Interning; it’s a rite of passage in the media industry. It’s that requisite stepping stone between study and becoming a fully-fledged professional.
Theoretically, it’s a win-win situation for everyone – the intern gets experience and new skills, while the hosting company is able to offload some tasks.
For a lucky few, that relationship can evolve into something more permanent, say, a paid full-time position?
However, it doesn’t always work so smoothly. At my first work experience gig, I was 16 years old and at a Canberra-based architecture firm. In the longest week of my life I learned two things: licking over 300 stamps and envelopes a day makes your tongue numb, and that I didn’t want to be an architect.
I was much more fortunate the second time around as a uni student at a science magazine in Sydney. More than coffee runs and licking stationery, I actually got to get involved in production – researching, interviewing, writing, uploading and having some work published.
The point is, that’s what makes a good internship; when both parties genuinely get something positive out of the arrangement. And I’d like to think we do a pretty good job of ensuring that here in the AT office.
As a result, we’re swamped with intern requests every week but unfortunately there are just not enough positions for everyone.
With that in mind, here are some pointers for prospective interns looking to break into travel journalism.
First and foremost, do your research on the title you’re looking to work with. One of the quickest ways to have your application sent to the bottom of the waiting list is to come across as insincere or to show little knowledge about the publication.
For instance, it’s really not a good look to email, say, a domestic travel mag about how much you love the publication and how their stories have inspired many of your overseas travels. Er…did you read any further than the masthead? Yes, it happens.
Also, particularly in an industry where spelling and grammar is crucial, please proof read your application before sending. Numerous times. And then again, just for good measure.
And to show you’re serious about the position, attach your errorless resume and cover letter in your initial email.
Once you start contacting publishers regarding intern positions, don’t be afraid to follow up after a couple weeks. Journalists are busy people and, unfortunately, sometimes emails get filed and forgotten.
Of course there is a line between enthusiastic and psychopathic. It’s probably not a great idea to follow up every day, nor is tracking down their home address so you can ask in person why you haven’t been hired. Although, that would make an impression…
But do try to be patient, despite how trying it can be at times. Eventually something will open up. And when that happens, be on time, be clear-headed and be rearing to go.
Admittedly, intern duties aren’t always riveting. That’s part of the package. There will be times when you’re assigned rearranging shelves and licking the odd envelope.
But the point is you get to see a working title in production mode and understand what travel journalism really involves.
And if it’s a good internship, the tasks won’t always be so menial. There’s also scope for story research, writing, liaising with PRs and putting together something that you can call your own. So try to remain enthusiastic about whatever you’ve been handed.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, that’s the whole point of interning – learning. No matter how trivial it might be, from decoding media-speak to clarifying instructions.
It not only shows you’re interested, but it will also help you get the most out of your internship.