8 Tips To Surviving An Internship (Part 1)

Want a job in the entertainment industry?  Yeah you do, you little go getter you.  Great.  You know all your friends who got their MDs or MBAs or went to Clown College?  Remember how they all applied for jobs out of school and were like, “Hey, I’m only 22 and now I have a 60,000 salary.  Boy, I;m not sure that can sustain me for very long.  Can’t believe this bull cocky.”  Well, screw them.  Wait till they’re are 45 and retired and have a vacation home in Arizona and a boat . . . this isn’t helping.

Ugh, I just retired and I can only afford one yacht. So unfair!

Just forget about those people’s career paths.  They aren’t your path and that’s all that matters.  The important thing to remember is that YOU will need an internship.  This isn’t always true – say for people like Tom Hank’s son.  But for you, general graduate art school student — you need to hunker down, throw your ego out the window and get ready for work that is beneath you.

And I get to make coffee?! Thank you Masters of Fine Arts degree!

Now you’re ready, schmuck!  Of course, you did apply for an internship, right?  Because that’s tip #1.

1. Internships Are Not Like Halloween Candy

Aw, man, another house with a CW Internship. I hate CW internships!

Many college and university programs have a semester program out here in Los Angeles.  It’s a fantastic way to take easy, painless baby steps into the seething, gaping wound that is Hollywood.  However, the cost of your Southwest flight does not include a beverage or an internship.  Sorry to disappoint.  To get an internship, you have to apply like you would for any real job.  Yes, it sucks.  You actually have to apply for a position that has a 99.999654% of not paying you.  That’s the breaks, sweetheart.

For some reason, I’ve met a bunch of students who came out here and expect a plate of internships ready for the taking — Like a cart of desert choices at a fancy restaurant.  “Ooooohh, the Lionsgate Script Coverage looks so good.   But I’m on a diet.  I think I’ll have the Ellen Internship . . . Oh, what ever.  I should live a little.  Give me the Disney Fellowship Internship.”

Listen, the hard work you put into a resume, a cover letter and an interview will pay off.  I promise.  Nothing worth it’s weight in free labor is ever easy to obtain.

2) Be Dangerous, Sit In The Middle of Traffic

Can I wash you . . . . Hello, can I wash . . . Good afternoon, how about I wash . . . Someone please stop, I have all these suds!

Once you get the internship (AND YOU WILL GET THE INTERNSHIP), you may have the opportunity to choose where you drop that sexy, fine ass . . . sorry.  I dont mean where you will have sex with your internship coordinator . . . Well, At least I highly recommend you steer clear from that sort of behavior.  What I meant was that sometimes an internship coordinator will give you a choice of where to sit.

My advice?  Sit in the high traffic area.

When I started my internship at the PGA (Producers Guild of America), I had three choices of where to sit.  1) At a desk in the main area of the office.  2) In the conference room.  3) At the front desk.  (There was a fourth option but you don’t want to know about that.)

No, Diane.  I need a stapler for these files.  Gross.

I chose the front desk.  Why?  Because, silly, I got to see every face that came through the front door.  This included producers and employees of the guild.  I made damn sure I came in early enough to claim that spot and then made it my job to greet everyone that came through the front doors.  Eventually, I was on a first name basis with everyone and was the first person people thought of when looking for someone to do a task.

If I had chosen the conference room, I would never have seen anyone.  The guy who did sit there was always on his computer surfing the net and listening to music.  Which brings me to my second point . . . being in a high traffic zone keeps you honest.  I didn’t have the luxury to surf the net or read a book or screw around on my cell phone.  People could see what I was doing and that kept me from wasting time at work.

3) Coffee?  You Want Coffee?  YES!!!!!!

Man, Mr. Jenkins, I just made the most KICK ASS cup of coffee ever! EVER!

Listen, cool guy, you’re an intern.  Yes, you have a degree or are on your second one.  We all know you worked really hard at making that mastrepocee you call your thesis or capstone or pet project.  Everyone is aware that you are intelligent and can probably do math in your head (I can’t).  But here’s a huge slice of humble pie — NO ONE CARES.  You are there to do what the boss wants you to do.  So, if you’re asked to make coffee, make the best damn pot of coffee they’ve ever tasted.  If you’re asked to make some copies, copy like it’s a lost art form.  If someone asks you to grab them lunch, go after that lunch like you’re a Tribute in The Hunger Games.

We offer ourselves as tribute . . . and to get your Starbucks order.

Simply put, stop acting like anything is beneath you.  It’s not.  Volunteer for anything and everything and do it before anyone else does.  And when you’re given that “mundane” task, relish it and treat it like the most important thing you’ve done all day.  Don’t be a freak about it, just be proud of the work you’re doing.

4) There’s a Fine Line between a Self Starter and an OCD Freak . . .

Okay, so I organized your magazines by smells starting with paper and going all teh ay through cologne samples. Then, I ear marked each issue that had a picture of a child. Then I found all the insert cards and created a collage . . .

. . . and once you see that line, you will recognize it immediately.  Whatever internship I was doing, if there was downtime, I asked everyone in the office if they needed anything.  I wasn’t a pest and I asked once.  If no one had anything for me to do, I looked for a something I could do on my own.  Otherwise, I sat and read news sites on the internet.  Here’s the thing you need to remember, once you have asked once, they will KNOW who to go to if something does come up.  Don’t pester them and don’t annoy them.  They’re busy and if they need help, they’ll ask.  Asking them once shows you’re proactive.  Asking them multiple times shows that you’re a pest.

Likewise, don’t start doing inane tasks like straightening printer paper or organizing pencils by length — basically tasks that are wholly unnecessary.  This will make you look like a freak.  Just sit down and wait for something to come up.  It’s okay once in awhile to not be busy.   One of the interns at Conan has gotten into a bad habit of being a manic OCD creeper.  She asks for something to do to a degree of annoyance and then begins organizing the office in the ways described above.  Just be cool, relax and be ready for work.  Don’t be a manic worker.  People won’t want to be around you and, eventually, you’ll be out of the potential employment pool.



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