Magazine Internships: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

When I interned for a magazine and people asked me if my position was just like Lauren Conrad’s Teen Vogue internship, I laughed it off. Gorgeous clothes, exciting events, crazy guest lists and trendy offices are fairy tale intern experiences that only exist on The Hills and The Devil Wears Prada.

On second thought, my experience was actually similar in many ways. Change gorgeous clothes for too cute kiddie outfits and cool guest lists for super cool toys and my intern experience wasn’t far off. I interned for a smaller family magazine, making it possible for me to get a few by-lines, do lots of fact-checking and a little bit of writing.

Whether or not you agree with unpaid internships, reality is that if you want to work in the media and magazine world, you are going to have to intern, probably for free and probably more than once. Based on my intern experiences, here’s some advice on how to spot an intern experience that will boost your career prospects.

How To Find The Good

You’ll get a good feel for the internship from the interview. It is a waste of time for a company to hire and intern that is going to quit a few days later. They are likely to be honest with you about what your responsibilities will be. Don’t be afraid to ask specifically what you will be doing and what past interns have done. While all interviews go both way, internship interviews are definitely a chance for you to find out what you are getting yourself into.
On this same topic, here’s a great interview with Alissa Knutson, who interned with Women’s Health magazine:

Attitude Adjustment

I once spent the day picking branches off a Christmas tree and spray painting it (and myself) red. Another day was spent running around the city look for acorns. Many afternoons were spent putting together toys (I worked on a holiday issue!). You probably are going to have to do more than a few odd jobs, but that doesn’t have to take away from your intern experience.

There is a fine line between a valuable intern experience and an intern experience that takes advantage of a free, temporary employee. I think the fine line rests on your attitude and your expectations. You aren’t going to be writing full-length articles or interviewing famous people. Here’s a list of questions to help you evaluate your expectations and navigate your internship search.

What To Ask

What have past interns done after their internship?

Is there potential to be hired after the internship?

Will I get to write anything?

Could you pay for transportation?

Will I go to photo/video shoots?

Can I write for your website?

Can I spend a few days in different departments?

It’s important to ensure you will be able to commit to the internship. The most valuable part of interning is networking with people in the industry. The magazine world is small. If you bail on your internship early, you could be hurting your chances of being hired by many magazines, not just the one you interned for.

Have you interned for a magazine before? Tell us about your experiences, good and bad!

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