Interning: from the inspiring to the uninspiring

Since graduating last year I have been going from part-time jobs to work experience, trying to fill every gap before I start my Masters in Magazine Journalism. In the course of the year I have experienced a fun, informative internship and one which went horribly wrong.

The uninspiring
Fresh out of university I was eager to gain some hands-on experience in an internship. I found an online fashion magazine that I had never heard of before advertising for interns. Despite travel expenses not being covered I was desperate for some experience. Having visited the website, the magazine looked like it included a comprehensive coverage of fashion and it appeared to have a big team. However on the first day of my month-long internship I discovered that the magazine’s headquarters turned out to be a man’s flat. I was completely baffled, there was no team at all, just another intern and the editor in a pokey flat. It turned out that this was a website run by interns, but nowhere on the website did it state that.

As the internship progressed I found myself staring numbly at a computer screen all day, essentially running the magazine’s social media and a part of its website. The editor remained aloof the whole internship, offering little advice or encouragement. Half way through the internship some new interns came and having discovered the same as me, walked out after just one day.

The inspiring
Earlier this year I conducted a month’s editorial placement at Now magazine which was a complete contrast from my disastrous internship. Firstly, travel expenses were covered which meant that I did not have to fork out to commute to London. From day one I was mentored by the editorial assistant and there was a buzzing atmosphere. I sat excitedly as I heard the news desk’s telephone conversations with Amy Childs and Michelle Keegan.

This internship gave me an all-round experience of a magazine; transcribing interviews, researching news stories, assisting the news team and testing makeup for a beauty review. Ultimately I learnt about how a successful magazine is run. Alongside this I was made to feel like a valued member of the team as, having transcribed a whole interview, one of the news team profusely thanked me! Throughout the internship I was given clear instructions of what to do, compiled in a work experience ‘bible’. The experience convinced me that showbiz journalism is a route that I may very well want to go down.

The lessons
My interning journey led me along different wide and twisting roads. Part of my reason for sharing this with you is to help other interns learn from my mistakes. From the ‘uninspiring’ internship I learnt the importance of researching WHO you are interning for. After that experience I think I will only feel confident interning for established and known publications with a team that can offer me advice. I will never intern for anywhere that does that cover travel expenses or pay me minimum wage. Any company that does not at least cover travel expenses is not worth your time and is probably looking for a sure way to exploit the labour of young, willing people.

I hope that you have learnt from my experience and will continue to search for the right internship. All the cover letters and persistent emails will get you there in the end. What my experience has taught me is that it is definitely worth waiting for the inspiring internship!

Anna is a University of Birmingham graduate, soon to be starting a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Her dream career would be to write for a celeb weekly or women’s magazine.

To get yourself an inspiring job or internship go to our graduate internships in London page.