AUG 24 — “Check out the three drawers full of tapes. Clean them out, arrange the tapes in alphabetical order and type the list in the computer,” said my immediate supervisor.
This was a gazillion years ago when I did my internship at CNBC Europe. I spent a week doing that and wondered the whole time how that was going to contribute to my post-graduate degree course.
Today, in my work in the media industry, I have supervised interns. And as my capacity as a lecturer, I have also advised students embarking on and in the midst of their internships.
What I have noticed is that many interns today feel like they deserve to be more than an intern. They want to do important work that matters for the organisation. What they don’t realise is that they are interns. And interns are right at the bottom of the food chain. Hence, they have no choice whatsoever.
I have had interns working on productions where their sole job for three months was to hold an umbrella over the director’s head when it was raining or too sunny. It’s hard as an intern because you are at the mercy of the organisation that took you in. And, you really aren’t as qualified as anyone who has been hired full time.
What an intern needs to do is to prove that he or she is worthy of being given bigger responsibilities. And that means sometimes being able to hold an umbrella well.
If you can hold an umbrella with the utmost skill and professionalism, then maybe you will give the impression that you can do other things well too.
It is also important that an intern is able to make him or herself visible. Being quiet and reserved, just holding an umbrella might just mean holding that umbrella forever.
One should speak up and voice his or her opinions. Trust me. People really do value someone who can think and is confident enough to speak their minds.
So with all that being said, I’ve also had interns who did jobs that qualified full-time staff would do, such as writing scripts and even directing camera crews.
When I supervise interns, I really do try my best to expose them to every aspect of the job at hand and try to give them a try at doing things too and not just see them as cheap labour.
Being hands-on does wonders to an intern’s confidence and also really increases their knowledge, as is the purpose of an internship.
However, even if an intern is stuck making coffee throughout his or her internship period, it doesn’t mean that it was a waste of time. Just being in a working environment and surrounded by professionals provides so much insight if one is very observant.
Basically, the main advice for interns out there is to take full advantage of their internships, no matter what they are stuck doing. It never is a waste of time.
As for me, after a week of cleaning up drawers full of tapes, I eventually moved up to doing research and writing scripts for one of CNBC Europe’s leading programmes. I learnt a lot from the experience and it actually helped to fuel and encourage me to want to further my career in broadcast journalism.
But it wasn’t all me, of course. I was very lucky to have supervisors at CNBC Europe who actually gave me a chance. So to Debbie Sharwood and Niaz Samadizadeh, wherever you are today — thanks for the opportunity!
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.