Internships more than a reference

CJ Alumna
Breann Schossow

By Breann Schossow

It’s April. You’re either thinking about getting an internship, or have one set in place for the summer. Now what?

Successful internships will lead to other internships, and, fingers crossed, a job in the field you’re studying. But, they should be treated as more than a brief stepping stone – they create valuable relationships, experiences, and confidence that propel young communication students forward.

When it comes to an internship, think beyond the reference for the next position. Your supervisor and others you support are people too, with incredible experiences that they will most likely be willing to share with you to help you grow. For example, I’m fascinated by the work embedded and unembedded correspondents do, especially regarding military coverage. Imagine my surprise and pleasure when a wonderful journalist at a past internship took me to lunch one day for no other reason than to allow me to pick her brain regarding her most recent trip to cover Wisconsin’s troops in the Middle East. It was an experience filled with lessons and tips that I treasure to this day and hope to one day put to use. A supervisor and other staffers at the organization you intern for can also be your biggest supporters and contacts who, in coming years, may help with anything from proofreading cover letters to keeping you apprised of the news in the industry.

People in your internship network are also founts of valuable advice, and, knowing that, I reached out to one of my past supervisors, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram’s Julian Emerson, to ask what he hopes interns gain from a supervisor’s standpoint. Yes, Emerson said, the recommendation is important.

“But even more important is learning to do the job you want to do for a career well,” he said. “Providing interns with opportunities to learn about their career choices and to get better at doing those jobs is really what matters most.”

He’s absolutely right. An internship creates incredible experiences that not only teach you about what to do – they teach you about what you’ve decided to do and if it is the right career. Trust me – that is a worthwhile experience that you need in your life. Thanks to a previous internship, I’ve learned how to report about the work police officers do during a typical night shift and provide coverage readers need. But more importantly, I learned that it’s a type of reporting I hope to pursue during my career and that journalism is the only career for me.

Finally, an internship not only builds skills – it builds confidence in said skills. With that in mind, I thought of my friend and Department of Communication and Journalism Department alumnus Eric Larson, who is an editorial intern for Mashable, a news, technology and social media blog based in New York City. I reached out to him to ask him what he values about his internship.

Mashable threw Larson into the deep end the first day, he said, and he means that in the best way possible. He not only is learning valuable skills – he’s putting them to work every day and sharing his work on a website that gets millions of page views from around the world. What more can a communication graduate ask for?

“All of the skills and experiences I’ve picked up since starting in August are integral in that I’ve become very versatile, in writing, reporting, video editing and coding, and have been able to live and work away from home in a completely new and exciting environment – which, above all else, I think is the most important step for all young college graduates to embark on,” Larson said.

Larson makes an excellent point that I haven’t touched upon. An internship may require you to move to, as he calls it, a new and exciting environment. However, you don’t need to move to experience that – an internship alone can provide that (consider a location change a fun bonus).

Above all, an internship is a valuable tool that can boost communication and journalism students to success and confidence. Oh – and, if done well, it can get references, too.

Breann Schossow is a research assistant for National Public Radio’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who is writing a book about the science of midlife. To date, Ms. Schossow has interned for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, and National Public Radio, among other organizations. She enjoys helping UW-Eau Claire students learn and succeed. To contact Ms. Schossow, email her at breann@breannschossow.com.

UWEC CJ alumni- What communication skills and knowledge they are looking for in an intern? Have you learned anything interesting in your own internships? Please comment to join the conversation.

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One thought on “Internships more than a reference

  1. Great article, Breann! Hi, I’m Janet Driever, the CJ Internship Coordinator. If you are interested in an internship in CJ, contact me at drievejm@uwec.edu. Get helpful internship information by picking up the Internship Packet for CJ 498 available in the CJ office, HHH 152 or on line at the UW-EC CJ website under “resources/forms.”

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