Sunday, July 15, 2018
Being a polite pest key to gaining a foothold in media world
Dear Mr. Bradshaw,
I will be a college junior majoring in journalism and want to find an internship in New York City or Chicago next summer. The only internships I have come across in my search for opportunities are unpaid. I estimate that it will cost at least $6,000 to live in one of these cities for the summer and question if the expense is worth it.
Signed, Internship Hopeful
Dear Internship Hopeful,
I can almost hear your parents, family and friends saying, “If only you had studied finance or medicine you would have a good paying job after you graduate.” However unimaginative you may have thought they were, it is probably clear by now that they were just being practical. Finance and medicine have pretty clear-cut career paths and are largely meritocratic professions.
A career in journalism is often governed by lucky breaks and personal connections. If you don’t have these connections, it is unlikely you will find a paid or unpaid internship at a large city newspaper or magazine. Don’t misunderstand, nearly all media outlets are willing to read a résumé or email of inquiry. However, you had better include a brilliant cover-letter demonstrating some practical experience in journalism to catch their attention if you expect to have a fighting chance for an internship.
If your school is in a metropolitan area, you might consider trying to find a media outlet or not-for-profit that would welcome your part-time assistance. That would look good on your resume for a larger market internship. Several of my clients who are interning this summer at top banking and consulting firms have already accepted jobs following their graduation in 2019. Only two of those clients found work in journalism and those jobs were at not-for-profits, not major media outlets.
Hopefully you have chosen a college where you have been provided with a well-rounded curriculum in the converging media. You need real-world experience with all types of media with a goal of your work being used in print, online and on radio and television thanks to the merging of previously distinct media properties. You have chosen a profession where you have to be doggedly persistent and expect a lot of rejections. I have a client from Moscow who was published in the New York Times while still in high school in the United Kingdom. His story will give you an idea of what I am talking about.
Boris was at home in Moscow last summer and decided to attend a criminal trial that was being covered by the international press and the New York Times. He met a journalist from the Times and asked him about opportunities for a summer internship. Boris kept going back to the trial every day and pestering the journalist until he relented and told him to go out and find a newsworthy event, write it up, and submit it to the Times.
His persistence paid off handsomely. He took the reporter’s advice and wrote up a newsworthy event that was published in the Times.
You have to be aggressive and willing to take risks. Being a polite pest is part of it. When it comes to the working world today, no one is going to take you by the hand and guide you. To find an internship you will have to hustle just like Boris did and pay your dues. The rewards are there if you don’t give up. Is it worth the money to live in a big city to get that experience? It all depends on you.
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