The first time I ever saw a newsroom, I was on a class field trip. But this summer, when I returned to the place where words become print, I was no longer a visitor. I was there to work.
Stoked? Absolutely. Terrified? You bet your sweet bananas I was.
I only had 30 days to make the most of this Snuffaluffagus-sized opportunity and, as I bounced from online editing to media releases to breaking news stories, I learned a few things along the way.
From my experience, here are the five most important things to do to ensure that you make the most of your media internship:
1. Ask questions
They say that to assume makes a, um, “fool” of you and me. Well, in the media industry, if you aren’t 143% sure of what you’re doing, it can have some major consequences.
I was confident in my knowledge and took notes diligently during training, but when things stumped me, I made a point of asking my supervisor for clarification.
For instance, I had learned in my copy editing course that a “folio” referred to the publication information typically displayed at the top of newspaper pages, but at the Globe, “folio” is the major two-page centerfold in the first section of the paper – a major difference that was only made clear to me once I asked.
In a fast-paced media environment, it’s better that you take the time to understand than having to fix a blatant error later. My supervisors and colleagues were more than happy to answer my questions and I understood my job better for it. Ask and you shall receive: a better overall experience.
2. Pitch ideas
Think of an internship like an audition. Sticking to the script won’t help you stand out from the rest of the candidates, but adding a bit of your own personal flair and creativity might just land you the job. The newsroom was always on the hunt for the next story and I soon learned that pitching my original ideas demonstrated initiative, not to mention opened up opportunities to get my name into the paper.
Two weeks into my internship, I pitched a story about a yo-yo prodigy that I knew of from Vancouver and it ended up being the story that I am most proud of to date, not just because it had my name on it but because it was something that I worked on from start to finish. It was a story all my own.
3. Make connections
While it may be intimidating to walk into a new office, making connections can be the difference between an internship and a career. Learn the names of the people you work with, take the time to get to know them and introduce yourself around the office. You’re only there for a short time, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t make an impression. Networking within the media organization will not only make your time there more enjoyable, but it can help you land work even after you’ve left the office.
4. Get experience
In an office where everyone was constantly on the go, I was shuffled around more than a deck of Las Vegas casino cards. From May to mid-June, I worked as a web editor, reporter, researcher, social media assistant and even (on the rare occasion) as a sports editor. This may sound hectic to some, but for me, it was the best way to get as much experience as possible.
In six-weeks I not only learned about the various facets of the organization, I got to try them out as well. I wore so many caps over the course of my internship that now when I go to employers, I can go from editor to reporter at the drop of a hat.
Don’t be afraid to ask to work in areas that you’re interested in or maybe areas that you haven’t had that much experience in before, it’s up to you to make the most of your time.
5. Get feedback
Internships are as much about learning as they are about doing so to ensure that you’re making the grade, ask for feedback whenever possible. See where you can improve and what you’re doing well to get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses. For me, this involved sitting down with my editor and having her dissect a story I had written or having my supervisor go over headlines I had written and provide suggestions. The only way to improve is to know what you’re doing wrong so don’t be afraid to ask.