A TV Junkie's Success Story: Turning an Internship into a Job in LA

In light of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, I’ll put it this way, I’m the 1%. But unlike the target of the Occupy Wall Street movement, I realize how lucky I am – I got a job in my industry while still studying at Syracuse. It’s rare in television to have this happen because unfortunately the TV model isn’t built to allow students, even the very bright ones – and there are a lot of them at this University – the opportunity to intern, prove themselves, leave for six months to wrap up a degree, and then return to a job. It’s because in Hollywood, most of the entry-level jobs are ones that need to be filled in a day’s time. Unless they’re giving you the corporate jet, you ain’t making that kind of commute in time.

Andrew Graham, Newhouse '12

However, despite the TV model, this feat can be pulled off, and it’s not about accepting internships but rather vetting them. A lot of students are in the habit of just getting an internship for the sake of having a professional company to put onto their LinkedIn profile or a resume. And while having a few internships on your resume is important, it’s not nearly as important as making sure you’re lining yourself up for a quality internship in which you’ll have the opportunity to be an integral part of the day-to-day operations. That last part really is the secret to nabbing the job: don’t take any internship in which you’re completely expendable. I’m saying this from experience; I’ve been there and it was my fault for not fully investigating the company, its culture, and seeing where I might fit in.

I’m writing this of course from the perspective that you’re a bright All-American go-getter who’s got chutzpah and is ready to pull yourself up by your own boot straps, and since you’re reading this on the SU Career Services blog, then chances are that you probably fit that criteria. I say this because if you’re not ready to throw yourself 150% into every project, then obviously it doesn’t matter what company you’re at, it’ll never work out.

Some of this involves being at the right place at the right time, but it’s more about knowing what to look for. So, to give you somewhere to start, below are three things I’ve learned to look for through my experience in both good and bad internships.

1) Is this the right environment? When you go in for your interview, look around at the other interns. Are there a lot of them or a few? Are they just hanging around on Facebook or hard at work? How about the guy/girl who interviews you, what does their mood seem like? Ask a lot of questions about what you’ll be expected to do. Remember, you’re going to work here.

2) Is their growth in this company? Look at their development slate and see who they’re talking to and what they’ve sold. Talk to the interviewer about their projects; if they’re not developing or selling much, then there’s probably not a lot of room to grow and likely the company isn’t worth your time as an intern.

3) Be aware of company mandates. MTV is a great company, has a strong brand, lots of growth and largely happy interns. Seems like the perfect place, right? Maybe not. No Viacom company will hire without a degree. I actually heard a story about someone interviewing for a SVP position that was turned down because he didn’t have a degree. Is a company like this worth your time then as an intern? You make the call.

If you are able to land an internship at a company that has growth + genuinely needs you in order to operate day-to-day, then you stand a large chance of scoring a job. It’s harder than it sounds, but simpler than people make it out to be. Be selective about where you work and then give that company that’s given you a shot your all. Best of luck!

Andrew Graham currently works for Bogner Entertainment Inc., a production company with an overall deal at FremantleMedia. Follow him on Twitter @MistaGraham.

By the way, Bogner Entertainment Inc. is looking for interns for the spring! Interested parties can visit them online at www.BognerEntertainment.com and send resumes and cover letters to info.beiTV@gmail.com.