The Key to Finding the Right Internship
Tips on how to choose well and increase your chances of getting a job
Written by Lis Travers, RTDNF President (November 2, 2016)
You’ve done the homework. Read the book. Wrote the script.
In today’s J-schools, you probably also shot, edited, and tweeted, Facebooked and Instagrammed your story assignment as well.
Now you are ready, oh so ready, to get inside a real newsroom and prove you have the right stuff.
Not to stress you out, but the internship is the most important step to landing a job. It’s your foot in the door. This is where you get the chance to leave an impression and stand out in a sea of others who came before you. Treat it like a course that you must ace to get on with your life.
To give you an idea just how important it is, 60-70% of the production staff at Canada AM were former interns. Among the intern success stories who I have worked with: a senior writer at CBC National News, a Documentary Producer, the Executive Producer of Global National News, Control room Producers, Field Producers and Segment producers, news anchors, reporters and assignment editors too many to count.
Do your homework. It is critical to pick the right internship for you Most colleges and universities have coordinators to help you find the right fit. If your school does not have one – call the station you are interested and ask for the person who handles the internships.
Internship To-Do List:
- What courses do you like best so far? Digital, Print, Radio, TV
- What do I want to be when I grow up? Don’t go to a 24-hour breaking news channel if you want to do entertainment. You are looking for a place where you could see yourself working. Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years? You do NOT want to waste your time and you really don’t want to waste mine. There is nothing worse than intern (and I have known a few) who comes in, sits at a desk and hangs out on Facebook all day. You want to be like the former intern who chased down a guy who found a purse with tens of thousands of dollars on a park bench in San Francisco and gave it back. Oh and she found him before The Today Show did and convinced him to talk to us first! …all ON HER FIRST DAY.
- Where can you do the most work? This is your chance to shine. Consider this a golden opportunity so you want to make sure you are going to do more than observe. Ask the coordinator what kind of work you will be doing. They will have read the reports from previous interns so should have a good idea. Check with your classmates. The more work you can do, the greater the chance to impress.
- Manage expectations: If you want to be a TV reporter, don’t pick a big city newsroom and expect to be assigned your own story for the 6pm news. You will probably be able to help them set up interviews and go along for the ride. It is an excellent opportunity to see what is really involved in the job and ideally make you even more determined to do the job than you are already. However, if reporting experience is #1 on your list, try a smaller station, even if it is radio not TV, you may very well have the chance to get on air.
- Sometimes Size Really Does Matter. In many cases the smaller the newsroom the more you will do. Once you have your bearings, try your best to assess the greatest need. If you are shadowing a reporter, ask them if you can write something up for online for them to review. It will save them time and it shows you are resourceful. While Small is Good, larger stations or networks will have more people to get you trained on entry level duties. Ask if there is an option to work weekends – there will be less staff and so you will do more. Larger stations or networks are also more likely to be in need of freelancers once your internship is over.
Here’s some advice from two former interns who are now employed.
Christine Tippett, Freelance Writer and Chase Producer, CTV News Channel
Ryerson Class of 2015
- I talked to fellow classmates about their internship experiences, asking what they typically did day-to-day, how much responsibility they were given and their overall thoughts.
- I had multiple one-on-one meetings with my professors to get their advice.
- During my internship interviews I asked questions about what I would be doing day-to-day to get more details.
Tyler McFadden, Full Time News Producer “Your Morning”
Niagara College – Class of 2014
- I had to ask myself first what I wanted out of it. Obviously employment is the ultimate goal, but I really wanted two things out of the internship experience itself – a variety of tasks in different areas of production, and the opportunity to showcase my skill set.
- I looked at a variety of internships. Many outlined one specific task that interns would be responsible for. Others gave no mention of tasks at all.
- After researching online and speaking with the producer who handles the internships at Canada AM, I decided it had what I was looking for. I learned I would have the opportunity to write scripts, pitch ideas, craft segments and work with editors to cut video – contributing content to the show on a daily basis. This would allow me demonstrate my value to an array of people from different areas of production. I felt confident that I would be given ample opportunity to prove to the right people that I belonged in the industry, and accepted the internship.
Final Thought: Whatever internship you choose, take it seriously. Some of the best employees I have hired over the past 20 years were former interns. They came with ideas. They asked questions. They asked for feedback to make sure they were getting it right. And what I loved most – they were hungry to get into the industry. These are the people who get the jobs.
General Manager of CTV News Channel and CTVNews.ca
Interned in 1980-the night of a provincial election
Started a number of internship programs
Hired dozens of former interns.