I will be a panelist tonight at a program at the American University School of Communication: “Making the Most of your Internship.”
I was asked to start with five tips that journalism interns should follow:
- Ask lots of questions.
- Seek out the big star of the newsroom, the person who most terrifies you. Ask him or her some questions. Make a connection.
- Double-check. Everything. Annoy (and impress) sources and bosses with your detailed insistence and persistence on getting every fact right, however small.
- Triple-check. Double-checking sometimes isn’t enough.
- Work hard and have fun. And show that you’re working hard and having fun. People remember — and want to work with — someone who loves his or her work.
Panelists will also be asked to share some don’ts with the students:
- Don’t bring your personal life to work. The term of your internship will include some personal drama. That is no excuse for unprofessional behavior.
- Don’t make excuses. When you make a mistake — and you will, despite the triple-checking — accept responsibility. Excuses don’t erase mistakes, so don’t waste time or credibility on them. Editors (and the public) will remember your response to an error longer than they remember the error.
- Don’t let obstacles become excuses. You will face obstacles. Turn them into the war stories of your internship success.
- Never say no for someone else. Whether it means asking for an interview you think the source won’t grant or asking for an assignment you don’t think the editor will let an intern do or asking for an internship you don’t think you have a shot at, ask. Make them say no. Sometimes they will say yes. Your internship — and your career — will be shaped by the times you took a chance and someone surprised you by saying yes, just because you asked.
Of course, I also crowdsourced advice. I asked our TBD interns (all AU students) for their advice. Rosemary D’Amour responded:
The best way to make the most of your internship is to take some initiative. We’ve been pretty lucky at TBD, and have been included in a lot of stories and the processes that go into creating and managing content, but I bet there are a lot of students out there whose supervisors don’t include them. After getting a feel for the tone of the place you’re working (after all, rule #1 for media people is to know your audience!), you can better assess who you should be talking to, and what’s really happening where you’re working. Don’t be afraid to approach people yourself, and ask them to teach you something — most people are really excited to talk about what they do. One of the best times to do this is right at the beginning, if you’re getting introduced to people, and be sure to bring up if anyone has any projects they need help with, to include you.
Also, take notes! Every day, try to organize your thoughts on what happened or what you learned. Even if it’s just an observation about the managerial structure, or the type of people you’re working with, or the location of the break room, you might have an interesting insight, and definitely will have something to take with you in the future.
Sarah Jane Cough, another AU student now interning for TBD, added: Stay busy; ask for something to do if you run out of work.
Chandler Clay, also an AU intern for TBD:
1) Don’t feel the need to shoot for an internship at the best companies or publications. The small ones (or in my case, ones in transition) can offer you much more learning opportunities and will give you more to talk about when you go to apply for real jobs and people ask you about your responsibilities. 2) make your resume stand out. A good tip, talk to a friend or professor in a graphic design class and ask for help to make it stand out, but keep it professional. And 3) don’t be afraid to try something different. Im interested in environmental science but I interned at an environmental consulting firm, and now when I go to real job interviews, people are most interested to hear about that because it’s a little different and allowed me to learn more about a unique aspect of the environment. If you need anything else, please let me know.
And I crowdsourced on Twitter, using Storify to compile #internadvice from the tweeps.