So it’s about the time of year that journalism students start looking for internships. I find myself digging for them, even as a graduate student.
Unlike business administration or finance majors that can find well-paid internships relatively easily, journalism majors can struggle. The struggle is worse for high-achievers (I see you) photography students or digital-first students.
Historically, journalism internships are like hazing rituals, horrible unpaid rites of passage necessary to climb the ladder. Ask anybody who interned at a NYC fashion magazine. Coffee runs, emotionally abusive editors, and a total lack of any real-world experience. Some serious The Devil Wears Prada shit.
Pain and suffering doesn’t cover every internship out there, naturally. Some are extremely positive and can lead to full-time employment. So how do you find the right internship out there for you?
1. Decide what you want from the internship. Do you need to develop your writing skills? Are you trying to break into a certain type of journalism? Do you have the skills, but you need a gold star on your resume? Knowing what you want will help you find a place.
2. Take stock of your resources. Do you need to stay close to home at a well-paid internship, or do you know somebody in Chicago who will let you crash on their couch for the summer? Does your school give scholarships for internships? Can you afford an unpaid position? Sometimes you should think about internships as an investment – just make sure you’re making a smart choice.
3. Apply for every internship that interests you, from the dream spot to the easy catch. Rank your internships from 1 to #OHMYGODISTHISREALLIFE and apply for them all. Hold out as long as you can for the highest rank one on your list. You never know if you have what it takes to get your dream internship.
4. Consider the obscure. If you’re looking for skills, consider taking a position at small publications you’ve never read. At larger publications, interns are often grouped together for menial tasks. Yeah, you might have interned at GQ, but if all you did was organize ties, was it worth it? Small publications have tighter budgets and will give you more work. You’ll have the opportunity to shine.
5. GO BOLD. This is the opposite of #4. Screw it, I say: apply for the wildest, most high-profile thing you can find. Hiking across Africa with Nick Kristof? Who cares about Ebola. Foreign affairs reporting in the heart of Jerusalem? l’chaim! Anna Wintour’s personal slave? Don’t mind if I do. If you’re good enough to be her coffee bitch, you’re good enough to get hired at any journalism outfit in the country. Gold Stars look great on resumes, just be sure you have the skills to back them up. And be sure you’re okay regularly crying yourself to sleep.