A lot of journalism internships are unpaid, so how do you get the most out of yours? What to do, what not to do, and important questions to ask
1. Do your homework
It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many interns haven’t picked up a copy of the magazine they’re interning at before they start. Spend an hour or so before your first day and read a few copies of the magazine cover to cover. Get a feel for the different sections of the magazine – what is the tone of the magazine? What are the themes? The first question someone will ask you is ‘have you read the magazine?’. Say ‘yes’ with confidence, and it shows you’re keen, too.
2. Do introduce yourself
Chances are you won’t be sitting next to the editor, but when it feels appropriate and things are not busy, go and introduce yourself to people on the team. Know the editor and deputy editors’ names before you start the job and ask if they have any jobs, however small they may be, that you can help with. You’re only there a short period of time, so make sure you get the most out of it and make yourself known.
3. Do make the drinks
Sure, this shouldn’t be the only thing you do, but don’t underestimate the power of making someone a hot beverage! It’s a great way to talk to people, show you want to be helpful, and break the ice in a busy and stressful environment. People will remember you and give you more work to do.
4. Do ask for more work
When you start something, ask how urgent it is and get a deadline to finish by. Something that lots of interns don’t do is ask for things to do when they’ve finished. Maybe because they don’t want to annoy people when everyone looks busy, but often they can help with fact-checking or researching. Ask, ask, ask. You’re an extra pair of hands that can really help! Which is linked to the next point…
5. Don’t go on social media
You’re sitting with nothing to do, it’s tempting, so you log on Facebook, and someone comes over to your desk. It looks so bad. Resist the Facebook urge!
6. Do ask for feedback
Ask for a short meeting at the end of your time there to summarise. Ask how you can improve and be prepared to take criticism constructively. Ask for feedback from people you’ve been working with, and if it’s good, ask if you can contribute after you’ve left. Perhaps you could pitch blog posts for them, do online roundups or news stories? In which case, take down emails of people to pitch to, and talk to them before you leave. Leaving on good terms is a must – ask to stay in touch, and if any job opportunities come up you might be the first to know!
Katie Gatens is Entertainment Assistant at British Airways High Life magazine.