As a current Junior in the Honors College, majoring in Public Relations, Sara Huffman had the exciting opportunity to intern in the Communications Department of the VCU School of Education (SOE) this past summer of 2019. Hoping to work in public relations after graduation, Sara’s internship experience, which eventually turned into a paid part-time job starting August 2019, is proving valuable to her future endeavors.
Being related to her course of study, the SOE internship and job have allowed Sara to apply concepts she learned in class to real life, and to bolster her career ambitions. “I mostly handled the School of Education social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn – by scheduling pre-planned posts and then making sure they showed up where they were supposed to go. It may not sound like much, but it was a really great way to get my feet wet.” Additionally, she adds, “I also wrote copy for some promotional materials for the SOE’s new undergraduate program, which is exciting because it’s cool to think that something someone will look over when they’re deciding on their major is something I helped write!”
After transitioning to her part-time job with SOE, Sara took on the responsibility of not only writing website articles for the school, but creating content for its social media accounts. As a result of her experience and professional growth, her comfort and confidence in her abilities have increased as well. “I don’t have to know everything about everything right off the bat and that’s okay… I can ask questions and ask for help when I need it.” Moreover, she’s excited “that what I’m learning in school can be directly applied to a real-life organization, which is very cool (and a huge relief, to be honest).”
Of course, with the many successes and benefits of this experience come challenges. Sara opens up about those very difficulties, stating “I was taking two classes this summer along with doing the internship and balancing those three responsibilities was way more challenging than I anticipated. I haven’t worked and gone to school at the same time in a while, so I was a little overwhelmed and constantly felt like I was forgetting something or not doing my best work – with school or the internship. I had a lot of anxiety.”
Nevertheless, Sara didn’t let her anxiety and tricky work-life balance stop her. Instead, she used it as an opportunity to find additional support and even master the art of planning. “Buying a planner and scheduling everything (literally) out helped a lot,” explains Sara. “I talked to my friends about how I was struggling. They had some good tips on how to get organized which was very helpful, but just knowing I had their support helped me a lot, too.”
All and all, despite the stressful moments, Sara’s experience interning is one that she recommends whole heartedly. “Internships are really an incredible opportunity that I think every student should participate in, if they can. Yes, internships provide experience, but more importantly, they help you build your professional network, which is priceless. If you can start building your professional network while you’re in school, you’ll have a much better chance of having a job in place when you graduate.”
Furthermore, she continues, there are a few things to consider in order to make the most of your internship. “My advice is to treat your internship like it’s important. Show up on time (actually, early is better), stay your entire shift, do your work, and be enthusiastic. Show your supervisor they made the right choice in choosing you as their intern. If you make a great impression, they’ll be more likely to hire you for a paying job or recommend you to someone they know who might be hiring.”
Outside of classes, Sara has enjoyed starting a podcast with her friend and fellow non-traditional VCU student Jenn Klee. Both attending VCU as non-traditional undergraduate students, Sara and Jenn were inspired by their experiences to begin supporting and encouraging other students like them, and to shed light to others on what that experience has been like. Their tips, insight, and wisdom can be found on their podcast Non-Trad Undergrad. Individuals interested in being interviewed for the podcast, whether as a student or as a faculty member, are welcome to contact Sara with inquiries. Please reach out to email@example.com first to be put in contact with her.
On behalf of the Honors College, congratulations to Sara Huffman on participating in such a successful internship opportunity and best of luck in the continuation of her job with the School of Education. We’re proud of you, Sara!