Melissa McClelland lives and breathes pop culture.
The 21-year-old University of Western Ontario Media, Information and Technoculture (MIT) student’s schedule is filled with courses dealing with everything from the politics and business of the media, to reality television and the origins of the music, so it would be difficult not to.
But while it’s fun to follow and study pop culture, she knew one day she wanted to discover it out in the real world through the media outlets that bring pop culture to the viewers.
So when Melissa found herself eligible to complete an internship through her faculty, she enthusiastically went for it. Plus, because the position was unpaid, she was able to receive credit toward her degree.
TalentEgg Tip: Many companies (for example, Universal Music Canada Inc.) require that internship applicants be affiliated with a post-secondary institution and be eligible to receive academic credit from their school for the successful completion of the internship.
Last summer Melissa put away all her readings on Marshall McLuhan to see first hand just what the heck he was talking about. She found herself interning in the Brand Partnerships department at MuchMusic as a promotions intern. She says she chose MuchMusic because she’s “always loved music, fashion and popular culture” and she wanted to work for a company that dealt with media and culture on a global scale.
Pay attention, make connections
You may not think your textbook and lecture-based courses are preparing you for real life, but I have two words for you: transferrable skills. According to Melissa, most of her courses prepared her in some way for the internship. Keep in mind that the reports you write and the presentations you make about seemingly abstract concepts all contribute to your overall ability to communicate, one of the most valuable skills you bring to the table in the real world.
Act like an adult even if you don’t feel like one
Working for a youth-oriented, creative company requires a strong connection to one’s youth, but it’s not a free pass to act immature. Melissa was one of the youngest to score an internship at MuchMusic (the intern before her was 24 and the current intern is 27) so she had to display maturity and composure at all times – not only to prove herself to her coworkers, but also so clients would take her seriously.
One of the best parts of any internship is getting a feel for the people who work in your field. Feeling comfortable at work amongst your peers is a crucial part of any fulfilling position. Melissa described her co-workers as “cool” and “hilarious,” which likely added to her positive experience on the job each day. During her internship, Melissa formed a relationship with one co-worker in particular whom she considers a mentor and role model. They worked together often because they got along well and had similar work habits.
Even if an internship does not lead to a job right away, building and maintaining relationships will make it easier to find a job later. Melissa urges prospective interns to “keep in touch with the people you meet – you never know when they’ll need your help or you’ll need theirs.”
Rewards are not always monetary
Melissa found her internship rewarding for a number of reasons. First, she had a chance to learn first-hand about the business aspect of the media. Second, she was able to work for a reputable employer, which looks great on a resumé. And third, even through she was not paid, she was compensated for her work in other ways: she was often treated by co-workers to lunch, she had VIP access to the MuchMusic Video Awards and after parties, and was even asked to accompany the MuchMusic team to Vancouver after her internship ended to help carry out a frosh week promotion which she worked on earlier in the summer.
TalentEgg Tip: Keep a journal to record events that take place each day, names and titles of coworkers, and any industry lingo you pick up. The journal will make it easier to write your internship report if you are eligible to receive academic credit, and it will help you remember important information that may help you in your future endeavours.
The fun stuff
On her third day of work, Melissa was called in by the creative department to be part of the MMVA 2008 promotions. She admits that she was “really uncomfortable and shy at work and was so nervous around everyone” at first, but she had to get over that quickly! She was photographed and filmed in front of a group of people egging her on to do and say crazy things and put on weird masks. “It was hilarious, but at the time I was so embarrassed. I had no idea what I was doing, but I . . . didn’t expect to be doing that kind of work in my internship!”
Well, her momentary embarrassment turned into a bit of fame because her crazy antics were used for photos, websites, and television spots promoting the MMVA 08.
Melissa’s Top 3 pieces of advice for anyone who wants to work in the media industry:
- Stay on top of media-related events and popular culture.
- Network, network, network! Make and keep connections with everyone you meet.
- Learn as much as you can about the field you want to go in to and try to get as much experience possible in that field from all angles. Listen, participate and “work your butt off!”