November 24, 2006

Internship advice from my family experts.

I just returned from a quaint tavern, a short drive down the road from my aunt and uncle's house in West Chester, PA. Two of three of my older cousins, Meri and Kris, took me out with their friends for my last night here. Jessica, the middle cousin, lives in Minneappolis and air-fare expenses were not in her budget this Thanksgiving. All of my cousins have been out of college for at least four years. Meri is the communications director at the Matress Factory, a popular museum in Pittsburgh, and Kristen freelances, has just finished a travel book, and does research for the CIA.

We were discussing my internship applications because John, Kristens fiance, has been sending me a lot of information through e-mail about internships. John is the assistant sports editor for the Washington Times- needless to say I have a lot of support in my future journalism career.

I got a lot of advice from Meri, who assures me I'll have an internship at her museum if I have trouble finding one. I asked about cover letters, which Meri said should not be a narrative summary of a resume but rather a short description of myself and why I wish to intern for the publication I'm applying to. She said to include a reason why I would like to intern, for example, "I read such and such an article and was very impressed," etc.

She also said to research the publication I'm applying to intern for as much as possible. She was applying once for an internship at the University of Pittsburgh in one of the art builidings and her interviewee's first question was who was the dean of the building she was applying to intern in. Meri didn't know, and she didn't get the job. Clearly she learned from her mistakes, and now she's passing them on to me.

Kris told me to take initiative as an intern. She said when I complete an assignment, which will most likely seem to be dirt work (obituaries!), to ask if I can write more features or news stories. Meri added, saying that some of her interns will finish their filing or assignments and continue the rest of the day checking their e-mail or sitting in an idle state. Even though I may not get a big assignment, the editor will take note of my willingness to take on bigger responsibilities.

I feel much more confident now that I'm about to apply for internships. I just wanted to pass this information along because I know so many of my friends who are just as scared as I am. Take it to heart, these girls know what they're talking about! I hope everybody's had a relaxing break and a Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted by StormyKnight at November 24, 2006 10:55 PM

Thanks for all of your advice Dr. Jerz, as usual you're a huge help. I am very nervous, as I usually am about anything I do attempting to prove my abilities.

I admire my cousins so much, and they're so successful. I just hope I can be like them one day, and the advice they gave me put my mind at ease so I wanted to share it.

I hope your break was well, DGJ. =)

I'll post my internship news as it comes!

Posted by: Stormy at November 25, 2006 12:27 AM

Stormy, thanks for thinking of your peers and those who will come after you. That's some excellent advice.

I'll add a few pointers... if they ask you why you want to intern there, don't say "I'm doing this because my major requires me to have an internship or I won't graduate" or "Your office is near where I live."

The cover letter shouldn't just summarize the resume. Rather, use it to point out specific details in your resume that are especially pertinent to this particular internship. You can use the same resume for different applications, but you should personalize your cover letter for the specific job. When I was applying for work as a professor, I had about 8 different paragraphs that I mixed and matched based on whether the job I was applying for was in literature, new media, writing instruction, journalism, or some combination. (Have I mentioned lately how glad I am to be teaching ALL of those areas at Seton Hill?)

I agree completely with the advice about asking for another assignment as soon as you are finished with one. In fact, I'd ask for another assignment as soon as you submit your first rough draft, so that while your editor is reading your draft you can get started on the next assignment.

You might also ask in advance what they'd like you to do whenever you have down time.

If you are used to a the routine of being a student, you may be used to working intently for a few hours, then taking a break whenever you feel like it. But you probably won't be encouraged to take work home with you, so if you don't get it done during the workday you shouldn't expect to be able to catch up by doing an all-nighter right before the deadline.

Most employers want low-maintenance workers -- that is, people who won't interrupt every 10 mintues with another question about where the commas go or what this passage means.

I feel I should emphasize this because, as a teacher, I love questions. But it's my job to teach... the editor or senior reporter who is supervising your internship has a different job description.

On the other hand, if you don't ask for help when you need it, you might end up looking too proud or inflexible. Certainly if your editor tells you to do it one way, but you've heard me say something different or if you do it a different way on the Setonian, don't argue with your editor -- do it their way.

When the article comes out, you're welcome to send me a copy and tell me all about it.

Stormy, I'm glad that you're taking your nervous energy about interning and putting it to constructive use by blogging about it.

Please keep us all updated on your progress. (You might not want to mention by name all the places where you apply, but you could still describe your experiences in general, if you like.)

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at November 24, 2006 11:47 PM
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