, do you find yourself using in your internship?”

It took a while for me to think about it, and surprised me how little I think I’ll use my college teachings at my internship. Thinking back on the individual tactics that I learned throughout the last two years, all that comes to mind is press releases.

I probably spent 75 percent of my time polishing my press release writing skills, which I have yet to use, and frankly I don’t think I will anytime soon. I will use my writing skills, but most likely not for writing press releases.

This is a problem for businesses looking to hire the new graduates searching for their first job or internship. We continue to be taught old-school techniques that are somewhat, but not fully applicable to the actual work we will be doing. When they get that first position, graduates are having to be brought up to speed on how the real world works, which can cause frustration for both the grads and employers who want graduates to be ready to enter the career field after four years of college.

Don’t be afraid if you are a business owner looking to hire a newly college grad. We are ready to learn and can bring new ideas and skills to the table. Attending the U of O was an amazing experience that I will take with me forever, but I know I have a lot more to learn.

-Austin Foster

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12 Responses to From College to Internship: The stuff they don’t teach you in college

  1. lockerobster says:

    Very relevant topic, Austin. I know a few of us are working on media lists and clippings, which we did not cover in school. We also haven’t gotten the chance to use a lot of the skills we learned in school and are eager too (Gen Y problems, right?). I would like to think that it is our demonstrated traditional writting skills that helped us get our internships, though each of our employers are very different and probably value different skills. It is interesting hearing how your experience is going. One thing is for sure, we can never stop learning!

  2. megmarieshea says:

    This is why professional experience can be even more important than academic. I believe that the tools and resources a classroom setting offers sets the foundation for us as young professionals. That foundation is expanded and developed as we all dive into the culture and structure of the places we are interning at. We should all be grateful for the professional experience we are gaining this term!

  3. Totally agree. I feel I have learned a lot of lessons and my professionalism with real-world experience vs traditional curriculum. I feel the skills I have acquired have been due to repetition and what professionals and mentors have taught me through internships and job experience. While we pay a lot for our education, and ultimately it taught us a lot of information, time management and valuable lessons, the real test is stepping out into the real world. Here, we use applicable skills, build upon skills and learn valuable skills in the professional workforce.

  4. Nick Smith says:

    I agree that some of the teachings at school can be behind the times in comparison to what we are doing, but I think this might be more of an indication of your internship and not necessarily the PR field in general. In my internship I write a lot of press releases and do a lot of the “traditional” PR tasks. However, you are absolutely right we can never stop learning.

  5. Summer Luu says:

    Austin, I am definitely on the same boat with you with realizing that most business owners are still in their concrete and structured old school ways of doing things. I don’t think that employers today understand how great college graduates and Gen Y are good are multitasking and have a different perspective on social media and communicating. However, our internships right now don’t mean that we are going to be doing these things for the rest of your life! We have the choice to change our professions anytime, so don’t feel like you are stuck!

  6. littlebrittanyb says:

    Austin- It’s definitely true that school can’t teach you everything, but it can provide some valuable tools. It is up to us to use those tools in the workforce, while also gaining new skills. This internship is much like school, it provides you with new lessons and different experiences. Some things might seem new and you might feel unprepared, but just take that as an opportunity to learn and grow. Like Summer said, this internship is not the rest of your life. Take what lessons you can from it and use them to grow into what you want to become.

  7. andrewsch90 says:

    Great post, Austin! As much as a university may try, it is difficult to tailor an academic program towards a particular profession. Every office has its own way of doing things, and that’s just part of entering a new work environment. I think the self-discipline and independence we receive in college will aid us the most in our future endeavors.

  8. Thanks guys. I feel like I was being negative but I really do appreciate the skills I learned in college. I just don’t find myself using them much.

  9. jackiemc90 says:

    Austin I totally agree with you, I think no matter what you study in school you feel that way. Great post!

  10. pdxsx says:

    One of the great ironies of college, not much of what you learn will be applied directly or daily, but the gift of “learning HOW to learn” might be the most important lesson you will have.

    Well done.
    ~J

  11. I always think about this. When I look back to school, I see more of my education in the publications I worked for over classroom stuff. But, you never know when a scenario is going to come up and you’re going to know what to do because of that one day in (insert class you didn’t think would every apply to anything)—that’s what I tell myself, at least.
    Great, honest post, Austin.

    -Branden Andersen

  12. I agree with you in some regards, but I think that it depends on what company you are working for. A lot of the things we learn in school can’t help but be dated because the fact of the matter is that schools are not in the work force. However, Nick Smith was saying a few days ago that when working at his company, writing good-old-fashioned briefs is the bread and butter of his work day.

    If anything, it’s good to know the basics, and great to get to learn new things.

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