Have you ever noticed how easy it was for Carrie Bradshaw to get into Vogue? She just magically wrote her column piece, and poof, the next thing you knew she was a writer for what is the most coveted publication in all countries, VOGUE, so you begin to wonder; how can I be the next or better version of Carrie Bradshaw.
Interns, whether you’re one now, or a former, we all know the opportunities internships can present. I have done several throughout my Bachelor’s degree, and somehow I don’t think I’m done with Internships, as I enter my first full semester of my Master’s degree; so I began to wonder; what do the bosses think of us eager young interns that seems to come through those revolving doors every week?
It’s so secret; ask any of your idols how they got into the industry, whether it’s print, online or broadcasting media and they’ll tell you what your lecturer is telling you now, “you have to intern.” It’s as simple as that was the first thing I learnt on my very first internship placement with Marie Claire Australia. I remember I was going down to the mail room to collect mail, and I remember looking at one of the Editors that was in the lift with me, whom happened to work at Marie Claire and I simply asked, “ How do you get into magazines?” And she simply looked at me, smiled and said, “Do as much interning as you possibly can.” Now, as I walked off to the mail room, I wondered what if you live outer state, how are you supposed to land your dream job, when you don’t know a soul in Sydney, and can’t afford to move out on a whim, to work for free? I still haven’t answered that question, so I went about it another way.
Instead of moving interstate, I decided that I would build up my contact list and remember the names of people I had met during my placements, ask them nicely if they wouldn’t mind me staying in touch, always smiled, no matter what the task was and I made sure that they remembered me.
The key, as I learnt, was just general good manners, nothing beats a ‘hello’ or a ‘of course I can do’, it’s that simple. You don’t have to be rude, and if you are, it will be dully noted and you won’t be asked to come back to that publication.
But I wouldn’t be a Journalism graduate, if I didn’t persist to bring this article together, I decided to bite the bullet and head to Twitter to ask for opinions on Interns from those whom have had to deal with us all the time; the professional Journalists we admire. So, to get you focused and ready for your current, future internships I have rallied the troops, so to speak.
First up, we have Sydney journalist and soon-to-be author, Gabrielle Tozer, whose experience within the Magazine sector not only speaks volumes, but also shows that organizations do enjoy having interns around.
“In my eight years of fulltime magazine work, I’ve had the pleasure of managing or working alongside many hardworking interns. Not only were they passionate, driven and friendly, but they took initiative and proved they had the skills to be there. In fact, based on there impressive effort during the internships – which usually consisted of coming in to help out one day a week – many went on to secure paid work with the titles, either through freelance writing or fulltime work. Sure, not everyone is the dream intern, but there are some brilliant young women and men out there giving it their all, and they’re the ones who will succeed in the long run – not the interns who fall asleep at their desks, fail to mention they’ve quit the internship or complain about helping out with research or filing (all part of being a journalist, so probably not meant to be in the industry anyway). Internships are a fantastic way to make contacts, bulk up your CV and writing portfolio and learn about the day-to-day running of a magazine – and the smart interns know how to make the most of every moment. Many journalists – including myself – got their start through work experience and internships, so if you want to crack into the industry then it’s important to take it seriously, stand out (for the right reasons) and give it your best.”
If you’re more interested in Newspapers, Shelly Horton Editor at large of S in the Sun Herald and Diary columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, points out the things that you should be doing, if you’re heading into the newspaper realm; and what NOT TO DO.
“When I was starting my career I worked as an intern or work experience kid whenever I could. Interning offers a huge opportunity to impress potential employers, get to know systems and gain experience,” but attitude has a lot do with it, and some interns need to realise they won’t be writing the front page story for the day, you need to reel in your expectations, “Interns will not be asked to write the front page story,” Shelly says, “Most I’ve worked with have journalism degrees or are completing them. You can’t just walk off the street and expect an internship.” So be grateful for your placement, and be even more proud if you managed to snag the internship on your own, without having to rely on your University to get you a place. That’s what I did, and I can tell you, there’s nothing better than knowing YOU’VE found your placement, not the university, but don’t be cocky, you don’t own the place; and even if you did, there’s no space for high-nosed interns whom think that sorting mail is menial task, as Shelly points out, “It frustrates me, I know what an opportunity it is and so many other people would relish the chance to be in a newsroom so a bad attitude is unacceptable.” So the next time you think, “Oh god, not another coffee run,” remembers there’s always someone else that’s willing to take your place gladly and complaint free. But if you keep your wits about you, your mentors are willing to help you out, to get you into the news sense and give you invaluable advice, you can’t read or learn in a classroom; as Shelly points out, that real hard work does pay off, “Any intern or work experience student I’ve worked with who has shown that special spark and not complained when they have to do the boring jobs I have bent over backwards to mentor and find other work.”
But sadly, there are some interns out there whom think the world owns them something and that just because they’ve scored a placement for a week or longer, it gives them the right to slack off, as this disastrous encounter Shelly had with one of her former interns demonstrates, “When I saw an intern taking a nap at her desk (in an open plan office) I had to pick my jaw up off the ground. Unbelievable. It showed a huge lack of respect.”
So listen up interns, be polite, smile, do as you’re asked, don’t complain because there’s another person whom is more than willing to take your place within a second. Whatever you do, DO NOT FALL A SLEEP AT YOUR DESK, and I don’t care what you’ve been asked to do. It’s not only a sign of rudeness, but it also shows your lack of respect and interest in not only the profession, but the person who has been assigned as your mentor.
If you really want to succeed, Shelly recommends you bring five news stories to the news conference each morning, offer do to the administrative tasks, it won’t kill you to get the mail, this is how you learn whom is whom within the sector and you can put faces to the names you see in front of you; that’s what I did at Marie Claire, Brisbane Times and Queensland Times. Sure, you’ll get to write stories, and even though they might not get published, at least your mentor for the week can offer you advice on how to perfect your stories, show you where you’re going wrong and how to improve.
Don’t take offence when you’re told there’s something odd, or it’s too long, or it just doesn’t sound right. These mentors have years of experience and they know what they’re talking about, so adjust your attitude and your need to run the place, and always remember; your mentor was an intern once.
Shelly Horton’s top tips to survive and thrive at your internships;
- If you want to impress come to work every day with five-story ideas.
- Offer to do the boring jobs like filing and transcribing.
- Be positive and enthusiastic.
- If you do get a chance to write something and it gets subbed (as all stories do) ask why the changes were made so you can learn.
- Realise this is an opportunity.
- Respect the experience of the journalists around you.
- Ask them about how they got a start and major steps in their career.
- Be a sponge.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this, as much as I enjoyed researching and writing it.