5 Things I Learned Interning at a Nonprofit Organization

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By: Kaitlyn Landram, Account Executive for Penn State Residential Dining

Entering the “real world” with a communications degree is as nerve wracking as it is exciting. Whereas a surgeon is certain to search for employment in a hospital and a teacher is bound to work in a school those with a communications degree must find their place in a very diverse industry. Whether that entails pitching advertising campaigns for a Fortune 500 company, facilitating interviews between MVPs and ESPN or leading the campaign trail of the next Commander in Chief, the possibilities are endless and ever-expanding for those holding a degree in communications.

As a marketing intern for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium I learned 5 things about a field I hadn’t previously given much thought to in the communications industry: non-profit organizations.

1) Don’t expect a rich paycheck. If you’ve always dreamed of a six figure paycheck then a non-profit organization is certainly not the place for you. Much of their funding goes to programs fulfilling their mission.

2) Give back to a cause you care about. Non-profit organizations work to make an important impact in the world as we know it, and by working for them you are contributing to the differences they make.

3) Wearing jeans is OK. I was thrilled when I learned that the dress code for my internship was quite casual. Non-profit organizations are not corporations and ditching the pantsuit is a definite perk.

4) Be ready for anything. This isn’t your typical 9-5 and your roles and responsibilities can change in an instant. One day you could be managing a zoo’s social media pages and the next releasing sea turtles back into the wild.

5) Appreciate your coworkers. Non-profit organization employees have strong believes in the same cause which makes building connections easier. I knew little about animals, zoos and aquariums before beginning my internship but I learned a lot each day from my supervisors, the zookeepers and other staff members who were all passionate about their work. They made me feel welcome coming to work at a new place and everyone was willing to help improve the organization.

Deciding what field best fits your career goals is a daunting task but keep in mind that non-profit organizations are a great place to establish yourself in the communications industry, build connections and gain experiences.

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