Sunday, May 1, 2016

Working with Interns

Working with student interns from the Communications Department at the University of Houston, as I am doing this semester, reminds me of the old adage,"You're never too old to learn."

The students come to Houston Woman Magazine to put into practice much of the knowledge they have acquired over the course of their college careers. At the same time, they look to me to help them perfect some of the skills not quite ready for prime time (that first job). As I serve as their mentor for 12 weeks, helping them do well when they take that all important next step is a responsibility I enjoy - and take seriously. 

Since most of the interns I work with are studying to be writers, many opportunities to write are provided here.

The interns write articles for our bbg, Houston Woman Wire, So, posting to that blog is done more often each and every day.

The interns cover meetings. So, Houston Woman Magazine can say "yes" to more requests for coverage.

The interns do research and conduct interviews. So, each issue of our publication has more articles in it than if interns were not part of our team. Clearly, interns are crucial to Houston Woman Magazine being able to provide all the services it does.

I've been very lucky when it comes to interns. All have been good, hard-working young people, eager to learn and contribute as much as they can. And, despite the generation gap between them and me, all have been respectful of my time and my feedback. What they see and like, I think, are my passion for journalism and my sincere interest in what comes next for them.

I want interns to learn a lot while they are here. So, I do my best to teach and emphasize the things I view as most important.

Some of the 'important" things are directly related to gathering facts and putting them down on paper. I want them to know the rules of the Associated Press Stylebook (which we follow here). I want them to know how to include the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where and why) in paragraphs that are well constructed and easy to follow. 


But, some of the "important" things have nothing at all to do with journalism. Instead, they deal with business basics - the things they need to know to keep that first job once they get it.

Often, they hear me say, "You must respect what others inspect." And, another favorite of mine, "You must mange well what others measure."

I remind them often that these comments apply to so many things in business. Like getting to work on time, every day. Like getting the assignments completed when due. Like knowing when not to call a client's cell phone number. Like knowing when not to send a text (instead of making a call or sending an email).

I tell them, "If you heed this advice, you will be the favorite of every boss you ever have - including me!"

I get into all of this because I've learned not to assume anything -- not to assume interns have been exposed previously to a business environment and to realize that all just don't what what they don't know. Mentors need to teach these kinds of lessons, as well.

Make no mistake, working with college interns in a learning experience for me too, and that's an added bonus.

From them, I've learned a lot about pop culture, trends in fashion and the best music to download on my iPod and the most helpful apps to install on my iPhone or iPad. I've learned about how they think politically and how they'd like to change the world. I've learned not all 20-somethings see and do things exactly the same way.

Interns have taught me a lot, and some things I've learned have been really important. For example, making general statements about those of a certain generation (as some are prone to do) is just not wise.

It's something I will always remember.


Note: This article was first published in Houston Woman Magazine in April 2012.


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