What is an internship? That depends on who you talk to.
To a student, it’s a learning experience; a chance to put all the pieces from all the various classes that you’ve taken together. For the people at the internship, it may be more like free help.
Some internships are terrific. They have a plan to give students a chance to explore their upcoming career…and in the process they get some simple tasks done, yes, for free. Others really don’t have a plan and some just don’t seem to care if the intern really learns anything at all.
If you’re working on getting an internship, take the opportunity to ask during your interview what you will be doing if you land the position. If you get a vague answer or are told that you’ll only be doing menial tasks, then you might want to respectfully turn down the internship.
One of my students was very glad she asked a lot of questions during her interview, which was with one of the top morning shows in the Los Angeles radio market. She was told that (really!) she would be parking the DJ’s car for him and getting him sodas when he wanted them. Not at all what she expected and she told the interviewer right then that while she appreciated the chance to come in and meet with them, this was not the internship for her. A few weeks later, she landed an awesome internship.
You want an internship where you will be doing something valuable and that will let you use the skills you already have and learn new ones. So, what do you do if you end up being asked to clean out the prize closet week after week. Seriously, this happened to another of my students.
Now, we all have to do the ‘un-fun’ tasks at work. They have to get done after all, right? And there is something called ‘paying your dues’. But if you find yourself being asked to do such things week after week, you owe it to yourself to try and change it.
How do you do it? First, get the job done and done well. Never do a sloppy job or complain about doing it. This just makes you look bad. Schedule a time to sit down and talk with your supervisor at your internship. Let them know that you understand that jobs like cleaning out the prize closet have to be done and that you don’t mind doing it. But point out that you also have some very valuable skills that you can contribute to the company. Be ready to list a couple of them and explain how they could be of use. If you don’t feel ready to take on more difficult jobs yet, let your supervisor know that you would like to have a chance to observe some of the professionals at your internship…with their permission of course.
You might be surprised by how your suggestions are received. Some internship supervisors really don’t expect students to want to do more than they are assigned. Be the person who always asks to do more…and make that a creedo throughout your career. Yes, you may end up doing more than your counterparts do, and for the same (or no) pay, but you will also stand out as the kind of person that people can count on and want to hire.
If your little talk doesn’t get you away from the prize closet, turn to your internship coordinator at your school for help. They want you to have a valuable internship experience and sometimes a phone call from them to your internship coordinator can turn things around.
And if neither of those approaches work, then you just have to grin and make the best of it. You don’t want to be a quitter, so keep doing the best job you can at cleaning out that prize closet and do it with a smile on your face. That, in itself, can be very impressive to the people around you who might one day be in a position to hire you for a much more important job.
Next month, why making friends in school can help your career!
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Tammy Trujillo is both an entertainer and an educator. She began in the entertainment field as a child and since graduating from Cal State Fullerton, has continuously worked in the Los Angeles market as a News Anchor, Reporter, Sportscaster and Commercial Voice-Over Artist. Combining her real-world experience with a hands-on approach to learning, Tammy has also taught broadcasting for the past 25 years at many of Southern California's most prestigious private schools and colleges. She is currently the lead Professor of Broadcasting at Mt. San Antonio College. Throughout her career, she has received numerous honors for her work both on the air and behind-the-scenes, including several Golden Mike Awards from the Radio Television News Association. Tammy is a member of SAG-AFTRA, a former Board member of the Associated Press Television Radio Association, a Hall of Fame member at Long Beach City College and a member of Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters. She has authored two books, Intern Insider - Getting the Most Out of Your Internship in the Entertainment Field and Writing and Reporting News You Can Use.