By Jennifer Choi
Be on time, follow directions, dress appropriately. These are a few tips given to students as part of how to be a good intern. They are indeed effective and useful, but to put a little twist on the monotonous advice, here’s how not to be a good intern.
“Don’t criticize your supervisor,” advised Debi Gade, News 12’s special projects producer. “You can give suggestions, but don’t undermine the person you’re working for." Gade said one of her previous interns constantly criticized the way she did things and made her feel nervous.
“My stomach was in knots every morning and I felt so overwhelmed,” she added.
Gade refused to work with this intern any longer after the intern called in with orders. “She called me while she was out with a reporter and basically told me to have something ready for her by the time she got back to the office,” Gade said. “That was it. I just couldn’t take it any more. She started working with someone else and when I’d run into her, I wouldn’t even say hello. I wanted nothing to do with her.”
Promotions producer Rick deMasi also had an unpleasant experience with an intern. “Don’t refuse a job,” deMasi said. “Be prepared to clean out closets because everyone starts out low. My last intern refused the job and said, ‘I’d rather not.’”
DeMasi explained that even though interns’ duties should not only consist of doing menial work for supervisors, they will be asked to do such work from time to time. “Of course interns shouldn’t be asked to do this all the time because they are there to gain real experience, but supervisors appreciate interns for doing small things also,” he said.
This intern was recently fired because deMasi was already the second person with whom she’s worked. “She just didn’t get along with the first person she worked with,” deMasi said. “We usually don’t have interns in the promotions department, but I needed someone to rearrange the shelves.”
DeMasi said interns should never say they know something when they don’t. “Just say you don’t know. This intern ended up rearranging the wrong shelf and we couldn’t find an important tape for weeks. She actually cost us time.”
Timing was the biggest issue for Jamie Contratti, an intern in the news department. “I worked with Elizabeth Hashagen who does the morning segment, so I had to be at the office by 5:30 a.m.,” Contratti, 23, said. “It was really important for me to be on time, and my tip for interns would be don’t be late. It’s rough, but it shows that you’re dedicated.”
Being a senior in college, she also advised interns against falling behind on their school work. “When I worked with Elizabeth, I worked 5 a.m. to 12 p.m. then had to go to two classes right after until 6 p.m.,” she said. “Doing well during your internship is important, but you shouldn’t neglect your school work because you volunteered to do too much. Your supervisor is aware that school is your first priority, so you should be able to manage both equally well.”
However, Brenna McLoughlin, the internship coordinator for Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, advised interns against being inflexible. “If someone needs your help, do your best to change your schedule,” she said. “No one expects you to skip classes to do that, but if you have a free day to spare, you can offer to help out on that day.”
McLoughlin also advised against using personal email and cell phones while on the job. “I had one intern who would turn on Instant Messenger as soon as she got into the office,” she said. “Keep personal conversations to a minimum while you’re at work. And don’t ask for excessive time off just because you want to spend time with friends.”
Both McLoughlin and Mira Lowe, the internship coordinator for Newsday, said interns shouldn’t leave without giving their supervisors a status report at the end of the day. Lowe also advised interns against making promises they cannot keep.
“One intern promised to make up some days he missed but never followed through,” Lowe said. “Finally, he wrote a very snippy note to his editor saying that he decided that he wasn’t going to make up the time because he was too busy. The editor wasn’t happy with that response and reported it to the head of his school’s journalism department. Needless to say, the student can forget about getting a favorable recommendation.”
And don’t try to cover up a mistake if you make one, Lowe said. “If there’s an error in your published story, tell your editor so a correction can be made.”
The most obvious yet important tip comes from Stacey Halio, the News 12 internship coordinator. “Don’t lie,” Halio said. “I know that sounds simple, but we’ve had an intern who just lied about everything. Not only did she lie about the amount of time she spent in the office, she was just a pathological liar.”
Halio also advised interns not to read while on the job. “I know this sounds silly, but you should always take the initiative and see what can be done to help your supervisor or anyone else instead of turning to a book,” she said.
However, interns should not be pushy, said Annette D’Ambrosio, a former News 12 intern. “If you want to do something specific, let your internship boss know you’re interested, but do not tell them you have to do it!” D’Ambrosio emphasized. “There was an intern who actually paged an editor to come edit her resume reel, and he was trying to finish a package for the 5 p.m. show. That’s a big no-no.”
Another no-no is getting on any bad sides, she added. “If you don’t get along with someone, don’t say anything to anyone. The news media is such a small circle. You may not want to work at News 12, but I promise you the people who know you at News 12 know people at other news networks. So, basically, bad news travels fast in this business.”
Lastly, don’t do anything employees should or would not do, D’Ambrosio said. “I know it sounds weird, but we had an intern steal something from us. Obviously, stick to the company policies. You’re not getting paid, but your internship could lead to a paid job in the future.”