Are you getting everything you can out of your internships? It’s more important than ever in the current job market. Depending on how you handle yourself during an internship, you can either wind up first in line for the next entry level job opening or out the door without so much as a good reference. It’s up to you.
Jacqueline Ingles, a multi-platform reporter for KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, offers these tips for interns on the SPJ Generation J blog.
1. No job is too small. Take on any available task and do it eagerly. “Everyone wants to help write, edit, shoot, and get stand-ups for their reel,” Ingles writes. But the intern who fetched her a diet Coke got more of Ingles’ help.
2. Be a self starter. If you’re in the field with a reporter, use your own camera or phone to take pictures. Ingles’ intern did, and her shots wound up on the station’s website with her byline. Offer to help in any way you can, especially if you’re working with a solo journalist.
3. Go the distance…literally. Ingles works in a bureau 50 miles from the station. Most interns won’t bother to go there, she says. They’d rather be in the nice studio with the anchors. The one who did spend the day at the bureau earned her admiration. “It showed me that to her, TV was not about being on TV.”
A few more suggestions that may sound obvious but are too often ignored by interns. Treat even an unpaid position like a real job. Show up on time every day. Work the hours you’re expected to and then some. Dress appropriately. Be pleasant, don’t whine, and don’t act like you know everything. One news manager remembers an intern who came to the editorial meeting on her first day and weighed in on the importance of every story. After the newscast that night, she walked onto the set applauding and told the anchors they’d done a great job. That intern is remembered mostly for how annoying she was.
Finally, don’t spend your time reading the newspaper, posting to your Facebook page or watching YouTube videos. Hard to believe, but this really happens. Don’t sit and wait to be asked to do something–look for what needs to be done, offer to help and pitch in. You’ll learn more that way and grateful co-workers will be much more likely to recommend you for a job when the time comes.