On the value of interships

A beginning journalist asked me about the value of interships and networking.

I haven’t done any interships. Will that hurt me when I look for my first job? Also, I haven’t done as much networking as some of my classmates. Do you have to be really aggressive to be a journalist?

You don’t need interships, even a journalism degree to be a successful journalist — if you have a good reason for it. However, at whatever point you find yourself, you do need to be making the most of it. So, why didn’t you apply for summer interships when you knew you should have? Why aren’t you making the contacts you need?

Are you shy? Are you uncertain about your career choice? Are you just uncommitted to journalism? Any of these factors will work against you much more than the lack of any particular summer intership.

If you’re uncertain about your career choice, or uncommitted to it, an internship will help you decide if you want to do it or not.

If you’re shy, or insecure, or have a hard time getting going or getting organized, you need to work on those areas. Being aggressive — or, let’s put it, self-starting, motivated and assertive — is a great asset in any career, and especially in journalism where competition for jobs is high. If you don’t have those character traits, you might be better off in another career, instead. You’ll go farther and make more money and have better working conditions than in journalism.