This past December, I entered the world of politics as a digital intern on a state Senate campaign. I was determined to figure out if being a political reporter was right for me. Walking into the campaign office for the first time was like being on the set of House of Cards. I had never before been in an environment where so many young people were determined to get to the top. Still, it was inspiring to see how eager everyone was to help each other. It was very clear from the moment I walked in that this business was about hard work and loyalty. (OK, that part wasn’t like House of Cards.)
Whether you’re a political reporter or not, the internship taught me many skills that are valuable to anyone in the media industry. The top lessons I’ve learned:
1. Let yourself become the brand. No matter who you’re writing for or what you’re writing about, you should be able to adapt. Study the company and people you’re working for, so you can best represent your organization.
2. Find the balance between being creative and professional. Part of the fun of being in this industry is channeling your inner creative on a daily basis. That also means you may need to remind yourself not to get too carried away. Sometimes you might have to work on something that isn’t fun, but you should still give it your best.
3. If your job involves social media, always do your research before posting—even when you’re 99% sure you know what you’re talking about. A lot of entry-level editor positions involve social media. Remember that it’s not the same as posting on your personal account, and you’re not a gossip columnist. We have an entire team of people constantly watching our competitors’ social accounts, hoping for them to slip up so that we can use it to better our own campaign. Obviously, you don’t want to be the reason your boss is suddenly in trouble, so think before you tweet.
4. When you do mess up, tell someone ASAP. My boss once told me, “You’re going to f**k up. And when you do, you need to tell me, because I can fix a screw up. What I can’t fix is a screw up and a lie.” It may be embarrassing to admit to your mistake, but it’s always better to come clean right away.
5. Stay loyal. It’s fine if you don’t worship the job you’re currently in, but try to keep that to yourself. There are often stories going around my office about people who accidentally (and sometimes purposefully) leak information. In politics, one frustrated side comment in a crowded cafe can lead to the front page of the Inquirer the next day. Remind yourself not to bring your work home with you and try to remain faithful to the people who are giving you a chance.
Politics is one of the only industries where if one person succeeds, everybody else does too. We all have to be doing our part or the entire campaign fails. This can be more than a little intimidating, but it also allows you to create bonds with colleagues that will last a lifetime.
Amelia Burns is a writer and blogger currently residing in Philadelphia. She studies broadcast journalism at Temple University and interns for a Senate campaign, Pennsylvania Democrats, and CollegeFashionista.com. In addition, Amelia writes for CollegeFashionista, HerCampus and is vice president of Ed2010 TU. When not working, Amelia is creating content for her fashion and lifestyle blog, theameliaburns.com or obsessively posting to her Instagram.