How to make your journalism internship really count

So you’ve done it. You’ve landed your first journalism
internship. Congrats! But hold on—your work’s not over yet. If you want your
internship to lead to a great portfolio—or a great job—you’ve got to make the
most of your time there.

Mark S. Luckie at 10,000 Words offers some great advice
on thriving during your internship time.

A few of his words of wisdom:

Speak up

“Often times, intern managers and other journalists are too busy with their own
workload to manage yours, so if you want work to add to your portfolio, ask
around and see who needs help. There’s often a story or two that nobody else is
eager to cover, but as mentioned before there is no such thing as a small
story, only small thinking. Don’t go for page one or primetime, go for

Ask questions

“If there is some part of the newsgathering process you don’t understand or
lingo you’ve never heard of, be sure to ask questions. Most newsroom reporters
understand that you are an intern and are more than willing to assist with
simple requests.”

Luckie’s first recommendation, though? Get paid. Well, yeah, that’s all well
and good for the half-dozen wannabe Canadian journalists that manage to land
paying internships, but the reality is that most of us are going to get a foot
in the door with an unpaid gig. Yes it sucks, and yes there are a lot of people
out there that don’t like it, but it’s the way it is, so if you’re going to go
that route, you’d best be prepared.

So here are a few of my tips for getting through a
full-time, unpaid internship in one piece:

Be choosy.
Forty hours a week is a lot—and if you’re working a second job to pay rent,
like I did during my internship summer, it’ll be more like 70—so make sure that
you really love what your internship is about, and make sure that you’re going
to really learn enough to make the commitment worth it. Unless Mom and Dad are
footing your bills, you’re probably only going to be able to swing one unpaid
internship, so make sure that it’s the one you want. Don’t take an unpaid
internship just for the sake of it.

Treat it like free summer school. If you wanted to boost your skills before next term by going
to summer school, you’d be paying through the nose for that, right? This is
more of a morale thing, but if you look at your unpaid internship with this
attitude, you’re less likely to start feeling resentful.

Take on absolutely everything that you can. There are two ways to look at an unpaid internship.
First, there’s the “I’m not getting paid for this, so I don’t really have to
bring my A game” attitude. Then, there’s the “I’m paying a lot for this (by
giving up the chance to make actual money serving pizza), so I better make sure
that I come out of it with the most experience possible.” Take the latter

And finally, stay positive. Your internship is likely
going to dominate your entire summer, so keep your chin up and make sure you
enjoy it. It’ll be over before you know it.