Thursday, March 29, 2012

Words of Wisdom from a Pro Intern: Part 1

In the stress of searching for (and attaining) the perfect internship, getting through the semester, or figuring out where your passions lie, it's always welcome to hear a story or two from someone who has been exactly in your position and found success.

This is the case for Joey Khalil, a senior at Michigan State University. Joey is a Broadcast Journalism and International Relations double major, and has held a few notable internships in the past year. He offers up some great advice, exclusively for our Under PRessure readers.

Under PRessure: Having gone through both internships and almost all of your undergrad career, what advice would you give students in the fields of journalism or mass communications?

Joey Khalil: Get active, get involved and meet everybody. Anderson Cooper said you should never underestimate the value of out-hustling everybody else. As students, be active; apply for as many internships as possible. Try to meet professors and get involved with student journalism, communications or broadcast programs at your school. If and when you get internships, BE the intern that stands out. During my internships I was given a schedule…ignore it. If you’re supposed to stay until 3:00, stay until 6:00 and FIND something to do, something to learn or someone to shadow at the very least. Go beyond what is asked of you. Make sure that people there know your name and remember you. Don’t be shy about approaching people and saying, “Hey, I’m Joe.” It sounds so simple, but you’d be surprised how many interns I’ve seen who stay quiet. DON’T STAY QUIET!!! Even if you do great stuff, but nobody knows you or remembers you, you’ve wasted a lot of good opportunities. 
When I interned at Detroit’s FOX 2 News there were news meetings every day, where producers, reporters, etc. discuss and decide what goes into the news that day. It was VERY intimidating for interns to speak up during these meetings, it’s true, because it means putting yourself out there in front of people who are more qualified to speak about the day’s news than you are. I tried to speak up at as many of these as I could. I did my homework. The night before and the morning of I’d be scanning newspapers, other TV stations, radio stations to find stories that I could pitch at the meeting. If there’s a big, ongoing story I’d try to find a new angle to it and see what people thought at the meeting. At times you’ll look and feel stupid or ignored by everyone else in the room. That’s okay, by the time I left I was (and still am) on a first name basis with almost everybody at FOX 2. I was told by a lot of people there I stood out because I built relationships with people. It sounds simple, but there are a lot of interns who don’t get what they should out of internships because they’re too quiet or shy or just don’t get to know the people they’re working with. DO MORE, SPEAK UP, MAKE SURE PEOPLE KNOW WHO YOU ARE, AND KEEP IN TOUCH WITH EVERYBODY YOU MEET!

UP: What was it that led you to choose your field of study?

JK: I was originally an International Relations major without much idea about what I wanted to do after school. I thought about Law School and some other things, not because I was passionate about those ideas, more because I thought these things are what smart people do. I was honestly terrified about the future, and all of the unknown that went with it. It wasn’t until I had sort of a self-analysis and really thought about what I like to do, what I’m good at and how I could combine those things. I felt I was a good writer, I’m definitely a people person and I’ve had a lot of experience speaking in public. I sort of fell on broadcast journalism by coincidence. I started talking to a lot of people in the television news industry, asking a lot of questions (another sign that I was on the right path). I decided to enroll in journalism classes, and I remember at the end of my very first day at my first internship at FOX 2, I knew I made the right choice. 

UP: For you, how important is it to be passionate about what you choose to study/pursue as a career?

JK: For me, being passionate about my career path is everything. It’s the reason I didn’t settle for something else. In my case, passion is also essential to success. I’m going into broadcast with the hopes of being a news reporter/anchor. From the experience I have so far being in front of a camera, if I’m not passionate it shows. Every time I do a stand-up or sit at the desk and read the news, I have to carry myself with a certain level of enthusiasm or else I appear dull and disconnected with the audience. 

UP: How important has it been to establish relationships with your professors?

JK:Thus far establishing a relationship with my professors has been pretty helpful. Your professors have likely been in the field themselves at some point in their careers. They probably have contacts who, for students entering the field, are advantageous to have. Professors are also great sources of advice in general. When I was torn about taking an internship in Atlanta that would have meant dropping all of my courses about a month into the school year, I went to my professors for help. I believe they gave me the right advice. 
UP: Any other general advice or words of wisdom for journalism/communications students? 

JK: A lot of students stress about grades. I’ve seen many peers come to a professor after class and try to argue about a 3.5 on an assignment for which the student believed they deserved a 4.0. By no means am I saying grades are not important –they are. In this field though, grades are actually less important than demonstrated ability. Focus less on grades and more on learning. It’s important in communications and journalism of any kind that students get as much experience as possible. Go out and DO! If that means internships, helping out with a universities journalism programs, or just practicing with video techniques, do it! Whatever it takes to actually become able to do the job well is what students should be aiming to do. If students are proactive about seeking and taking advantage of every opportunity, the grades will probably reflect that. In any case, the kid with no internships and a 4.0 is less likely to score a good reporting job than the kid with a 3.0, three internships and a solid resume tape. Like Anderson Cooper said, don’t ever underestimate the value of out-hustling everyone else. It’s about doing. Get out there and do!

This is some pretty valuable information, no? I think everyone can benefit from the lessons learned by seasoned interns. We hope you got a bit of inspiration from this, and that some of your questions have been answered!

This is a two-part deal, so stick around for his words of wisdom on networking and building your brand.


Girls Under PRessure

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