Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to have a successful AVC-related internship

Over the years our alumni have been there, done that. Now that they have become successful media professionals, what advice can they give their juniors?


TELLING IT LIKE IT IS: Faye D'Souza, assistant editor of personal finance at ET Now in Mumbai and also the anchor of the "Investors' Guide" show on the channel, offers expert advice (see below) as a Commitscion and as a successful media professional.

  • FAYE D'SOUZA (Class of 2004)ET Now, Mumbai
1. LISTEN: A lot of times you might be so excited about your idea or the environment you are in that you forget to listen to what is being said. Pay close attention to instructions given to you and to conversations around you. Pay attention to soft skills, work ethics, dealing with technical people, organisational structure. The relationship between sales and editorial. These things will come in handy no matter where you finally find a job.

2. WRITE IT DOWN: Everyone appreciates a colleague who values feedback and instructions enough to write it down. Carry a notebook to your internship and write down everything that is said to you and everything you learn. It will help you plan your day and organise your work, and it will also help when you sit down to write a report on your internship.

3. SAVE A COPY: Remember to save a copy of all your work. Get CDs burnt if you are in TV or radio and clippings if you are in print. Getting a byline as an intern is a rare and impressive thing. Don't take it lightly.

4. GIVE UP YOUR PERSONAL LIFE: You are here to learn. You don't need chai and smoke breaks, you don't need holidays, you don't need sleep or a shower. Be available all the time, come in on weekends and holidays, come in early and stay late. Remember it's when the real journalists are out sleeping, eating, and smoking that the intern gets a shot at the work. News doesn't follow work hours. It can happen at any time and you better be around when it does!

5. EARN A REPUTATION: Most offices will value smart, intelligent, well-dressed people, but everyone cherishes a HARD WORKER. And since you are going out in the media world you should get used to hearing foul language, so BE THE HARDEST WORKING MOTHER****ER THEY HAVE EVER SEEN. You will have a job offer at the end of your stint.

Good luck!
  • When Faye D'Souza sent us her write-up for publication here, she was working with ET Now. She has since moved on. Today, in May 2018, she is the Executive Editor of Mirror Now and a news anchor with a legion of fans and a huge bouquet of accolades. Most recently, Faye was honoured with the RedInk Journalist of the Year Award — see pictures below.
WELL-DESERVED HONOUR: Faye D'Souza and the legendary Mark Tully at the RedInk Awards ceremony in Mumbai on May 18, 2018.

  • AAISHA SABIR (Class of 2019), Mirror Now, Mumbai
To the future broadcast interns:
For a long time now, I have fancied working with an English news channel. Before joining Commits in July 2017, I had a short stint as a freelance writer with a newspaper in Bangalore. But it is the thought of being on TV, covering news live and living in the moment, and making split-second decisions that has always thrilled me. To explore my options, I chose a broadcast internship during my second semester at Commits. I was fortunate that the college gave me the opportunity to join Mirror Now in Mumbai as an intern.
During this two-month internship, I not only got an insight into what it means to be a television journalist, but I also observed closely what happens in a newsroom. I feel it is my responsibility to pass on these observations to my juniors, so here goes. 
By the time you go for your broadcast internship, RP Sir would have grilled you and drilled you thoroughly. You would also have worked on your group's TV news bulletin. But, as RP Sir has made clear to us, no college can replicate the newsroom environment  that is why an industry internship is so valuable. 
Take your second-semester news bulletin seriously. How you choose your story idea and execute it will itself teach you a lot. The pattern you will be taught at Commits is actually the one followed in a news channel. There are scripts, VOs, and PTCs. 
You need to understand the flow of the script. Nobody can teach you that; it all depends on the amount of time you spend practising writing scripts. You need short, simple, and precise sentences. Just like this one. This is the trick. It might sound easy but once you get down to it you will know how challenging it is.
Things you need to think about:
  • Manners
  • Punctuality
  • Being yourself 
  • Honesty

Things you need to work on:
  • Grammar
  • Daily newspaper habit

Things you should do as an intern:
Smile and talk to everyone. I mean, everyone. The gatekeeper, the canteen chap, your boss, your boss’s boss, and so on. 
You might get intimidated when you first enter the newsroom: so many people shouting, giving instructions, having frenzied conversations. This is what you will see every day. This is how a newsroom functions. So relax. Take a deep breath. And get right down to work.
ONE FOR THE ALBUM: Aaisha Sabir, right, with fellow Commits intern Ahana Bose and Faye D'Souza in the Mirror Now newsroom in Mumbai on May 11, 2018.

The rundown might look scary, your boss might give you the heebie-jeebies  but do not let that frighten you. There are scarier things on this planet. For example, your bank balance at the end of the month.  
Pitch your story ideas every day. Think of one story idea at least every day and pitch it to your boss. Be prepared for a no; let that not put you off. People might tell you this is not done, interns aren’t allowed to do this and that. Remember: People thought Galileo was crazy. Self-belief is the key. 
I do not like to typecast people, but my life experiences so far have taught me to be wary of foxes. Foxes are sly, clever people who appear to wish you well. They will tell you Option A is bad, do not go for it. But Option A turns out to be the right one and you will find them choosing it themselves. You might come across such people. I hope you don’t. If anyone tells you interns aren’t allowed to do this or that, smile, nod your head in agreement, and then go about pursuing your idea with another boss or relevant person. Do not give up.
Attempt every kind of task. Do not restrict yourself to only one job profile. Since you are there, why not learn whatever you can? I observed how the Graphics team works, how special lower bands are made. This might not be relevant when I become a reporter, but it is knowledge. 
Don’t act like you know it all. If you know it all, what are you doing there?
Go in on holidays, on your day off; stay back after work to learn more. It shows your boss you are keen on learning. You might say you are a keen learner but when you act like it…   
Remember, a thirsty person goes to the well for water. The well does not come to those who are thirsty. You need to learn, so you should be the one to approach people. Do not expect them to come and sit down and teach you. You need to seek them till the day you, in turn, are sought.
Be on your toes. Don’t be a slouch and don't be a whiner. There is no nanny in a newsroom to comfort you. 
Finally, when RP Sir says read, he means read. Read relevant books and magazines. Read newspapers. Read RP Sir's e-mails. Read his posts on Facebook, at least those that apply to media students.
Enjoy the roller-coaster ride at Commits. Thrive as an intern. Good luck!
  • PRIYANKA SALIGRAM (Class of 2009), Kuwait Times, Kuwait City
a. Keep your eyes and ears open. There's so much to learn every minute of the few hours that you spend at the place.

b. Be genuinely interested and ask a lot of questions. You'll end up annoying the slackers but the hard workers will be more than happy to answer your questions.

c. Live at the place for those six weeks and absorb every little thing about the kind of work being done. And don't stick to your mobile phone, messaging or talking, because it screams "I'M BORED AS HELL, SOMEONE GET ME OUTTA HERE!"

d. Don't dress like a smartass. No funky accessories, loud make-up, iPod dangling from your ears, beach footwear, clingy stuff that shows skin, or anything that will grab unnecessary attention. It's best to be dressed formally.

e. Please make sure you smell great; chew mint, drown yourself in perfume, and ensure that you don't smell human even after 12 hours of work.

f. Finally, the most important thing is to have fun and enjoy the whole experience. After all this, if the place turns out to be a dump, nobody will force you at gun-point to join. If the place feels like home, you don't have to force anyone at gun-point to offer you the job.

PAPER TIGER: Having a boss like Jamie Etheridge (seated centre) made all the difference to her internship at Kuwait Times, says Priyanka Saligram (standing right).

Of course, the main thing that worked for me was having an irreplaceable and wonderful boss, Jamie Etheridge, who gave me space to make mistakes and learn; she understood me better than I understood myself. If I had worked with someone else who was part-tyrant and full-anal retentive workaholic, forget being offered a job, my internship letter would have been printed on used toilet paper.

I wish the juniors a happy and productive internship and hope they get whatever they want from these two months.

  • NILOFER D'SOUZA (Class of 2009), Forbes India, Bangalore
a. Just because you got your internship easily, please don't take it lightly. (I've heard of interns who are least interested, throw attitude, and some who have been caught lying and bunking work.)

b. Be yourself. (If you're an introvert, don't think you need to be an extrovert to shine in the workplace. All you need to do is get work done.)

c. Be a sponge. Soak up everything you see, hear, and learn.

d. Be on time. Do not chill at work just because you see a few juniors or seniors taking it lightly.

  • DEBMALYA DUTTA (Class of 2011), The Statesman, Kolkata
If you're going for an internship with a newspaper, brush up your QuarkXPress and InDesign skills and virtually memorise RP Sir's editing slides. You might have to do editing besides reporting and writing.

And make a big effort to ignore those "you-look-like-an-intern" looks. :-)

  • SHIVRAM SUJIR (Class of 2011), Bangalore
The internship you have been waiting for is finally here. This is the career-defining internship as it will help you decide what you want to do and more importantly what you do not want to do.

Once your internship has been confirmed, it's time to befriend Google again. Try to find out more about the organisation you are going to work with and also the industry space it operates in. This will help you become familiar with some of the industry jargon.

Make sure of your job location and start making inquiries about the best route and mode of transport to get there. If your internship is in a city you are not familiar with, find someone who knows the city well and talk to them about details like buses, trains, auto fares, the attitude of the people, and also safety measures that you need to keep in mind.

Use Facebook to make contacts with friends of friends in the new city in advance.

Two things that you need to bear in mind are safety and health. Always keep the Justdial number of your respective city handy. Try to understand what kind of climate the city has and what health issues are likely to be faced by most newcomers. April-May is the time when the summer peaks, so be prepared.

Once you embark on your journey, here are some things you might want to consider:

a. First things first. Be mentally prepared to get the worst treatment from your employer. Interns form the lowest step in the corporate ladder (below the office boy) and some pretend interns don't exist at all. Some of the most boring and uninteresting work may trickle down to you. The good part is that most of you will be lucky enough to work in places that have a great work environment but please do not take it for granted. If your boss is a grouch, take things in your stride. Remember, it is you who is getting more out of this deal than they.

b. Second, please note that training and teaching you is nowhere on the priority list of the person you will report to. What you want to learn and understand is completely up to you. The first three days are very important to make that first impression on your colleagues. After the formal introduction to your colleagues make it a point to go and meet everyone over the next three days and politely inquire about their role in the organisation. It's okay to ask them their names again but this time try to remember them. This exercise will help you get a larger picture of the workings of the organisation. However, the golden rule is to observe people and approach them only when they seem to be free to talk.

c. Third, DO NOT complain or bitch about the work you have to do to anyone in the organisation or even on the phone when you are on the premises. Things have a way of reaching the higher management in ways, and for reasons, you do not yet understand. Many people will get overly friendly with you and might start sharing their grudges against the organisation. They have been through the grind but you are the newbie here. So take a neutral stance and play it safe. Office politics is something we all need to live with, but during your internship, you are better off as a spectator.

All these tips are not meant to scare you but to make your internship a pleasant experience. If I have to share my example, my first internship with the NGO has now given me the opportunity to shoot my first independent documentary film. This happened mainly because of two reasons. One, during my internship I managed to develop a great working relationship with my colleagues, and, two, I have always made it a point to keep in touch with them.

So make the most of this opportunity, my fellow Commitscions. Become GREAT.

  • KAUSTAV DATTA (Class of 2011), Shree Venkatesh Films, Kolkata
a. Say "yes" to everything.

b. Perform all tasks given by your immediate boss with a smile on your face.

c. At times when you get a tongue-lashing even if it's not your fault, don't get disheartened.

d. In a production house you will need to take on responsibilities (apply RP Sir's formula: take the initiative); no one will ask you to do this or that.

e. Your internship may be a "production" internship, but if you are asked to do data entry or photocopying tasks, don't get frustrated.

f. Those who are opting for production, the magic word you should always keep in mind is "coordination".  Those who are going to Mumbai must keep in mind that the first few days will be very tough, so you'll need to be mentally strong.

g. Knowledge of editing can give your internship extra mileage (that's what happened in my case).

h. Try to learn as much as possible.

i. At at the end of the internship, your boss should say to you, "Contact us when your course ends." That's how you will know you have had a successful internship.

  • AAKRITI KHANNA (Class of 2011), TBWA, Bangalore
First of all, never expect anything. You are there to learn, so grasp as much as possible without expecting anything in return (no rewards, no praises, no money).

This is the time for you to experiment and explore your area of interest. Concentrate on learning more about how the industry functions.

In the end, you might be pleased or disappointed with the whole experience.

However, no learning goes to waste; at least you will have a clear idea about what kind of work is involved in your area of interest and what is the potential for growth in that industry.

  • DOLY DYNA (Class of 2011), Bangalore
Here's one pithy piece of advice to those who have chosen to do an internship with a production house:

This industry — television, ad film, film production — is for you only if you love the work and enjoy every minute of it.

If you find yourselves cribbing through the internship then know that you will not survive in this industry.

And, really, there is no preparation to it. Just go with an open mind and be willing to do ANYTHING!

  • SWAGATA MAJUMDAR (Class of 2006), Red FM, Kolkata
During my second internship at Hindustan Times in Kolkata, I was often asked to get coffee for my seniors. I did it ... and those people in HT later gave me an opportunity to host their national annual event after I became an RJ. So basically PR helps.

Do whatever you are told; work on Sundays too. But do insist on being given substantial work. Be polite. "Attitude" does not work. And nobody cares even if you belong to the royal family of England. Remember, six weeks is all you have to create a big impression. And this impression will be the last impression.

Whenever you get shouted at, tell yourself, "I am here to learn... and it's okay... I am the BEST anyway."

I am sure you'll do a GREAT job, juniors. Best of luck!

  • SHRUTHI S. (Class of 2008), Bangalore
I think this internship is a great opportunity for you to explore career options that suit your interests. Always remember that it's a small world: you will probably meet the people you worked with again, and you might need their guidance and help in the future, so put your best foot forward, and take a big leap ahead.

This is my own personal campaign: Don't limit yourself to media, PR, and the corporate sector. Look beyond to where you can make a bigger impact, for example, the non-profit and the public sectors. Even if you want to earn big bucks in the corporate sector, make sure you don't forget your civic duties.

Enough with the preaching. Good luck and have loads of fun. And remember what Steve Jobs said: "Stay hungry, stay foolish."

  • SOUVIK CHAKRABORTY (Class of 2008), Visage/Getty Images, Bangalore
One of the most important points: Know your role during the internship.

You should not limit yourself in the kind of work you do; instead, you should be smart enough to complete every task with full responsibility because there will be people monitoring your work and giving feedback to superiors.

Also, many interns think that if they are going for an internship with a production house, then reading up books on creative writing or notes on marketing will not help. But the fact is that it all counts and you'll figure this out only after you begin your internship.

One more thing: This internship is important not only as a career landmark but also as a way to build contacts. I advise you to keep your ears and eyes open and grab any opportunity that comes along to get to know your colleagues better. These contacts will definitely be useful later.

  • NEHA MEHTA (Class of 2009), Kolkata
MAKING NEWS: Neha Mehta was till recently with Times Now in Bangalore.

This is a great platform from which to launch your career. In many ways, this will be a make-or-break opportunity for you.

First, read up and absorb all you can about the organisation, its work culture, and, of course, the "topic", your area of interest.

Once you begin the internship, work as hard as you can because the dedication you show now will reap huge benefits later.

All the best. Show the world you have arrived!

  • NANDINI HEGDE (Class of 2010), Freelance writer, Bangalore
Here are some qualities/skills you will need:

1. You must be on your toes.

2. You may be asked to make PowerPoint slides but this is something Commitscions can do well.

3. Have a lot of patience. If you don't get work be patient. Conversely, if you get a lot of work, deal with it... patiently.

4. Some people insist on perfection, some insist on the speed at which the work is done. Some insist on both. Figure out what it is that your organisation expects.

5. Most organisations ask interns to do research. (Stop yawning!) Just do it.

And here are some tips:

1. Chill and don't take things TOO seriously.
    I was very nervous when I went to Red Chillies in Mumbai. Eventually, I learnt to relax and not be too stressed.

2. Remember to have FUN!
    When I was at Red Chillies, I was too busy worrying about whether I was doing my work properly. Of course, I realised this after the internship was over. But I had fun when I worked at Fremantle. (Kinda!)

3. When in doubt, ask questions.

4. Don't hesitate to share your ideas or opinions.

5. AND DON'T FORGET TO EAT! (Yes, it can happen!)

  • KOYEL MITRA (Class of 2011), AETN-18 History Channel (Network 18 Group), New Delhi
I was an intern with CNN-IBN here in New Delhi last year so my advice is based on Ground Zero experience:

If you are really interested in television this is your chance, make the most of it. Take the initiative, talk to people around you, show them that you are eager to learn and work. This is your best opportunity to find out where your real interest lies.

Over here this is the funda: If you don't work no one will come and tell you anything and at the end of your internship, you will be given your certificate without any problem.

But if you really do put in an effort you are bound to get noticed. And then you just might get a call back from here!

So all the best, guys! I am always here to help you.


  1. I'm glad we have a long list of seniors to learn and take inspiration from. And I'm sure what each one of you has said will be very helpful. Thank you :)

  2. Interesting article. My name Priya. I am pursuing Second year engineering. I got selected for internships in Zims India. The above article is really useful to me. Found couple of other sites providing good info on internships. Check this out,
    Please let me know if you find more.

  3. Hi, its Pritha...this is really great article...this will help me a lot in my future 4 sure... also wanna join really inspires me...thnks :)

  4. I feel much more prepared for my internship after reading this. I will definitely remember your words during my internship. Thank you so much:)

  5. Thank you seniors for your advice. Shall remember your advice about what to do and what not to. I hope we have a successful internship experience just like all of you did.
    New Delhi, here I come :)


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