A CNN Intern’s Tips For Placement Success

Sebastian Salek

Graduate trainee Sebastian Salek

CNN intern Sebastian Salek spills the beans on life at the leading broadcaster and shares his top six tips on how to make the most of being on a placement…

Out of sheer terror at the thought of working from home as chief thumb twiddler, I managed to line up a few internships while still at university to tide me over after graduating.

I’m now four placements down the line and each one has been as much like starting at a new school as the one before it: stay out of trouble, find the toilets, and impress the cool kids.

I’m currently waving the star spangled banner at CNN where I’m putting into practice the interning wisdom I’ve picked up along the way, some of which I will share with you now:

Rule Number One: Be prepared

You want to stand out by hitting the ground running, so make sure you’ve done your homework before you arrive. If you’re at a TV or radio station, you might feasibly be sent out to film vox pops, so watch or listen to the network before you arrive. Knowing what the end product is will give you a clearer vision of what you’re trying to achieve.

If you’ll be writing, come up with a few suitable ideas for stories or features. Apart from a bit of transcription, all the work I did during my two weeks at the Independent was as a result of pitching stories.

That way I managed to avoid that awkward lull of nothingness that strikes at the start of most placements. Even if your pitches are all rejected, you’ve shown that you can generate your own ideas, which is sort of important if you want to be a journalist.

Rule Number Two: Make a bucket list

My internship at CNN is three months long, but most others are much shorter. At the start of my placement at Sky News, my editor encouraged me to make a list of the things I wanted to do in the two weeks.

Armed with more direction than One Direction themselves, I was able to plan ahead and get as much packed into the time as possible.

The urgency that the list created meant I did a wider variety of things in a fortnight at Sky News than in the six weeks I spent at Reuters beforehand.

Rule Number Three: Bug people

You may have networked your way into your internship – well done you – but don’t leave those skills at the door. Pick someone – anyone – in the newsroom, introduce yourself, and find out what they do.

They’re hardly going to bite your head off, and chances are you’ll get a bit of work thrown your way. Voila, a new contact is made.

Rule Number Four: Go for drinks

If the LinkedIn request isn’t enough for you, take things to the next level by asking people out for drinks. Everyone loves drinks, and it’s a better setting to have a proper chat and learn more about where you’re working.

Just remember to act like a human being: they’re doing you a favour by giving you their time, so be sure to thank people and try not to make them feel too used when you inevitably pummel them for careers advice.

Rule Number Five: Take notes

No one likes to tell people things twice. Buy a notebook and use it.

Rule Number Six: Follow it up

Be honest, you’re not interning for the hell of it. You want a job, and your manager knows it. So grab your superior for a quick chat before you leave to get a bit of feedback and pop the question about job prospects. If they don’t do the hiring, they’ll refer you to someone who does, hopefully with a good word put in.

If you don’t get a chance to catch your manager in person, drop them an email to say thanks and attach your CV letting them know you’d be interested in future opportunities. You’ve just done the best kind of job interview – one where they can see exactly how you operate in the workplace – so if you’ve impressed don’t let it go to waste.

Do you have any interning tips of your own? Post your comments below or join in the debate on Twitter with us @Journograds. You can also ‘like’ us on Facebook to stay up to date with job postings and reminders of application closing dates

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