Lessons learned from snagging an internship at the L.A. Daily News

24 05 2009
Editor’s note: come back soon for a blog post with more details about my summer internship. And maps!

Who knew that someone like me, who was scrambling to find a summer job as my second year in college was speeding to a close, would end up snagging a job at the L.A. Daily News, the second largest newspaper in California behind the L.A. Times. Wow.

Let me just add a little backstory to this whole thing.

I try to be as organized and on top of things as I can. As a student journalist who aspires to be a reporter, I’ve been told countless times the importance of newsroom internship experience before graduating.

No serious news organization will hire a journalism grad with zero experience and  past work to show – even if that person graduated with a 4.0 GPA and high honors.

I sent an application and resume to a local mid-size newspaper my freshman year knowing I didn’t have a real shot at getting the internship – even if I wrote for my university’s student newspaper. After all, most news organizations hire juniors-rising-seniors for their summer internship programs.

But as one of my advisers in the journalism department told me my freshman year, the most important thing was to get my name in – to let them know my name and who I am for future reference.

As predicted, I didn’t get the internship that summer. I ended up working for a great organization called the Northwest Leadership Foundation instead. Was it a journalism or news related job? No. Was I able to utilize my interests in writing and journalism for the internship anyway? Yes.

Coming into my sophomore year of college, I took an assistant section editor position for The Whitworthian, my university’s student paper. That year, I decided to stretch myself and learn a little bit of every journalism-related skill. Aside from taking upper-division journalism classes, I volunteered to write hard news, take photos and make multimedia pieces for the paper. In January, I went to New York City and Washington D.C. to visit media executives, professionals and experts as part of a media program at my school. On my spare-time, I browsed Web sites with information to keep track of current trends in today’s state of the news industry.

I got advice from seasoned professionals, learned new skills and applied them by trying to synthesize everything I learned into something I can show others. By sophomore year, I got serious.

So I sent my application to various news organizations when it was time again my sophomore year. Still, even though I grew and learned exponentially, I still knew that as a second-year college student, my chances were still slim. And the current state of the news industry and U.S. economy exacerbated my chances. I was hopeful, but still had my doubts.

When I sent my application to a few newspapers this past December, I had my fingers crossed. Then January came. No word. February, still nothing. Then March and April came and went. By the beginning of May, I had given given up.

I’ll just find a random job at home this summer, I thought. But finals week was fast approaching, I was still scrambling to find a job. Even if I was to find a random job that paid, I didn’t want just any job (I’m picky even when I am in no position to choose).

But then a phone call came early May. It was from the Skagit Valley Herald in Mount Vernon, Wash. They wanted to interview me for an internship position at their paper. That same day, the L.A. Daily News called to interview me. I was ecstatic.

By the end of that week, they both offered me a position – I chose the latter.

Both of these places I was able to get my foot in the door through people I knew.

Now, I will be working as a multimedia reporter as well as working in conjunction with the online department for the L.A. Daily News.

Funny how things work out.

Five things you can take from this (I tried to be as general as possible so it can apply to almost anyone):

  1. Whatever major/career you choose to pursue, find people who are doing what you see yourself possibly doing. Contact professionals in the field of interest. Ask them if you can shadow them for a day or two (the summer is a perfect time to do this). Find a mentor in your field and meet fellow peers who’s doing the same thing. Who knows, maybe one day, they will know someone who knows someone that is looking to employ someone just like you.
  2. Stay up on news related to your interest. Create a Google Reader account and set up a Google News Alert system where anything on the Web related to your search words will be delivered to you.
  3. Create a social network, both offline (advice #1) and online. It’s important to make a presence. Let people know you care and are interested. Create a Facebook profile, starting Twittering, get linked in or make a blog.
  4. Learn outside of the classroom. A lot of the skills and knowledge I have learned is not from the world of academia. It’s from reading books, blogs and other sources where I can sharpened my skills and knowledge.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. Even if you don’t get the internship you applied for, that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to tangibly show and demonstrate that you are capable and able. For me, it’s writing articles and taking pictures for my school’s paper and using this blog. Show future employers you are a self-starter and innovator.
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3 responses

29 05 2009
Jenny

Kyle! I’m so proud of you. It is so exciting to see you grow up! I still remember hanging out at your house with your sister and you coming home from elementary school.

24 05 2009
Julie

Yong- Congratulations on the internship! It sounds like it’s going to be a great experience. Your tips for finding an internship are useful- I wish I had know these things when I was searching for internships last year. Keep up the good work on your blog. I enjoy reading it.

24 05 2009
E. Louie

You are so right, Yong! Good for you. So many people read this type of advice but never follow through – but you did and lived to write about it! Have a great summer in LA! You are an inspiration!

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