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Getting real-world experience

by Patricia Lia Senephias

 

While college classes focus on theory, internships provide students with the real-world experience they need to determine if they like their chosen career and essential to their being able to get a job in it after graduation. No wonder HPU’s College of Communication requires them of all students. Upper-level division communication classes might be very hands on, but they can never replace actual work experience provided by an internship in the field.

 

COM 3950, Communication Practicum, requires students to intern for 200 hours in their field, and the college keeps an up-to-date list of business willing to sponsor interns and provide real work experience. (Students also meet as a class on a weekly basis to discuss the job search process in general as well as problems specific to communication professions.)

The first step students take when looking for an internship is deciding what area of communication they wish to intern in. As an advertising major, my idea of what my internship should be was very clear. I wished to learn as much as possible from the creative department of a local advertising agency.

Honolulu has many prominent and large advertising agencies. It never occurred to me that those agencies would have neither time nor interest in allowing hands-on creative experience. Between the high-speed interviewer who made it clear that graphic designers would never be willing to share their knowledge with me, and the wired creatives who barely looked at me when they bumped into me because I was in their way, I started changing my mind. The advertising industry is fast, challenging, and competitive. Interns might not get the best deal interning in those agencies. I needed to change my focus and expand my internship possibilities.

My next interview was inspiring. The boss and co-workers- to-be were modest, incredibly enthusiastic, and willing to pass on their experience. After 15 minutes, I knew I wanted to intern at Pacificstock, a stock photography agency. An hour later, I was the new marketing/advertising intern.

Pacificstock specializes in images from the Pacific, Asia, and the Hawaiian Islands. For me, this meant working at the intersection where professional photographers and creative directors meet. There is no better position for someone aspiring to become an artistic director in the visual industry.

My first days at the agency were as challenging as first days at school, a new job, or any novel environment. I had to understand what was expected from me, familiarize myself with new softwares and machines, and adapt to the corporate culture. My boss, Pacificstock’s President Barbara Brundage, and its marketing manager Martin Platenkamp, developed a number of varied projects to maximize my exposure to all aspects of the agency.

I started with a telemarketing project to introduce a new Web site to existing clients. Brundage told me early on, “You are the face of the company!” implying that I had a great responsibility. I called about 2,000 clients. A number of them even called back to purchase images.

Another project was looking for infringements. Working with copyrighted material involves legal issues that are delicate to resolve. Every week, the agency finds new infringements. My task was to collect travel and hostelry brochures that might illegally contain some of our images. HPU’s advertising degree program does not require a media law class, so this experience made me more aware of the copyright legislation in the United States.

Finally, the last and most exciting project for me was the creation of advertisements. Each category of image is directly advertised to the client via e-mail. Pacificstock’s artistic director Krissy Iki helped to create some of these presentations. This, as everything I did at Pacificstock, was truly a productive and enriching experience.

Internships are an essential part of the education process. Mine helped me better understand the world in which I will be working after graduation, and it better prepared me to seek, find, and acquire the kind of career position I want.

 

 

 

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