BY FRANCES HUTCHFUL
Frances Hutchful is an international student from Ghana currently in the final semester of UofSC’s master’s in Strategic Management Communication program.
My summer internship with Sard Verbinnen and Co. in New York was nowhere close to what I envisioned my summer to be.
I love long-term planning – a trait synonymous with melancholics. I had started searching for summer internships in the spring and like many, I got no responses and unfortunate replies. I was stoked when one company in Columbia called to schedule an interview, only to attend and find out it was a sales job that’d require me to hand out fliers at retail stores – not the job description I read.
Giving up was not an option. I had spent my first year not being able to work outside campus or volunteer (restrictions that come with being an international student). For my final year, I was ready to jump into corporate America and take the world on. I reached out to one of the career services managers and she advised I break down possible sectors I’d like to work in – NGO, healthcare, agency, in-house, what have you. So, I did — but my list was limiting. I got zero responses. I was caught in a dilemma. I had to change my strategy.
I took a deep dive into my strengths and interests and realized I wanted to work in a fast-paced environment that will allow me to contribute to the success of businesses. Agency for the run! That is when it all began. I googled “top agencies in the USA” and there it was – The Forbes 2021 list. This was gold for someone who studied Political Science and English in a foreign country. I was not accustomed to the public relations scene. I started visiting websites, reading case studies, reviews by interns on Glassdoor, their community building initiatives and even how representative their teams were in terms of age, race, and gender.
After this deep dive, I short-listed a few and commenced reaching out via email. LinkedIn and Handshake had not worked for me, so I decided to try something different. With more rejections, I decided to edit my resume, rewrite my cover letter, and review it to suit specific positions, all while praying. Finally, I got a call from Sard Verbinnen. It was a phone call that sounded more like a conversation than an interview. My heart was racing. It was happening.
There were three rounds of interviews and a writing test. The process was expedited and very professional. I was quick to respond to emails and as flexible as possible. In a span of three weeks, I finally got a congratulatory email. A company was excited to have ME join their team.
Starting in June, for 7 weeks, I was living in a dream. The intern program was unifying as it allowed 11 diverse interns from all over the country to have a weekly check-in, be grouped into two teams for a collective project, and work with one another on accounts. It was also intellectually stimulating. I had a chance to work on an individual project on the PPP Loans and leverage capital and human resources from Vice Presidents in Washington to Junior Associates in San Francisco. It was intense, (for an intern) which is what I wanted.
We also had weekly trainings on Teams where we learnt about M&AS, proxy fights, how-to pull coverage, create a new business pull, and even had guests from the Bloomberg Terminal and Business wire teach us how to navigate these platforms. I had an opportunity to serve on the D&I and subscriptions committee. Aside from accounts my mentor put me on, I also got to hop on so many projects that needed urgent help from our intern alias and use programs like Cision and Factiva.
In my last week, I decided to schedule coffee chats. Everyone was receptive and I had a chance to meet the most top-level people in the firm and hear about their journeys. Overall, the intern committee did a superb job. It was the best environment a perfectionist like me could hope for.
Looking back, though virtual, my summer was exhilarating on so many levels. I gained skills, made friends, and connected with lifelong mentors. I hope this encourages you not to settle. Keep your eyes on the prize because the J-school has offered you all you need for success!