Media careers are in high demand. Unfortunately for media and communications students, this has given rise to a culture in which internships during and after their formal university education take on increased importance. That means it’s important for staff to educate students about to how to make the most of these—and how to not end up exploited.
Reputable media organisations like the BBC usually give interns a job description and are clear about what tasks they are expected to perform. However, even some big names use interns in place of full-time employees, providing them with many work tasks but little to no actual training or mentoring. Students need to know how to ask about working on projects that meet their personal goals rather than spending too much time doing data-entry or making tea, and should ask to be matched with a co-worker who can act as a mentor.
No matter what kind of internship students land, they should plan in advance what they hope to get out of it. Learning work skills and having something suitably impressive to put on your CV are both important, but making contacts for future employment shoudn’t be neglected. That means corridor conversations, attending meetings and taking notes, and trying to get together with full-time staff after work are crucial.
There is currently a strong push for organisations to move away from unpaid internships, but sometimes these cannot be avoided. Talk to students about creative ways to minimise their costs and balance paid and unpaid work. Students should never expect to pay for an internship, but this has also happened, limiting access to only those from privileged backgrounds. Some organisations are not reputable, so show students how to check them out before they make a commitment.