update from the reader who was insulted by a suggestion to intern

Remember the reader who was insulted that after rejecting her for a job, an employer suggested she apply for their internship program?  She’d been trying for a few years to enter a very competitive industry (professional sports) and was frustrated that she was still being pointed toward internships. Here’s her update:

My story has somewhat of a mixed ending to it.

I ended up taking your advice, as well as that of some of the commenters, and told the hiring manager for the job I got rejected from that I wanted my resume submitted to the internship coordinator as a possibility. I never heard from him after that, and I ended up sending a different version of my resume to an internship that was outside of the area I had applied for a job in. Unfortunately, the team emailed me a couple of weeks ago and rejected me from the internship. I got a generic answer (moving forward with other candidates), so I’m assuming I didn’t have the experience they sought.

Recently, I had an interview with a different sports team and ended up making it to the final round of interviews. The position would have required me making a significant move out of town, which I was willing to do, but the pay was so low there was no way I was going to be able to afford it and I was going to have to keep my current job on a near full-time basis. The sports industry requires a lot of long hours and it can be hard enough to have one job, let alone two. It wasn’t something I was willing to do even if I had been hired. I placed in the top five, though, and the hiring manager said it was the best group of resumes he had seen since he had worked for the team. Although I was disappointed, I was proud of myself for making it so far in the process.

Since then, I have been evaluating my personal and professional needs and desires. The more low-paying jobs I see in sports, the less I want to keep working for little to no pay. Some of the positions only pay a few hundred dollars a month, which is not enough for me because of the expenses I have to cover. Also, I am slowly burning out on working a full-time job and writing for free on the side in hopes that I get some exposure and my big break.

With that said, I have not decided my next path, but I feel it’s time to change gears. My plan right now is either to stick with my original field (communications/writing) and change focus into a non-sports role, or switch careers altogether, as communications isn’t exactly in demand. If I change careers, I’m looking into human resources, as I feel some of the skills I gained from writing and editing would translate well to that field. I consider myself a by-the-book person and a strong planner as well. I’m also looking into ways to upgrade my education.

Thank you again for your help, and I’m hoping to also get your e-book as I look forward to the next chapter!

{ 36 comments… read them below }

  1. Janet*

    Just a thought – but have you considered trying to get in at a larger PR agency? You would probably have to take entry-level but I know that the huge agency based in my city has a sports department. I would imagine that if you got in at an agency – even as a paid intern – you could be closer to being able to transition into sports PR if it meant merely moving departments. Granted, agencies aren’t really easy to get into either but it’s worth a look.

  2. Amber*

    Are you into computer gaming at all? If so you should look into a copy editor or marketing associate positions. Gaming is an industry that is growing and pays well.

    1. Louis*

      Gaming doesn’t pay well.

      My wife has been in the gaming industry for the last 10 years. The competition is ultra high and you have a constant flow of young and talented people that are ready to work for pennies simply because it’s gaming.

      At one point, my wife was managing a 26 person support team for online gaming. The team was offering support 24/7 with people working from home on three continent. She was making 11$/hour. There was the plus side that she could work from home but still it’s not high paying.

  3. Jesicka309*

    I second marketing and pr. I’m doing a second degree in marketing while working, as my communications degree didn’t give me the business tools I need for those fields. If you’re studying towards your ideal field and working an entry level marketing position, you’re in a better position to move up quickly when you graduate.

  4. The OP*

    Thanks for the comments on this, folks!

    Janet: I have applied at PR agencies before, specifically in NYC, as one of my family members lives there. However, I haven’t really had a response. I supposed my lack of PR experience/education is a reason. My concentration in my major was in print journalism (and yes, I know it was a big mistake), and I only took one PR class (big mistake #2).

    Amber: Not into computer gaming, but I appreciate the suggestion.

    Jesicka: I’m in the same predicament. My school did not have a strong communications program, and looking back, I would’ve picked a different undergrad. I’m considering getting a second degree in a more PR/marketing based program, but I’m intimidated about going back to school even though I know I should upgrade my education. Any tips on how to get past that? I didn’t really prepare for grad school in undergrad, as it was never in my plans, so I’m a little nervous to go for a few reasons.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d be very, very wary about going back to school. Getting a job in communications/marketing/PR isn’t about having a degree in the field; it’s about experience, connections, writing, talent, and luck. You’re not having trouble because of your lack of the right degree; you’re having trouble because the job market is flooded with extremely qualified applicants in those fields. Another degree won’t change that (but will cost you a lot of time and money, and potentially make it even harder to get a job once you’re done).

      1. jesicka309*

        You’re right Alison about the connections/experience. That’s why you need to try and get an entry level role (even admin in marketing) at the same time as studying.
        I’m in a different country (Australia), and we have a program called Open Universities. You can study pretty much any course from any university in Australia via correspondence. It’s great for people our in rural areas, or people who are looking to change career tracks without quitting full time work.
        I started studying initially because my brain was actually dying in my current job, and I found that the stuff I was studying was what I wanted to do as a career. My job search is focused down that track now, and while I’m not pursuing a new job ferociously right now, I’ve already tucked year 1 of 3 in a new degree under my belt.
        I wouldn’t recommend quitting work to go to grad school, but if you can do a short course or something in a field you’re thinking to move into, it could help, if anything because you will have a better idea of what’s coming.
        Of course, you need to make sure your course is appropriate. Mine is very project based, which is great as that’s what you’d deal with in the real world.
        In interviews people have asked why I went back to study, and I just said I loved learning. Who are they to judge what I do in my spare time. :)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It might be different in Australia, of course, but here I wouldn’t go for a second degree even if you’re working at the same time — at least not if you’re doing the program because you think the degree will help you get a job. Degrees really don’t get you a job in in that field — you’ve got to find other ways in, unfortunately.

          1. jesicka309*

            Yeah, I know that. I had a series of terrible interviews last year where the interviewers actually looked at my CV and said “So, you didn’t actually do any marketing at university?” The withering look she gave me made me want to curl up and die.
            I know I have to find other ways in, but I like studying anyway, and I’m learning a lot about the technical stuff. A year ago I couldn’t have begun to say why I wanted to move into marketing, and now I can do that at least. :)

    2. Zed*

      “I have applied at PR agencies before, specifically in NYC, as one of my family members lives there. However, I haven’t really had a response. I supposed my lack of PR experience/education is a reason.”

      My first thought when reading this: why NYC? If you are really looking to get into a certain industry, sometimes the bigger markets are not ideal for entry level candidates. You might be better off looking for positions in small town NY, getting experience, and then moving into the bigger and more competitive markets.

      I have similar feelings about getting work with a sports team. If it is your dream, look into applying for jobs with teams in your town, in the next town over, and in the town 300 miles away. Sometimes it isn’t feasible to uproot your life for a new job, but… sometimes it is, especially if that new job means breaking into a new industry.

      1. AP*

        Also, is she letting on that she’s currently not based in NYC or is she using the relative’s address? I work in a related industry here in New York (production company, we do a lot of agency work) and we are really reluctant to hire people from outside the tri-state area. Your resume and cover letter would have to be word-for-word perfect to even get moved to the next round.

        This is because there are plenty of great local candidates, and as we’re always seeing on AAM, local candidates are just easier to work with. But also, New York and other large cities are very expensive, hard to adjust to, and not for everyone. So if I’m thinking of asking somewhere to move here, I had BETTER be sure that they are perfect in every way and will fit in and be happy here, because I’ve seen it go really badly otherwise.

        1. AP*

          Also, big ups to the journalism degree holders! I don’t work in hard news or print at all but I think the training has come in really handy – in addition to writing and being good on deadline, I learned how to have an interesting conversation with basically anyone.

        2. Zed*

          Yeah, unfortunately that’s the down side to widening your job search to include places you don’t live. Academia excepted, local candidates are often going to look much more appealing! But I think this is especially true in places like NYC, where some of those applicants probably like the idea of living in the big city more than they like the look of the job itself.

    3. Marly King*

      Hey, OP – majoring in (print) journalism is *not* a mistake if you want to get into the PR/comm field, especially for entry level jobs! I majored in journalism and IR, and interned and wrote for several news papers. Now, I do PR for a construction company. Journalism is a great background for PR because you have to work with and often around PR agents for the story, and on the flip-side, having a journalism background will really help in PR because you’ll have to work with the media. Also, a lot of what you learn in j-school is just fluff, really you need work experience. And don’t shoot down gaming just because it’s not your personal interest – my first journalism gig was writing for business journal profiling local companies and CEOs even though I totally did not understand business!

      Sometimes “Special interest” media outlets will be much more willing to take on recent grads/entry level than say ESPN or Fox. if you’re still interested in sports writing, there’s a lot of (unpaid) freelancing posts online, especially for “non-mainstream” sports. Try thecouchgymnast.com for example, it’s gymnastics but it’s rather high quality reporting, and they take article submissions.

      Sorry for the monologue! Much luck to you!!! :)

    4. Janet*

      My degree was also in journalism. I worked in the industry for about 4 years and then transitioned into PR. What helped me transition was volunteering. I sat on the Marketing/PR board for two non-profits as a volunteer. This helped me get a few writing samples (I did the newsletter for one group and then press releases for another) which I was able to use to secure a PR job in a small non-profit and after 3 years there, a larger non-profit.

      There is so much writing in PR – a journalism degree will be a huge asset.

  5. Maria*

    For anyone looking for a job in sports (pro or college), an internship is almost a right of passage. As an intern you interact with people of levels within the business and that network is ultimately your best bet of getting a full-time job. There is high competition for jobs in athletics so it’s important to put in your time as an intern.

    1. Anonymous*

      I work in the sports field, and this is something that I have noticed. It’s similar to entertainment or any field where there are more applicants than openings, so the nature of supply and demand leads to internships, since there are so many people trying to break into the field. Frankly, I’m not in love with it, because it leads to constant turnover in departments and institutional knowledge and administrative support walks out the door every 6 – 8 months.

  6. AnotherAlison*

    I work closely with several people in the marketing department at an engineering and construction company, and more people in the department have a journalism degree than a business/marketing degree. Several of them have MBAs, but they did that after already working for the company. I agree with Alison that it’s more about the experience and getting a second degree is not critical.

    I think engineering and construction marketing is a little different than most marketing work. It includes a lot of proposal writing, so maybe the communications/journalism background is actually a better fit? The pay is not bad, either.

    1. Marly King*

      I work in construction PR/marketing, and I come from a journalism background! Definitely more helpful that a business degree (at least IMO) for writing bid proposals.

      …sorry to be commenting everywhere on this post!

    2. Anonymous*

      I also work in Arch/Eng marketing and PR and I have a degree in Creative Writing! It’s true, I do a ton of proposal writing and marketing copywriting (we just redid our whole web site so I wrote dozens of case studies and other materials). Also, since the building industry is warming back up I’m seeing many more job openings in the field. I also am about 10 years into my career so I don’t know what it’s like now for new entrants though.

  7. Anonymous*

    re: game industry, at my previous company, all the marketing people were required to have MBA’s, that was the only way to get on board (marketing there was brand management, so also very numbers oriented). Much of the creative work was farmed out to agencies. Also, I assume partly because it HAS become so popular, it’s definitely an industry that tends to look for a demonstrated “passion”. (I know of at least one company that requires you have a gamer ID for their top game to even interview). I think PR has always been highly competitive, regardless of industry-affiliation, and has as much to do with relationship-building/maintenance as writing. My experience definitely supports what Alison said: getting into Marketing & PR require real-world experience and a network, in addition to a strong skill set and interest in what you’d be working with.

    I have also found that English/Communications is not a particularly useful degree these days on its own – from what I’m seeing, companies seem more interested in technical skill-sets now than anything else, which is disconcerting for someone who is not a computer rockstar. Even positions like technical writer emphasize familiarity with the technology over the writing skills.

    Rather than making a grab at grad school, I’d been considering getting a certificate in something like Accounting, which seems to always have some market value. Less of a time/money commitment, and while I’m not great with numbers, certainly more likely to go well than training as something like a Database Administrator. The community colleges around here (as well as adult ed branches of universities) offer access to several different certificate programs, so that might be something to look into and see if anything sounds like it would both add value to your degree/experience and be somewhat interesting to you.

    HR is definitely a good idea to explore, and something you might be able to get an entry-level position in and then gain more specific education if/when you decide to commit to that (if you work for a larger company, they might even help pay for those classes). You might even be able to segue into something like Internal Communications that way, depending on the company.

    1. The OP*

      Anon 5:43, that’s what I was hoping to do…what you mentioned in the last paragraph.

      As far as the last couple of comments about marketing jobs, I was recently working with a temp agency who submitted my resume for two different part-time marketing assistant positions. I did not get interviews for either. I was not told why, but I can only assume it’s the experience thing, as the one specifically required experience in donor software and I think event planning/working events, which I did not have.

      One of the reasons I wanted to go back to school was to try to learn more about PR or marketing, then get some experience while in school since experience is the only way I know I’ll get hired and I felt the extra school could at least help me get more background. I’m sure I could just read books, but I can’t really just read…I have to do some sort of hands-on work to learn. Unfortunately, I know that would mean more working for free…which I’ve already been doing for two years in writing for various websites. It’s like a no-win.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Certainly it’s true that if you’re applying for jobs where you don’t have the required experience, you’re unlikely to get those — especially in this job market, where they have no shortage of well qualified candidates to choose from. However, keep in mind that it’s not always that you didn’t have the experience they were looking for; there’s other pieces to it too, like:
        * how you come across in your cover letter
        * how effective your resume is (and we’ve seen several examples here recently of people who were sure their resumes were fine, when in fact they weren’t)
        * how well you’ve networked
        * and simple luck (when you’re competing against hundreds of other well-qualified candidates, plenty of qualified people won’t get interviews, often including you)

        When you’re trying to break into a highly competitive field, you’ve got to expect that it’s going to be really hard. You can’t fix that by going back to school, unfortunately. If you return to school expecting that to fix the problem, I think you’re setting yourself up for disappointment when you finish, since it’s likely you’ll confront similar circumstances and the degree won’t change that.

    2. the gold digger*

      I’d been considering getting a certificate in something like Accounting, which seems to always have some market value. Less of a time/money commitment, and while I’m not great with numbers, certainly more likely to go well than training as something like a Database Administrator

      If you want to be a CPA, it’s a four or a five-year degree (BBA or PPA), I believe, plus a big test.

      I don’t know much about DBAs now, but a few years ago, I had a temp job where I was supposed to create a database in Access. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I did not, and quit the job and told the agency not to pay me. When I discussed my failure to perform, experienced people laughed and said any company that thought they could get someone to create a complex database for a mere $10 an hour was delusional – good DBAs bill at $70 an hour. So there’s my one data point.

      1. hamster*

        As with everything there are layers and layers of complexity. Administering a database is a technical job, very specialized and goes from simple tasks ( often outsourced ) to more complex things like solution architects, performance tuning, backup and recovery responsibility , operations teams, etc. You’re looking at a whole eco-system centered around data, which in most companies is hugely important and or sensitive. It involves some degree of programming in SQL know-how. And a lot of analytically thinking. Thinking that from a random non technical background with no passion or inclination towards data and just a DBA course you can learn to be a dba is a huge delusion.

  8. Anonymous*

    Not even so ambitious – I realize becoming an actual Accountant is a major endeavor! Like many others, I’m finding my previous administrative assistant and generic project coordination doesn’t seem to hold much weight in the current job market for more than $10/hr, so just desperately grasping at straws to make myself more marketable. Most of the positions I see advertised call for specialized knowledge (databases, graphic design, finance… saw one that required knowledge of some kind of kidney-stone disintegration equipment [not joking!]), so I’m trying to zero in on one of those and get more training. Unfortunately, I have yet to find one that I have a particular aptitude for; accounting is just the least of the evils, so far. Everything I’ve read about DBAs suggests that there’s a good reason they make $70/hr and I don’t!

  9. GBV34*

    I have been stunned by the pay scale and hiring expectations in certain industries. I once had an interview at a specialty publishing house for a job that required a specific masters degree (which I have) and substantial experience, and when they told me the starting salary ($28K) and the benefits (none) I looked at them like a dumb animal for several seconds.

    Similarly, I have a friend who works in sports management like this LW, and she has a masters degree in the field and decent experience. She also had to move out of town to take a job, and I suspect her salary is even lower than that.

    It’s one thing to make masters degrees and certain types of experience a virtual requirement for some jobs. But for jobs paying so little? That are effectively entry level? And that they do national searches for, to ensure they sweep up the most desperate people from the widest possible geographic range? (I went through an unnecessary national search to be hired to my current job, which luckily pays better than all that, but still didn’t necessitate such an arduous hiring process).

    It makes me wonder how anybody finds a decent paying job at all.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s simple supply and demand. Publishing and sports are both extremely competitive industries with far more people who want to get into them than there are openings. Companies will pay what the market will bear — and in this case, plenty of talented people are willing to work for low salaries to get a foot in the door. That’s what happens when you have an industry that so many people passionately want to be part of.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nearly everything except these two! Publishing and professional sports are notorious for being among the most competitive industries out there, perhaps second only to acting/modeling!

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s not to say that other industries aren’t competitive too, of course. It’s just that these are especially so, and especially known for it. So it explains GBV34’s point about salaries, and it’s also why someone trying to break into one of them, like the OP, needs to be prepared for it to be very difficult and for many people impossible.

        2. Pam*

          Although Engineering (my degree) can be a difficult degree to earn, I’ve seen plenty of recent engineering grads with barely-2.0 GPAs and a sad looking resume get very high paying entry-level jobs…anywhere from 50-80k depending on the specific industry (defense and other government jobs are higher paid).

          Like Allison says…supply and demand. We have many thousands of STEM positions available and not enough people pursuing those careers to fill them. In fact, I just went to a conference earlier this month that had one of the most massive, and impressive, career fairs I’ve seen, all hiring like crazy…but only for engineering positions.

          1. Anonymous*

            I don’t think that Engineering is representative of all STEM though. I have some friends in the S category that have plenty of job-hunting difficulty, where as T, E, and M often do better (depending on the speciality, of course)

  10. Christy*

    The sports industry is very tough to break into. I was one of the very rare few who got an entry-level job at my dream sports team in my ideal department. I am a manager at a pro team and make $35k. A coordinator makes $27k. We work 15-hour game days and holidays. I love my job and have no regrets, but it is definitely not an industry for everyone.

    When I was an intern, I was encouraged to intern at a PR agency for a summer which I did. It also allowed me to apply for PR agency and sports PR positions as a senior. I work with a local agency on two of their accounts so you can still get some sports involvement by going the agency route. Good luck!

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