BWW Blog: Bringing Internship Skills Back to School
In my first journalism course, my professor would bring in the best of her graduated students to guest lecture once a month. I sat in the front row with my jaw on the floor as they flipped through PowerPoints of their journey to where they are now: The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, you name it. There was always an alumnus that would walk into her classroom with a bright smile to give Professor DePaul a big hug and talk to her current students. At the beginning of this past summer, when I found out I would be interning for an Off-Broadway theater company as their sole marketing intern, I beamed with pride as I typed "Big News! :)" into the subject line of an email and told Professor DePaul all about my opportunity. Her reply included the phrase "thrilled for you, but not surprised!" and I grinned like a total idiot.
Before the school year ended, we met up to talk about what the summer of 2019 would have in store for me. It was then that she told me that there was something to learn from every internship (good or bad) so no matter what happened, I would return with new knowledge and skills. While I had the time of my life this summer, I came back to school this fall feeling a bit lost. Sure, I'd learned so much over the span of a couple months, but now that I'm back in school, how do I find any of that applicable to my daily life? After reflecting back to what my professor said, I realized there are several skills to bring from a summer internship into the discipline it takes to be a drama student.
At my particular internship, I had a great amount of freedom to experiment with marketing strategies, learning mostly through hands-on experience. It was great to try many new things, but my boss trusted me enough to get stuff done without having to set strict deadlines. So how did I make sure I didn't fall into a pit of procrastination? Holding myself accountable and setting personal deadlines kept me focused. No one was hovering over what I was doing, but I knew what was expected of me. I kept a mini calendar and made sure I finished all of my projects at least two days before submitting them to my boss. Doing that really helped me alleviate the stress of cramming and feeling like I wasn't submitting my best work. A lot of the work of college relies on a sense of personal accountability. As I return to another academic term, I learned that most of my grade for my Introduction to Theatre course relies on staying on top of a long-term project with very little to turn in before the final due date. I bought a new mini calendar today, and I began scheduling out what I will have to do in order to stay on track. With this practice already habitual from my summer internship, I am confident that I learned how to hold myself accountable over the summer when I wanted nothing more than to prove that I was capable of doing so.
IF YOU WANT IT, YOU'LL MAKE IT WORK
There was a particular weekend I remember working 8-9 hours each day waitressing, then coming home to work at least two hours each night on prep work for the upcoming week of interning. I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and wondering how I would be able to handle everything. It was then that I had to really think about why I chose to do what I was doing, and when it came down to it, was worth waitressing twice as much to make it financially possible to continue an unpaid internship? For me, knowing I was strong enough to push through and balance both in order to attain a goal I had worked hard for motivated me to continue. At the end of the internship, I was able to step back and look at all of the work I had put in over the past several months and smile. I am so proud of realizing what I was capable of when I thought things might be too overwhelming. I guarantee that if you want something bad enough, you'll do everything you can to make it work, and let me tell you, it's worth it. I now have experience in a professional work setting as well as a deeper understanding of the way that I handle time management, both being invaluable lessons that I believe will carry with me. So if you got cast in a fall production but rehearsals conflict with your regular study hours, sometimes it'll take the commitment of waking up early to study in order to have those nights free. Learning to be flexible will greatly expand options in the future, something that proves to be more and more true every day.
LEARNING IT YOURSELF
Is it just me, or did no one teach our generation how to write a cover letter? I know, personally, it took hours of research just to figure out the professional wording of "please hire me here's why." With so much pressure on a single page of writing, I knew that if no instructor was going to teach me, I would have to teach myself. College is a lot of this: teaching yourself. If for some reason the professor's teaching style is too fast paced, or you wished they'd spent more time on a topic they glazed right over, congrats! You are now your own professor the second you walk out that door. The exam is still scheduled, and you need to know the concepts whether or not you fully comprehended them in class. During my internship, I tried not to email my boss about anything that I could find the answer to in under 30 minutes. When I was first confronted with "can you draft an E-flyer for our upcoming workshop?" I immediately jumped on Google and spent the rest of the night learning how to do exactly that. I had zero clue how to create an E-flyer on that Friday afternoon, but by Monday morning, I had a final draft uploaded to our Google Drive and ready to be sent out to an entire mailing list. There will be moments in college that you will have to teach yourself, and through my internship, I believe I now understand the best way that I am able to do so.
Even though I am a bit sad about ending a great internship, I know that as I return back to school the skills I learned from it are highly applicable to my schoolwork. I can't wait to email Professor DePaul and tell her all about my summer and that I now write for BroadwayWorld! In a couple years, maybe I'll be standing in front of her journalism classes, flipping through a PowerPoint, talking about what I do.