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  • Ladan 7:34 pm on July 14, 2010 Permalink | Reply
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    Using Facebook and Twitter to HELP your Internship 

    A lot of employers get upset or skeptical when they see their interns cruising Facebook or constantly updating their Twitter statuses. Sometimes interns will do it out of boredom or because they have down time, but other times they are using it to help complete their job.

    I find out about many stories I do at work because of Twitter. I also build up a following by posting my internship’s stories online for my followers to see. It is a great marketing tool, resource center and networking opportunity.

    But what about Facebook, you might ask? While Facebook is more of a social medium for me, you can use Facebook to join in group discussions, hear about what your fellow journalist friends are doing, and find news articles of interest. You can also use it to find out about area Happy Hours in your field (for example, the Online News Association Happy Hour tonight) and make other life plans that you wouldn’t have time for at home. Businesses that ignore the value of social media and having their interns use it at work are missing an opportunity.

    Instead of scolding interns for visiting those sites (or worse, BLOCKING them), teach them how to use it in a productive way and measure its effectiveness through the content they post, how often they update, what events or stories they learn about and how many more followers they get.

     
  • Ladan 8:14 pm on June 25, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Fridays are smooth sailing in DC 

    It seems that at every place I’ve worked, even at 24-hour news organizations, one thing remains consistent in DC: nobody does real work on Fridays.

    For an intern, this poses a unique challenge: you can follow suit and dabble around on the Internet for eight hours, plan to leave early for weekend plans or make your life easier by planning out the next week.

    At RFE, things seem to be lifeless on Fridays, but I try to appreciate those days–days where you aren’t swamped with work, where your supervisors aren’t drowning in deadlines, and the world sort of slows down. While it’s blazing outside, you are in the air condition, you get to have long lunches, work on things you held off all week, and play a major game of catchup on things you probably wont get to on the weekend.

    As for me? It’s the countdown to unemployment, and I’m not even sure where to begin. I stare at the computer, ten tabs open to intl. news stories, RFE’s intranet, Twitter and a list of big things I need to do. All I can think of is how nice it would be to go home and blog from bed. Have a good weekend–then back to the grindstone!

     
  • Ladan 6:53 pm on June 21, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    How to be helpful but not annoying 

    There’s a fine line in the intern world between being the aggressive, determined intern and the bothersome, high maintenance intern. You only have a few months to convince your employer that you WANT to contribute to the company and that you take your job seriously. But you also only have a few months to make them want to lock their doors and hide under their desks when they hear you running from down the hallway.

    I’ve learned a few rules to keep in mind when approaching assignments and checking in with your superiors.

    1) Give them a minute to breathe. If you get in at 9am and they are rushing to their office, coffee in hand, at 9:30, it’s not a good idea to follow them and ask for work. You are probably in competition with other interns, but trust me, the “in-your-face” intern does not end up the victor.

    2) Come to them with ideas and feedback. The worst thing to do is to walk into your boss’s office, throw your hands up in the air and say that you are bored and have nothing to do. If you really do have nothing to do, think of a few things you could be doing and ask them if they want you to perform those tasks. If you worked on an assignment, story or project with them the day before, give them your reaction to it.

    3) Show them you can hold up on your own. The best intern in the eyes of employers is the one that can be trusted to act like someone who already has the job. That’s not to say you walk around like you own the place, but you show that you can use the training they gave you on day one to make a difference. Employers are bound to hire the person who makes him or herself indispensable to the company by taking initiative and going beyond the tasks set before them and every other intern.

    4) Learn the best way to communicate with them and stick to it. Some bosses prefer a morning email while other more chatty bosses like to touch base in person every morning. Odds are, your boss is busy and doesn’t want to have to come up with something for you to do every minute of the day. They WILL come to you when they need something, but it helps to run some suggestions by if they don’t. Shoot them a text, message, email or stop by for a few seconds to they know you are eager to help them, but recognize when they’re on deadline or too busy to tend to you.

    5) Go to others in the company if they are busy. Odds are, you are working with a group of people rather than just one superior, and in most companies, there’s plenty of work to go around. If your boss is on vacation or out for the day, it helps to make friends with other employees and offer your help. Those relationships can lead to unique opportunities and can show your boss that you care about the company enough to reach out to other employees.

    6) Find new ways to be useful with your strengths. If you see something running inefficiently or something lacking, that’s your chance to really make your mark. If you are an expert in a certain subject, know a language or a technological skill like video or web programs, make sure you dabble with that before you leave. Soon enough, you could become the “go-to” person in that particular subject.

    7) Talk to them if they aren’t using you to your full potential. Sometimes a boss or company (maybe one with little experience with interns) won’t give you much to do simply because they don’t know what you’re capable of.  Every place as some sort of protocol or chain of command that could be hindering some of your more ambitious assignment requests. In those cases, all you can do is find ways to be helpful, make sure they know you are capable of performing tasks, and talk to your HR rep or your supervisor if you feel they aren’t giving you a fair chance. Most likely, it’s nothing personal.

    8) Sharing is caring. The worst thing you can do to yourself is become the annoying intern among the intern clan at a certain organization. And one of the most annoying things a fellow intern can do is become overly competitive. I’m talking about withholding information, talking badly about one another or inhibiting each other from opportunities. Your best allies will be each other, so instead of treating it like a competition, treat it like a partnership. Intern friends can help each other get assignments, collaborate on bigger projects, and network in the future.

    9) Use the Internet to your advantage. You are probably sitting at a desktop with the world at your fingertips through the Internet, and this can be good or bad for bored interns. Some interns can fall into the habit of gchatting, Facebook chatting or listening to Pandora instead of doing anything constructive. If you are finished with your tasks and they aren’t giving you anything else to do, take the rest of your time as an opportunity for personal growth. Blog, Tweet, read the news, share information, send emails, look up scholarships or plan out the rest of your work week.

    10) Use caution when frustrated. If you feel that you are doing the best you can but are still annoying your boss for work, do not publicize that frustration–especially online. Sometimes it’s a slow work week at your organization, but that doesn’t mean you will be bored forever. They hire interns for a reason and they will utilize you when the time is right. But in the meantime, remain respectfully persistent, maintain good relationships with your coworkers, and pave your own path.

     
  • Ladan 8:30 pm on June 15, 2010 Permalink | Reply  

    Being There…the difference between second-hand and real deal experience 

    I work in a unique situation. See, we cover events that are going on overseas in hard-to-reach, hard-to-pronounce countries that don’t let their own journalists have access to information let alone outsiders. Nonetheless, Radio Free Europe produces a fair amount of news stories from all over the Middle East and Central Asia that poke at the established government and challenge social norms. How do we do this, given that those of us writing these stories are usually thousands of miles away?

    In my eyes, the “real deal” reporters are much more noble than those of us who sit comfortably behind a desk all day and write stories based on a few Google searches. However, more and more, journalism has become this second-hand reporting experience, and major places have adapted this practice. From the perspective of an intern, your day-to-day activities will most likely be that of the second-hand journalist–sifting through reports, making phone calls, stalking social media and writing based on press conferences you listen to on the radio or TV. I find that the best experience, however, is if you can sneak in a bit of real deal journalism among your other responsibilities.

    From the D.C. end, RFE has two senior correspondents, a few international broadcasters who broadcast in foreign languages, a communications staff, corporate staff, and interns. Because of our small, close group, the interns have the chance to get published and go to events in town to get first-hand reporting done along with other activities. I’ve gone to a number of press conferences, Hill hearings, think tank conferences and cultural events that reflect our broadcast region. While some of the reporters told me that I could just listen in or view reports elsewhere, I tel them that I WANT to go to these things. I want to get up early and be the first in line for a hearing. I want to see the speakers instead of reading a transcript later. And best of all…if you’re there…you get to represent your work and ask questions, which is what being a journalist is all about.

    I might not be able to go to Afghanistan or Iran to get a story relevant to our region, but I can pick up what I can from DC that they might be interested in. When at your internships, take the opportunity to learn the system, get to know everyone, and get out of the office.

     
  • Ladan 6:46 pm on May 29, 2010 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , international broadcasting, Radio Free Europe   

    The Heat is On: DC Summer Interning 

    Every year, thousands of interns flock the city for some real world experience, exploration of a thriving town and a chance to make their mark in their field. Two years ago, I was that kid–the one from a small town in Indiana who came to DC to mingle with the best of the best in the journalism world. I started my intern career working at USA Weekend out in McLean, Virginia, and that inspired me to come back and go to graduate school here. I’ve known since I stepped foot on AU’s campus that this city is what I want to call home for the next few years. People here love to work hard, play hard, learn new things and make a difference.

    I’ve had about seven internships since my first experience at USA Weekend. With each place comes successes, failures, contacts and lessons that I can pass on to up and coming interns. Right now, I am interning at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an international broadcasting news service in Washington, D.C. RFE has a strong online/multimedia presence and reporters in DC covering foreign policy. What’s awesome about this place is that it has a strong humanitarian message along with providing news from hard-to-reach, barely reported areas: it aims to bring press freedom to countries (some you’ve probably never heard or cared about) who don’t have independent media. I decided this year that I’d like to focus on international news, and so looking at a place like RFE was only natural.

    But what do you, as a starting intern, want out of your experience? More often than not, you are working for free and it is in fact costing you to be here. What’s the tradeoff for you? Even if they don’t make you feel like it, you are a commodity to these places and can produce positive output for them at no cost. If you’re sitting around playing on Facebook or sending faxes all day, probably not so much. Through the years, I’ve gotten better at gauging which internships are valuable and which are a waste of time. Obviously, if you work at a big-name place, you won’t get as much responsibility–but that doesn’t mean you have to settle for degrading slave work. I’ve worked at both big-name and small businesses and have found ways to excel given the limitations of both. I’d have to say that my current internship has been one of the most rewarding because 1) I believe in the mission of the company 2) I am deeply interested in the topics we cover and 3) they give me freedom to conquer new territory and make an impact on their output. I truly feel like part of the team and not just an “intern.”

    So what’s to come of this summer? I’ll be doing news stories, blogs, researching, managing social media, and trying new web programs that would increase our readership. I’ve been there for almost six months and can’t wait for more.

     
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