Let’s talk about summer. Up until mid-may, I had committed myself to an unpaid Public Relations internship with the Traverse City Film Festival. One of the many festivals in my beloved hometown, this seemed like a viable option for me. It took me until 2 weeks before it started to realize that I was only taking the easy way out. This was the first internship I applied for, and I got it, so I naturally accepted. It never occurred to me that this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing, so why would I do it, and for free?

At the dismay of my hometown friends, I decided to eventually decline this internship in hopes I would find something more suited to my interests. And I did. Eventually, I was fortunate enough to find a paid marketing internship with a local company. This not only allowed me to bring home a pay check, which no matter what anyone tells you, does make the world go round, but it gave me the chance to stay in Grand Rapids. My decision also gave me the opportunity to enroll in some Spring semester classes. By some, I mean 5, and by opportunity I mean do not ever subject yourself to this type of accelerate torture ever. Consequently, through all of this, I grew.

That’s what staying in Grand Rapids and taking this second internship did for me – it grew me. In order to further elaborate, its necessary for me to provide background on the company that took mercy on a college student and decided to pay them real dollars (gasp) for real work (double gasp).

Stiles Machinery, is a long time resident of this community, and without getting too technical, provides all the machines GR furniture companies, like Steelcase and Herman Miller need to make all those sexy tables and chairs.  

At first glance, a machinery company may not seem all that glamorous or alluring to budding PR students. I will admit that researching trending topics in the woodworking industry did not always blow my skirt up, but it was one of the most beneficial things I’ve ever done.

PR is all about knowing your client. Getting to know the manufacturing industry and its endless list of trends and new technologies was one of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered, but it taught me that to be good at what we do, you must immerse yourself and begin to ‘talk like your client’. Beyond that, you have to develop a fundamental understanding of audiences you may have no prior experience with. Despite what people may think, I didn’t know all that much about what furniture manufacturing CEO’s get excited about.

In addition to learning to talk the talk, I held a mixed bag of other tasks at Stiles. I was responsible for all of the company’s social media platforms, designing and updating the website, managing all e-mail marketing tasks, assisting in coordinating corporate events, contributing copy to advertisements and additional communication pieces, amongst others.

It was truly rewarding to be given the opportunity to implement so many of the strategies and tactics we learn about as PR students. I could talk extensively about what I did over my summer vacation, but the true moral of this story is to not be afraid of unfamiliar industries. Manufacturing by nature is a male dominated industry, while PR is a female-centric field. This provides a ripe platform for proving yourself and challenging the status-quo. While my ‘what I did over summer vacation’ story is just one account, there are countless other opportunities available for anyone looking for them. Don’t take an internship that wants you to be you, take one that will help improve you.

On a less professional, more personal note, I got a dog this summer and named her Pilsner.