Maximizing Your Experience

In some newsrooms, it's easy for interns to coast by, doing little more than fetching coffee, doing busy-work and surfing the web during downtime. If you are only after the notch on your résumé, you may be content to take this approach. But if you really want to learn from your job, there are a few things you can do to maximize your experience.

1. Adopt a "No Regrets" Policy

From the minute you walk through the door, pledge to yourself that you will leave your internship with no regrets. If you really want to talk with a particular reporter or editor, don't let the time slip away without doing something about it. If you are determined to write an article about your own idea and have it published in the paper, start asking questions early on about how to do it. You have limited amount of time to see and do the things that you are interested, in so don't put anything off. Go for it! Use every opportunity you are given as if it's your last chance to show your stuff and make a good impression.

2. Get a Newsroom Mentor

When you are an entry-level editorial worker, your interaction with the more experienced news reporters and editors may be limited. Although your fellow low-end co-workers may have a lot to offer in the way of experience and advice, you should make it a point to seek out the real veterans, as busy as they may be. One of the best ways to do so is to ask your manager early on in the internship to pair you up with someone with a lot of experience.

Arrange to have lunch or coffee with the person away from the office once a week. Get his or her e-mail address and phone number early on so you can call or write with questions when your schedules do not overlap. Having informal contact with someone from inside the office may enable you to ask questions that you felt dumb asking before. Furthermore, the insights that your mentor offers may help steer you toward or away from a particular area of journalism when you are making future career decisions.

3. Make Work Friends

A survey by Louis Harris & Associates shows that in 1997, the average American spent 50.8 hours a week at work compared with 19.5 hours spent at play. Keeping this in mind, it's easy to see why making friends at work can make your days, weeks and years of work more pleasant. Plus, in today's rapidly changing job market, and particularly in the media industry where turnover is frequent, building bonds with people may be more important than staying loyal to a particular company.

According to Stephen Herzenberg, author of New Rules for a New Economy, "the old work ethic was defined by employees who dedicated their lives to the needs of the company." Today, he sees a new loyalty based on personal relationships that cuts across company lines to include people from other firms.

Once you make contacts at work, keep up with them. Drop them e-mails or call every month or so to say hello. Don't wait until you are actively looking for work to make a miraculous re-appearance - you will come across as more of a nuisance than a friend or colleague. Also keep in mind that when people leave their jobs to move on to bigger and better things, they may also be in the position to open some doors for you.



Revised 04-03-00