Article by Dynahlee Padilla, edited and packaged by Aiyana Edmund, Rob Piersall
Finding an internship in the media industry can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. By following a few simple steps, students can better tackle the process and lessen the stress.
As junior and senior year approaches, landing an internship sits on the horizon. While juggling a myriad of school and life responsibilities, finding the time and a solid plan of attack can be daunting. Experts of the SUNY New Paltz internship department and alumni’s weighed in on ways to relieve some of the stress.
Media industry internships give students an opportunity for experiential learning. This is especially important for communications majors in digital media, journalism, production, and public relations. Landing one can highlight the students’ ability to demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom within a work environment—separate from academia. It exposes them to the professional world.
Before applying, students first need to research available internships, all the while juggling school work and other commitments, staying wary of the deadline to apply.
“You can imagine what it’s like to be a journalist, to write, to have to meet deadlines, to have to interview people you’ve never talked to before, but you want to experience that in a real world setting and make sure that it’s a good fit for you before you graduate and try to get a job in that line of work,” said Beth King, Internship Coordinator at the Career Resource Center.
Therefore, you should know the purpose behind getting the internship. Narrow down the focus of the internship search, and use databases such as HawkHire and Indeed.com. “Bookmark those career sites to find them again,” King said. One should consider the geographic location of the internship. Also, figure out what is necessary to complete the application, and by when.
After this initial search, completing these applications accurately is essential. “Give yourself maybe 2 hours a week at most devoted to it—even if it’s just an hour, then the application process is manageable…You have to put time on your planner, on your phone, to achieve those goals,” King said.
Christine Garmendiz, a T. Howard Alumna and SUNY New Paltz senior, who interned at TruTV in summer 2017, suggest students should ask themselves three questions:
- When will I be able to finish this application?
- Which application needs more attending to than the other one?
- Do I do this application online, or do I have to mail this one in?
The T. Howard Foundation is an internship program for college students, whose mission is to increase diversity in the media and entertainment industry. Garmendiz’s experience raises another key point. Students should look up potential resources and internship programs that can further propel their professional development and future careers.
Doreen Thomas, a Training and Recruitment Coordinator for the T. Howard Foundation, recommends when applying to programs and internships to always answer the prompt and pay attention to the details within the questions being asked. Simple things like spelling your name correctly and giving proper contact information can easily be overlooked by accident.
In preparation for the interview, students should get acquainted with the employer’s sense of its vision, mission, and products by visiting their website and putting in some preliminary research, Thomas also advised. This gives students some background on their potential organization. Both King and Thomas stressed the importance of practicing for the interview, as well. Businessinsider.com and themuse.com are websites students can refer to for preparation material including mock questions.
Thomas also advised students to consistently apply, and not wait until the last minute. The earlier students begin the process, the better chance companies have in reviewing their application in advance. “Don’t get comfortable,” said Thomas.
Garmendiz couldn’t agree more. “Apply to everything, and have experiences that you can really talk about that you know you’ve grown from, and if you can’t find that, then that’s what you need to start looking for,” she said.
Mentorship is also key for an internship and life experience. It has a reciprocal benefit for the mentor and mentee. Both individuals learn from each other. “The more experience you have, the more questions you have,” Thomas adds. “Maybe this professional network can even turn into a life-long friendship,” she added.
“People always need help. It doesn’t matter who you are,” Garmendiz said. Asking for help “is a lot stronger than thinking you can do it on your own.”
Moreover, students who know what they’re interested in can get in contact with their department, and with the students within the department who can be a valuable resource to them. Talking with journalism professors, Brett Berry and Megan Sperry, can be a start, Garmendiz advises. Students should also speak with their academic major advisors and internship coordinators to ensure they will earn academic credits toward their degree.
Jenn Seelig, SUNY New Paltz senior, who interned at News 12 Long Island in summer 2017, weighed in with advice. “I would try to reach out to alumni as a media student because they definitely have the most experience, and you need to go through what they went through already, so they can give you the best advice,” she said.
Once you’ve gone through the motions and landed an interview, the experts advised waiting until the end of the session to ask questions. This is their opportunity to stand out, and gain valuable information they can’t find on the company’s website. They should ask about the work environment, and inquire about what interns have worked on in the past.
Also, students should send a thank-you note in 24 hours or less, King added. Last but not least, follow-up with an email two to three weeks later to stay in touch, and ask any additional questions about the next steps in the process.
Therefore, with careful planning, relevant research, dedication to applying, and interview practice, students can sift through the rough patches of this process. With these steps, they can confidently land an internship in the media field.
And if you do land one, remember: “You have to think of it as a job. It is your future career, you have to treat it like one. And if you do, that’s how you learn,” Seelig said.
Regardless, be wary of the r-word: rejection. Accepting and understanding this can make the difference between a candidate who continues to apply to internships in this field, and one that doesn’t.
“Rejection hurts. But I always tell students, they’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting a piece of paper with your name on it. They haven’t met you,” King said.