8 Tips To Surviving An Internship (Part 2)

And now, the conclusion to the 8 ways to survive an internship . . . starting with number . . .

5) Deadlines Are Deadly

Hello. My name is Deadline. I have the corner office. Nice to have you onboard.

This one is pretty simple, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it.  Deadlines are just as important to an intern as they are to an employee.  For some reason, interns have this switch in their heads that says, “Hey, you’re not getting paid, so this deadline is more of a moving line.”


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen fellow interns flake out on a deadline.  I had an internship for a producer/manager.  There were three of us interning for him.  He would give each of us a full length screenplay to do coverage on — basically read it, write a synopsis and notes.  He’d want it done in a week, which is RATHER GENEROUS, seeing as some agents want them in 3 hours.  I usually got mine done ahead of time.  One of the interns was always 2 weeks late.  The other never got them done.  They always said they had other jobs they were working on . . . great.  Guess what.  Your other jobs have no bearing on your internship boss’s schedule.

What happened?  I still work with this producer/manager on a regular basis.  We meet for coffee, he tells me about potential jobs and he’s become a hugh contact.   The other guys?  One of them used him as a reference . . . and the producer/manager basically said “No.  Under no circumstance do you want to hire this guy.”   While this intern’s coverage may have been good, getting it in late helped no one.

6) Now, Play Nice

“Listen, lady, you’re too ugly to make the boss’s coffee!”

Don’t be a dick.  Plain and simple.  DO NOT BE A DICK.  And I’m not talking about being a dick to your internship employers.  If you’re doing that, go home.  You’re not fit for the workplace.  I’m saying don’t be a dick to your fellow interns.  They are in the same boat as you, and , quite frankly, they may jump into a bigger boat down the line.  If your being an aggressive, competitive jerk, there’s no way in hell they will throw you a life saver down the line.  Just remember, everyone you work with could be your boss down the line . . . or may think of you when a job becomes available.

Sorry Jack, but I can’t let you get onboard. You were a total ass hat when we were interns.

More importantly, don’t for one second think that your internship employers down’t see your dickish behavior.  These people have eyes everywhere and the minute you start treating your fellow interns poorly is the minute you get caught.  Employers, even Hollywood employers, just want to know that you are smart and cool to work with.  If you are smart but a pain in the ass, it just won’t work out.

Just be cool.

7) Know When Enough is Enough.

No more tape . . . I just want a job!

This hasn’t happened to me personally, but it is piece of advice that many employers have given me.  After three months of interning, you need to discuss your options with your employer.  Three months is the average length of any internship.  If you go much longer than that, then you’re probably being used.  It’s okay to knock on you’re boss’s door and have a friendly chat about your future.  Heck, butter them up and just ask their advice on what you should do form here on out without directly referencing your internship.  However, in the long run, it really is okay to ask if there’s any opportunities.

Matter of fact, even when you start your internship, your first question should be, “How long will you need me.”  Then you’ve established a time frame and have every right to ask questions about employment.  If you find yourself interning for 6 months, leave — They’re using you for free labor.  Well, they’ re abusing you for free labor is more like it.  Don’t be afraid to be proactive and discuss options.

8) Take This Internship and Shove it . . . Gently Into A Rolodex.

Somewhere in there is my wife’s contact info. I still haven’t memorized it.

Chances are that when you’re time is up at a company, you won’t be asked to stick around and get a paycheck.  That’s okay.  That’s par for the course.  It has no bearing on your talent.  You’re purpose for being there was to do an excellent job and to make contacts.  The latter being very important.  If I’ve learned anything about the entertainment industry is that most jobs, most promotions, most careers are kickstarted by your contacts.  Someone will have an opening and think, “Who would be good for this?”  If they remember you, they will call and offer you the job.  I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met out here who climbed the ladder that way.  If Hollywood is full of anything, it’s mediocrity and cronyism.  Use it to your advantage.

Isn’t that right, Mr. Reeves?

The best way to take advantage of this is to keep in contact with your former internship stewards.  This doesn’t mean asking for favors or begging for help.  It means saying “hi” in an e-mail once in awhile.  It means giving them updates on what you’e up to.  It means sharing the positive aspects of your ascent to greatness.

Never, ever, never share the negatives of your experiences.  I know you want to relish in and share your depressing life moments, but it won’t do you any good.  They don’t want to hear that.  If nothing is going right, just say “hi.”  Most important, if they don’t respond, that’s okay.  You aren’t looking for a response . . . not yet.  All these correspondences are just little taps on the shoulder to say, “Hey, remember me?  Good to see ya.  Talk soon.”   That’s it.  Do this once every three months or so and you may find yourself being called for a job.  And if you aren’t, so what?  A small two sentence e-mail never hurt anyone . . . oh, yeah, a few sentences is fine.  Don’t give them your novel.  They won’t read it.


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