I spent the year and change after graduating from USC bouncing from internship to internship to free-lancing to temping opportunities. (In that exact order.) It was a rough road, but I feel like it ultimately helped me get to where I am.
What I learned from those non-permanent positions has stayed with me.
1. Overachieve like a bandit. Cliched as it is, don’t let any chance to shine pass you by. Are there editorial meetings you could attend? Are there blogs you could write that will highlight your journalistic prowess? Can you use your fab multi-media skills to create a great portfolio piece? Do it.
2. Make friends. Most likely to other interns and free-lancers are feeling your struggle. You don’t have to become besties, but you never know where you or your peers will end up, so stay cool with your cohort.
3. Network. This is something I was wholeheartedly against in school. I even left an all-day “retreat” when I saw a networking workshop coming up (it didn’t help that I was hungover). Shamelessly add everyone on LinkedIn. Become coffee-buddies with your fellow caffeine-addicts. Become allies at work and that should help you follow-through on assistance when you need it.
4. Dress for the job you want. Again, as an undergrad I would have rolled my eyes at the very thought of eschewing my tie-dye and jeans in favor of slacks and a neat jacket. Oh, how times have changed. My closet is now 90% office appropriate wear. I take inspiration from Nasty Gal and H&M. Invest in simple separates that are easily interchangeable and you will thank yourself. I dressed like I was going to a job interview as often as I could at my internships. I know using appearances to judge people is the devil’s work, but I honestly think it makes you stand out. It makes you seem like you’re taking it seriously and you’re smart enough to dress like you don’t stay up for $1 tacos after brews with the bros.
5. Observe. See how the overall operation works. Notice where the papers you file end up going, or how they got there. Part of interning is working toward understanding the inner-workings of the industry you want to break-into. Become an expert on the mechanics of the place. Doing that helped me see the qualities of good producers (and bad producers) over a year before I would get to produce.
6. Remember what it was like. Don’t forget how frustrated you were when people grouped all the interns as one, when that one high-ranking staffer always messed up your name or the terrible rudeness you endured as the underling. Remember that so when you get into a position of power you never treat the newbies like that.
7. Don’t give up. Just don’t.