I awoke bubbling over with excitement; after two years of countless e-mails, numerous letters, and endless phone calls I had finally been chosen to begin work at the much sought after Better! Magazine (not its real title). Ok, not work but a week’s work experience but hey it was one step closer to my dream. So my first day began and with an outfit that could rival any model in Vogue I stepped into the office for my first day’s work.
But I wouldn’t exactly call it a journalistic position; in the magazine world a degree in journalism does not give you a license to write. Instead I became a first class tea maker, I organised the fashion cupboard, gave out the post, filed their magazines and for a special treat I could type out over five hours of interview footage, And so this tedious routine continued for the next five days!
Do you remember that conversation between Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) and Anne Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) in The Devil Wears Prada?
Miranda Priestly: I need the new Harry Potter book for the twins.
Andy Sachs: [relieved] Okay. Okay. I’ll go down to Barnes and Noble right now.
Miranda Priestly: [rolling her eyes] Did you fall down and smack your little head on the pavement?
Andy Sachs: Not that I can recall.
Miranda Priestly: We have all the published Harry Potter books. The twins want to know what happens next.
Andy Sachs: [realizing with dread] You want the unpublished manuscript.
Miranda Priestly: [baiting] Well, we know everyone in publishing, so it shouldn’t be a problem should it? And you can do anything. Right?
Okay, okay so I can’t say my placement got that bad but you get the picture.
So I guess you’re thinking that I will never go near another placement again right? Wrong.
Like anything in life you have to take the ups with the downs and I still firmly believe that internships leave you with invaluable experience. And yes there were ups at Better! Magazine. Although often dehydrated from their lack of tea, the editorial team were warm and pleasant and have provided me with countless references. The work placement takes a proud place on my CV. And that short period of work experience helped me get the internship I am in now. I currently work for your favourite market research panel company – Opinionpanel (know it?). Although market research may seem like an odd choice for someone looking to pursue a career in journalism I’ve learned that there’s huge scope to apply my journalistic skills of analysing, summarizing and communicating in this world too. I’ve certainly had more opportunities to write here, than at most of the newspapers or magazines I’ve worked at. And the really good news about my new internship – my colleagues’ even offer me a cups of tea!
My tips for internships and work experience:
– Just do it! Every journey begins with a single step. In the current recessionary climate an internship is a great way for graduates to get their foot in the door. If you’re still at university then it is an idea to use the holidays to do a couple of weeks on a work placement.
– Approach smaller companies too; they’re often willing to give you more responsibility, which will allow you to improve your skills.
– Time matters. The longer you stay in a company, and the more invaluable you make yourself, the better chance of getting a job offer at the end.
– Nearly all work experience is good work experience. Although at Better! I was given plenty of ‘dogs-body’ tasks, there was a lot I learned about office life and journalistic culture that was helpful. Plus of course you get the CV points to help with your next internship or better still your next job. Also if you really don’t like your internship at least you have narrowed down the roles you’d consider before committing yourself to a job contract.
– Shop around. Don’t be put off by job titles, your skills could be put to good use in a range of companies and sectors, many of which you’ll never have considered before.
– Keep an eye on your finances. Many internships are unpaid these days, but it is standard for companies to pay your travel expenses and lunch allowances. If you’re lucky enough to find a paid internship then great. If not (and of course if you’re lucky enough to be able to support yourself, or have your parents help out) then you can take advantage of the great experience, and hopefully you’ll be in a good position to get the perfect job.