The Portland Experience

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A Career Starting Point for Journalism and Communication Majors

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What is the Portland Experience?

The Portland Experience is a premier college internship program that takes place at University of Oregon’s Portland Center.  It is offered for School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) students close to graduation.  The SX takes place during the fall (Sept-Dec) and spring (Apr-June) quarters.

The twenty to twenty-five students accepted into the PDXSX program each term must be in good academic standing, demonstrate strong communication skills, and be approved by a faculty panel. Students with previous internship or work experience may be given preference.

The PDXSX has served more than 150 students since 2006. More than 100 employers support the PDXSX and the program's job-placement or internship extension rate is greater than 60 percent.

Even students who don't get a full-time offer benefit from real-world experience for their résumés.  They also get an inside look into the work world that may help with career planning.

How long does the Portland Experience last?

The PDXSX is designed to match the ten-week academic cycle, and we try to honor that commitment.  However, many of our business partners have expressed that they would prefer students who could make longer commitments, with internships lasting up to six months. We try to make the PDXSX as flexible as possible, and students are welcome to begin their experience before the start of the academic year (during the summer) or have it extended beyond graduation, if the business partner agrees.  In fact, some students have agreed to six-month internships rather than the typical ten-weeks, as that often works better with an organization’s fiscal and client project calendar.

Those students who are willing to commit to longer internships will likely have more opportunities to interview, find greater access to client projects and accounts, make stronger business contacts and enjoy more ownership of individual projects within an organization.

From an employer’s perspective, a longer internship makes more sense.  Significant amounts of employers’ time and resources are spent getting interns up to speed on client projects and accounts, in addition to helping them mesh within an organization’s overall culture.
Are internships paid?

The PDXSX will always try to arrange for interns to be paid, but we cannot guarantee compensation. If it comes down to the internship experience without compensation or no internship experience at all, we encourage you to take the experience. 

Consider the fact that it's becoming harder and harder for college graduates to find work right out of college with nothing but a framed diploma. Most companies look for real-world experience when hiring, and the best way to get that experience is through an internship. Any internship is worth it in the long run if a student wants to get a foot in the door and figure out a career path.

Compensation often hinges on several factors, the greatest being the economy.  Public relations and advertising (as well as graphic design and online media) are considered “client service” industries.  That is to say, they are dependent upon client dollars to stay in business.  When times are lean, client dollars dry up and organizations are unwilling to pay for additional expenses, such as interns.  When economic times are more generous, paid internships are easier to acquire.

Where possible, interns earn $10/hour for approximately 20 hours per week (about $2,000 for the term).  A typical schedule has students working 8AM to 12PM, Monday through Thursday, and 8AM to 12PM or longer on Fridays because students don’t have class on Fridays.  The PDXSX program also has two (2) dedicated scholarships ($2,000), available to those students who are interested in interning with a non-profit organization.

How do I get an internship?

This first thing that you will need is to have a good understanding of your area of interest.  Are you interested in media relations?  What about government relations?  Perhaps you are interested in working with an environmental organization?  What about a non-profit organization? Maybe you’d like to be at a smaller agency because you would have more opportunities for hands-on projects or a large firm where you might have greater opportunities to network? Maybe you’d like to work for a newspaper or a local radio or TV station?  Perhaps you are passionate about photojournalism?

The best thing you can have is a good, professional résumé with some previous work experience, ideally in the career field you would like to enter.  Working with the PDXSX program manager, we’ll try to identify your two or three key areas of interest.  We want to make sure the internship is as valuable to you as it is to the employer.

Once we have identified your areas of interest, using your résumé and portfolio, the PDXSX program manager will try to match you with a potential employer.  If the employer thinks you’d work well with his or her organization, you will have a personal interview with him or her.  The employer will arrange for you to come in for the interview and decide if you’d be a good match.  The final decision will come down to your interview, résumé and the employer.

It is important to note that many of the internship opportunities are very competitive.  In many cases you are competing against students from other colleges, other PDXSX students, recent college graduates and, sometimes, people with several years of professional experience who are looking to change their careers.

Neither the University, SOJC nor the PDXSX have exclusive rights to any internship – the competitive process for an internship is as real world as it gets, which we believe is a valuable learning tool, as well.