I recently had a lively conversation with several senior-level magaziners about interns.
Yes, interns, you are noticed, and your editor is going to talk about you with his friends (aka other editors). What you want him to say about you is how amazing you are, that you are a godsend, that you do your job exceptionally well. If you are a good intern, your editor will do everything he can to help you along in your career.
What you don't want, is to have your editor speaking badly about you, because we do name names. To help all you interns out there start off on the right foot in the biz, here are some Dos and Don'ts:
DON'T quit after the first day, saying, "It wasn't what I was expecting." Newsflash: first days of any job almost always suck. I know people – full-time hired staff – who have had no desk and no computer on their first day. If you are stuck at the receptionist's desk and given a bunch of back issues to read through, take the opportunity to read the magazine and get to know the brand. Preparing for an intern's arrival is usually near the bottom of a very busy editor's to-do list. We do our best to have things ready, but sometimes we just don't have any work for you to do on your first day. Quit your first day and you've already established a reputation as someone with an entitlement complex who doesn't see things through.
DON'T stop showing up. Life happens. Sometimes you find a full-time job or have family issues to deal with. If something unexpected comes up, call your editor, explain the situation and offer profuse apologies. Don't just not show up – it makes us anxious because we think you may have been in an accident. And when we find out that's not the case, we get pissed off.
DO say yes to every job, unless illegal or dangerous. This is not a pick-and-choose situation. Do what you are asked of, and with a smile. A good attitude will get you very far.
DO be professional. You may not be getting paid much, if at all, but you must treat your internship as a job. Have a courteous phone manner, be respectful of all staff and other interns, be helpful, and have a positive attitude. This is your audition for the the industry.
DO learn Twitter, Facebook and RSS feeds, and it's better if you have a blog. These are everyday tools of journalism now. We expect you to know them.
Interns, it is not hard to be a good intern. Judging from the many conversations I've had on this topic, bad interns are everywhere. Show up on time and do your job professionally, and you will stand out as a star.
Editors, anything else you would add to this list? Any advice or intern horror stories to share?
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.