Long gone are the days of summer filled with poolside afternoons and umbrella drinks. Instead, I’ve traded in my flip-flops for heels, and my swimsuit for a power suit. This summer will chronicle my journalism internship in a field that’s slightly out of my comfort zone, and test my abilities to become business savvy in the big city.
It was technically a pretty boring week in the office, but exciting now that I’ve really started to think about my experiences. The magazine is in its final stages before going to print, so everyone is in a frenzy making last-minute design decisions and evaluating final edits. For me that’s meant fact checking, phone calls, piles of press releases, editing, editing and more editing.
Just when I was starting to feel like a real intern – getting stuck with all of the dreaded but unfortunately essential work – I got a huge validation. I really did a lot of studying for my last article. Becoming business savvy has not been easy for me – a lot of times I feel like I’m really grasping in the dark for some economic concept that will make my story more than just a good piece of writing and something that actually belongs in the top business magazine of 2011 (according to a national competition). And if the feed back I’ve gotten so far is any indication, maybe I really am grasping this and not just grasping in the dark – something that’s huge for me considering I went into this internship thinking that I wasn’t going to get much out of it.
I came into the office on Friday to an e-mail from my editor saying that my last article on TechTown’s entrepreneurial initiatives in Detroit had been picked up by a regional news hub – basically a wire service that takes the best articles about what’s going on in Detroit, good and bad, from local publications and sends it out to wire services across the nation and the globe to serve as the city’s news source. If I hadn’t already felt like this experience has been worth it, I certainly do now.
I’ve always felt that the halfway point in the internship is a good place to do some reflection on your experience — that way if you’re happy with your opportunities so far it’s the perfect time to ask your boss what else you can take on before the summer ends, or if you’re unhappy it’s not too late to figure out why and take the initiative to get something out of your time there. My last internship, at a local newspaper, didn’t do so well on my mid-summer evaluation. I wasn’t handed great opportunities there, and instead of seeking them out, I just dubbed it a bad internship and spent the rest of the summer content writing obituaries and press releases. All I got out of that internship was the knowledge that I didn’t want to go into the newspaper industry.
That’s not a mistake that anyone should let themselves make. I spent a lot of time thinking that the value of an internship was determined by the employer…but that’s completely wrong. The value of the experience is determined by you. I went into this summer thinking that this would be the worst job I’ve ever had and that I would be terrible at it and bored out of my mind. Everyone is always telling us as college students to make the most of our experiences. But as cliché as it sounds it’s true. Taking that little piece of advice has allowed me to put my own style on the work I initially thought would be boring.
It’s tempting to get lazy during the summer months, do what’s asked of you and nothing more. But as Northwestern students we’re not exactly short on initiative or ambition. And let’s face it. When has not going above and beyond ever really been enough for any of us?
So even though I’m actually finding my piles of press releases and endless editing a fascinating part of the magazine process, it’s time to up the ante and go pitch another story.