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How to Make the Most Out of an Internship

November 18, 2010

We have our first interns ever this quarter and we  l.o.v.e  it! Stasia Blackhurst and Shirley Wang are both new graduates that are trying to break into the advertising world. Since this is my first time managing interns I thought I’d share some wisdom that I’ve learned in talking with colleagues, friends and from when I was an intern 7 years ago. I personally had 4 internships at KOMO television that were a critical part of  launching into a successful career.

1. Informational Interviews.

I can’t emphasis the importance of asking for informational interviews enough. My mentor and now friend, Alyson Soma, was my boss while I was a sales intern for KOMO 4. She was the first person to introduce me to an “informational interview.” What is it, you ask?  It’s an interview of someone who is currently working in a position that you are interested in. It doesn’t have to be someone with a position that you are currently qualified for. It can be a high level executive who you admire or an assistant who you’d just like to know more about.

Alyson told me to respectfully ask each person in the sales department for 20 to 30 minutes of their time. Then I was to prepare good open-ended questions about their career path. You’ll be amazed what you will learn! I learned more from these informational interviews than in all of my college classes combined. And you know what, it gave me the courage to ask for an informational interview with the CEO of Fisher Communications. (Fisher Communications owns KOMO TV) Colleen Brown, is a CEO and she’s an amazing woman. She’s a relatively young, super smart, savvy woman who is running a huge communication company AND she is rocking it! Because I had interviewed others before her I wasn’t as nervous when I asked for her time. She was gracious with her time and gave me invaluable wisdom.

So, how do you set up these interviews? Kindly ask for a specific amount of time, set a meeting and be prepared. Ask good questions like: “When did you know you wanted to be a ______?” “What would you tell your kids if they were considering following in your career path?” “How would you recommend I move forward in this industry?”

Afterwards, write a thank you note. Handwritten. No exceptions.

2. Network Baby!

It’s all about who you know, right?? Well, kind of. It’s tough starting out as a new grad or college student. I was from Longview, WA. I had zero connections in Seattle when I started looking for internships. BUT, a girl in my college sorority had an internship at local talk show Northwest Afternoon. I applied for the internship (without realizing she was a current intern) and she mentioned to the hiring manager that she knew who  I was and that they should consider bringing me in for an interview.

BOOM, foot in the door. Guess what, I wasn’t about to let the door close. I stayed at KOMO for 4 internships. I felt like I was the longest lasting unpaid intern in the building! I was there for 2 years. But that’s the point. I didn’t have elaborate networking contacts, I had one friend from college. She cracked the door a teeny bit and from there it was up to me. I had to get my booty into KOMO and network, network, network! From there, I made friends in the newsroom, asked if they needed an intern then worked my way into the sales department… and 2 years later I was the first TV salesperson  they’d ever hired directly out of college.

3. Work it!

I don’t mean like a hoochy, I mean get in their and work your patootie off. Your internship requires 20 hours unpaid a week? Work 25. Show up early. Go the extra mile. Make a name for yourself by being present and actively contributing to the company. Don’t just ho-hum through to log the hours so you can write “internship” on your resume. Go in there and literally show them what you’re workin’ with!

4. Dress for the job you want.

First things first. What’s the boss wearing? A suit? Then you should too. No objections folks. Dress for the job you want. If you want to work at a coffee stand, dress like a barista. If you want to run the company, dress like the one who is.

5. Ask for contacts and referrals.

Don’t be shy. Toward the end of your internship ask the people you’ve worked alongside to help you find a job. If you’ve done the things above they will be delighted to introduce you to others. If they do, write a thank you note. Handwritten. No exceptions.

Have a question? Email me Too many people have helped me get to where I am now, I will do my best to pay it forward.




One Comment leave one →
  1. November 18, 2010 7:27 am

    Great post. I will read your posts frequently. Added you to the RSS reader.

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