By Chandler Walter, Editor-in-Chief
I had the honor of interning at one of the city’s leading news publications at the end of my two-year journalism diploma program. A few hundred articles, a bit of luck, a lot of words, and 12 months later and I’m now working there full-time as a staff writer, partially overseeing the newest crop of journalism graduates as they start their own internships.
To say that I learnt a lot in the four weeks I spent on the bottom rung a year ago would be an understatement, but it’s only now that I’ve experienced both sides of the system that I’ve really gotten a grip of how internships work, and exactly how to turn them into full-time employment.
So listen close, students, because this information could come in handy a few months down the line.
No matter what career you’re hoping to find yourself in, most students will find themselves in an intern-like position shortly after graduation. While it’s definitely not the most impressive position to have on your business card (please oh please don’t get business cards while interning) internships are an extremely valuable way to prove your worth to the right people.
The truth of the matter is that most of your superiors are not going to be all that invested in the work you’re up to. I was lucky enough to intern at a place that allowed me to write my own articles, but I have heard some horror stories about interns being used solely to deliver coffee. If the place you’re working at isn’t giving you work that flexes the skills you’ve studied, or doesn’t have you, you know, actually learning anything, it may be time to let your professors know about the situation.
If you are put on actual work, there are a few things to keep in mind as you go about your business, and rule number one is to keep yourself from becoming an annoyance. This means keeping the questions short and to the point, taking it into your own hands to figure out (certain) problems as they show up, and only chiming in on the office discussion if you’re positive that a joke is going to land/a piece of information is important to share. Workers spend a serious portion of their lives in their offices, and the last thing they want is an added annoyance buzzing around the space.
Asking for feedback is good, but actually learning from it is even better. Internships usually last for only a month or two, so higher-ups might not consider it worth their time to ensure that you’ve actually got everything down pat. Sometimes it’s quicker for them to just fix up your work themselves than it is to explain exactly what you did wrong, but if you can prove that you’ll act on those criticisms, they’ll likely appear more often—making you better at the job in the long run. Ultimately, it’s making the job easier for those above you that will put you in their good books.
Don’t seem too eager. It might sound a little counterintuitive, but one of the most unattractive things you can do in an internship is beg for a position once your time is up. Schedule a professional meeting with your immediate superior (even in “professional meeting” means going for a coffee one afternoon) to have a serious discussion about your prospects in the company once the internship is done. Sometimes they may not have an opening at the time, but that doesn’t mean that the door is shut forever—and it’s important to know when it might be open next.
I spent a few months freelancing at the end of my internship. As soon as some staff members went on vacation and a temporary, part-time position opened up, I was the person they called. I did that for another few months before being offered full-time. While the freelancing pay wasn’t all that consistent (when is it ever?), I took whatever jobs they offered me, because I knew being someone they could rely on was what would lead to that eventual phone call.
Organizing, training, and supervising interns is work, so doing everything you can to minimize that work, along with creating quality content, is what will keep you around in the long run.