A standing room-only crowd jammed the Journalism Lab in Hunter North last Wednesday, Feb. 26, for pizza, cookies and an afternoon of internship advice from two recent alums and a pair of newly minted Bloomberg News reporters.
Hunter alumni Brittney Barnett, now at ABC News’ Good Morning America, and Lucien Formichella, a successful freelance journalist, returned to campus to offer nearly two dozen current students sage advice on finding an internship and transitioning into the profession after college.
“Be patient. It will all work out the way that it should; it just takes a long time.”— Hunter Journalism alum Brittney Barnett
First and foremost, said Barnett, who graduated last May, “Be patient. It will all work out the way that it should; it just takes a long time.”.
“I didn’t need to be so anxious,” Formichella agreed, adding a quote from Mark Twain; “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”
Advice on applying for internships
The 90-minute workshop began by discussing how to pinpoint the best internship for you. And all the speakers agreed on the value of casting a wide net.
“The best internship is [the news organization] that says yes to you,” remarked Maria Elena Vizcaino, who worked for multiple news outlets prior to landing her internship and staff writing position at Bloomberg News. “People end up where they need to be.”
Journalism Internship Coordinator Adam Glenn suggested that if internship listings seem daunting, students can start with the news media they themselves consume, and jumpstart their internship experience with smaller news organizations.
Speakers also offered advice to anxious students about their cover letters.
“What’s valuable about the cover letter is telling your story.”— Bloomberg reporter Maria Elena Vizcaino
Vizcaino suggested applicants attack your cover letter the same way they would write the news, but instead zero in on themselves. “What’s valuable about the cover letter is telling your story,” she said.
Barnett also urged students, while getting their resume in order, to really focus on the cover letter. “They really get to know about you from the cover letter,” she said. “Personalize it as much as you can.”
Also be sure to address your cover letter to an individual whenever possible, several speakers recommended, searching through company listings on LinkedIn or via Google.
And if you’re having trouble finding the correct person to address your letter to, Barnett’s advice: “Stalk people.”
“Find a reporter on Twitter and ask who to write the cover letter to,” added Jack Pitcher, another speaker from Bloomberg who also recently landed a staff writer job after interning there.
Once you’ve submitted your application for an internship, the waiting process begins. If a few weeks pass, don’t be afraid to check back in on the application. In fact, Glenn suggested ending your cover letter with a note that you will follow up yourself, and then be sure to make good on that promise.
Don’t be afraid to check on the internship status. “Being persistent is a part of being a good journalist,” said Vizcaino.
Making the most of your internship
Once you’ve landed your internship, all of the speakers encouraged students to go above and beyond with their work in order to prove their worth.
Barnett, for instance, currently works the 7 p.m.- 5 a.m. shift at ABC News’ Good Morning America, noted that she never expected to work overnights but is now gladly putting in time working the shifts that other people might not want.
And know that each assignment, no matter how mundane, tells your managers how you might handle a potential job after the internship is over. Advised Pitcher: “Kill it with your busy work.
Formichella also stressed the value of being friendly, personable and professional. “Show up ten minutes early every day and leave twenty minutes late,” said Formichella, adding “You have to act as though each person you encounter is your boss, because they very well may be one day.”
Keep looking to the future
Although both Pitcher and Vizcaino made the transition from intern to reporter at Bloomberg, it doesn’t always happen that way.
Acknowledging the job hunt after the internship isn’t much easier, Barnett remembers applying to close to a hundred listings before landing her job as an associate segment producer at Good Morning America.
When all else fails in your internship or job hunt, just keep doing the work, recommended Glenn. Continue writing, blogging, videotaping and photographing, because you never know who will find your journalism.
“Put stuff out. Don’t wait for someone to be interested,” said Formichella. “You just need to prove you can write.”