After recently graduating with a journalism degree, I am finishing up my third unpaid internship. I took it because I wanted to move to NYC and network. Unfortunately, it’s been a complete disaster. After being proactive about pitching stories and doing grunt work without complaint, my editor still remains as scatterbrained as ever. I’ve come out of it with two clips that I would actually include in my portfolio.
How much of the success of one’s internship (i.e. being able to walk away feeling like you got something out of it) is based on having a good editor or supervisor? Is it possible to have a good experience even if your editor is uninterested in your success? And if so, what should someone be doing differently?
– Struggling Intern
Dear Struggling Intern,
Absolutely! A wonderful supervisor certainly enhances an intern experience, but the stint is also what you make of it. It sounds like you’ve been proactive—and kudos to you for that! Even though your direct supervisor may not seem like she appreciates your effort, it’s very possible that she—and the other editors on staff—are taking note of your good attitude, willingness to do grunt work and overall professionalism. Plus, two clips is more than many interns walk away with. As a recent grad, Ed knows you’re hungry for real work and real responsibilities. Keep plugging along—with a smile on your face—and all of that will come. Showing your face every day and producing solid work (even if that work is in the form of photocopies!) will definitely pay off. Ed also thinks it’s a good idea to look at the other editors on staff. Is there someone else who seems like a good mentor or role model? If so, ask that editor to grab a cup of coffee with you. You never know what that meeting might lead to. If you’re lucky, you might even land a paid assignment to complete when your internship wraps up! And at the very least, you’ll establish a new contact. Just be sure not to badmouth your supervisor to her colleague. No one likes that!