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Paying for an Internship — Why one magazine’s charity is pushing young journalists apart

November 3, 2007 2 comments

It is so competitive for an Internship today, the free labor that most of America’s media giants rely on, that people are actually paying to get in. Harper’s Bazaar is offering a one-month internship with them as part of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project’s Hulaween Auction. The magazine, one of the largest fashion rags on the market, is donating the Internship in the name of charity.

Myself, a struggling 25-year-old Intern, can’t believe his eyes. Internships are part of the professional fabric when it comes to piecing together a successful career in today’s media. Editors talk greatly about the need to understand the pain of relentless fact checking, getting coffee, stuffing media packets and working with little to no pay. It’s a right of passage almost every successful editor has been though, and many point to it as the reason they are successful. But it’s changing. So fast actually, that it has become a class war, where the poor are left helpless, scratching for clips and the opportunity to succeed, while the rich roll in, designer sleeves up and drink copious amounts of beer at happy hour after turning off their computer.

Just about four months ago I was rejected for Outside Magazines Internship. I was willing to leave a well paying job, pack up my life and move four states away to make $8.15 an hour. The research editor told me I didn’t have enough experience in my resume and therefore would not work.

I stood there, phone in hand, mouth open, ready to scream. “What do you want me to do!” I wanted to yell. “I am on my own financially, have been reduced to working to live at a young age when some of my competition is benefiting from daddy and mommy. Here I am willing to sacrifice just about every materialistic item I have to fact check for you and eat pasta every night!” I was distraught, upset, livid and more determined than ever.

Four weeks ago while sitting in a turnout somewhere outside of Chicago, I had my first and only Interview with Backpacker magazine. I remember praying before hand asking God to guide me in the right direction. I was edgy inside, unsettled and anxious. This was my chance to show them that even though I don’t have a masters degree, clips from the AP while working in France, or a high-level contact inside their magazine, that I was qualified for the position.

I don’t exactly remember the interview, but what I do remember is that the words seemed to come to me effortlessly. When asked delicate complex questions, I provided short concise answers that proved I had done my homework and understood the industry. When it was over I felt relieved, almost sure that I was at least in the running. That night I ended my month-long journey drinking beer with a very wise man who opened up my eyes by being vulnerable in wisdom.

“Find out what you can provide,” he said, “and hone that skill. You may be able to write well, but is it writing that you enjoy? Or storytelling? So many people try to do it all themselves, but what you don’t know, is that you may meet someone that can take your skill and bring it to the masses. When you find your skill, work on the vehicles to get it out there, but until then, work hard, work smart and always push yourself.”

Our conversation lasted over three hours, and it changed my life. At the end we discussed the Internship with Backpacker. We talked about the pros, the cons and the advantages to ending my trip early and pursuing my dream. It was clear by the end of the night that given the chance I would drive west the next day and find a place to live in Boulder, Colorado.

The past three weeks have been a blur. The past two have found my immersed in Backpacker’s office, wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear. But regardless of how well I do, how much impact I make, there is still the great possibility of being laid off in six months when my Internship ends and going back to unemployment. It’s that uncertainty, that level of vulnerability that seems to set the dedicated apart from the wishy-washy. Unless of course you are able to pay the bills without a paycheck, then it would just be another adventure.

“I don’t have a problem being the 31-year-old Intern,” a fellow Intern at Backpacker said yesterday on the drive home. “It’s what you have to do,” she added. I nodded my head in agreement. She was dead on.

It makes me wonder if whoever bids the most for Harper’s Bazaar really wants to be there as much as the washed-up hardworking American girl waiting tables and stringing for a small daily to build clips. I know it’s not a fair world out there, but paying to participate in an Internship? Have we gone too far? It’s almost like paying for people to vouch that you worked for them on your resume, and last time I checked that took money, not skill.

Lost for words — 9/11

September 11, 2007 Leave a comment

I want so badly to write about how 9/11 brought me and my fellow classmates closer together. About how just three weeks into college, my four roommates and I were thrust into a world of uncharted emotion. How courses changed their direction while professors struggled to put the terror into context. About the endless arguments with fellow classmates about what being patriotic meant, and why I felt so strongly about flying the American flag.

I want so badly to recount those frantic moments driving around town looking for a newspaper even though the TV was live. The fact that just about EVERY person I knew was glued to the TV for days, and MTV was nothing but streaming coverage.

I want so badly to poetically write about the tears that welled up in me sitting alone at my desk trying to comprehend the death. The fact that I almost got in my car and drove across the county to help, even if it was just to hand water out to volunteers.

But I can’t. Not because I’m too lazy, but because I have no way of expressing myself on paper. Emotion wells up in me so fast that words become a jumbled mess. I find my heart splitting in two when I think about the day and it’s aftermath.

They say everyone remembers where they were when they heard that Kennedy had been shot, when Pearl Harbor had been bombed and now when the World Trade Centers Fell. Well I remember where I was. I was sitting alone in my dorm room bewildered, until my roommate and now good friend ran into the house frantically yelling, “America is under attack!” The rest though is a bit blurry with tears.

Lord Have Mercy

Lost for words

Categories: college, Personal

Shift Happens — Amazing video with even more amazing statistics

September 10, 2007 Leave a comment

Did you know that it is estimated that a week of the New York Times supplies more information than a human would get in an entire lifetime in 1800?

How about the fact that 100% of India’s college graduates speak English?

Or that Nintendo spent over twice in research in 2006 than the US Government did on research for education?

No? Then watch this quick six minute video. Honestly folks, the stats will blow your mind.

Categories: Advice, college, Gen-Y, Technology

The Rundown: AP Reading Poll, Scoble on Facebook and Wag the Dog

August 24, 2007 Leave a comment

I have been having a hard time deciding what to blog about lately, just too many ideas and not enough discipline, so instead I’ve decided to post a smattering of topics and links that I think you might find interesting. At some point I’d like to elaborate on several of these topics, but with Hawaii, San Diego and a cross-country road trip coming up, time is a bit of a rarity.

The New Republic Baghdad Diarist

I’m more than surprised that this story hasn’t really made its way past the blogosphere and political pubs. Some of the major dailies have covered it, but for the most part, TNR is doing a great job and keeping the roar down to a whisper.

Check out these links for a bit of background. (The Slate link in particular has some astonishing blog quotes regarding the situation)

Slate Blog Rundown
Most recent Slate article
Huffington Post Response

AP Poll: One in four adults say they read no books last year

In a recent AP Poll, researchers unearthed that just shy of 27% of adults did not read one single book last year. Out of the people that did read, most where women and seniors, and even then they were mostly gobbling up religious works and best selling fiction. In a time when baby boomers and Gen-Xers are complaining about the lack of literacy Gen-Yers bring to the table, they may want to take a long look in the mirror.

Check out this blog for an interesting take.

Menial Summer Jobs and Affluence

I’m late to the party on this one, but it still caught my eye. A few weeks ago, the WSJ published an interesting opinion piece about menial jobs and the growing income gap in America. According to the piece, low-income kids are stuck working menial jobs, while privileged kids are building expansive resumes with worldly experience. The writer makes a strong argument why this is damaging to the economy. Ben Cashnocha, a 19-year-old serial entrepreneur, writes a wonderful critique of the post here.

Why Wag the Dog was so right on

I just watched Wag the Dog again after a few year hiatus and was instantly reminded why that movie never made it past the critics desks—It was too right on. Of course there are obvious plot falls and the story would never work with today’s Internet, but what did stick out was Robert DeNiro always yelling “This is nothing!” Powerful words when the shit is hitting the fan. If only a majority of our bosses were this optimistic.

A list blogger Robert Scoble continues to cum over Facebook

Facebook was cool two years ago when I first found it. There were only college students on the site, and groups were stuff like, “I live in Northern California and don’t shave my arm pits.” Now the mainstream media has gotten a hold of Facebook and done what every large ‘no it all’ group does—ruin it.

Don’t believe me? Read Scoble’s posts. He talks about some way cool stuff that really no one cares about. That is unless you make your living in tech and are addicted to a screen.

I Am Not A Lemon – Part Four: Building your Personal Brand and Portfolio

August 20, 2007 2 comments

Editors Note: The following is the fourth installment in a five part series about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of your college experience. There are a lot of lists out there telling students how to succeed, but not too many of these lists have been written by recent graduates still living in the college mindset. Please read this series not as a “do as I say bible”, but rather one humble ex-student’s suggestions.

I made several mistakes in college, but the largest mistake, besides getting drunk and finding myself in the back of a cop car, was not understanding how to build a strong personal portfolio that bridged the gap between academic projects and the real world. I didn’t save all my work, I wrote papers tailored for professors and most importantly did my final projects to get an A and not a job. Big mistake.

Personal branding is hot right now. There are several blogs about the subject, and even a quarterly PDF magazine written by a recent college graduate. Technorati, flickr, Facebook, LinkedIn are just the tip of the social branding iceberg. This blog itself is a personal branding tool. I’m hoping to show potential employers that I have an unique voice in a very cluttered space. Essentially the blog is an evolving portfolio built on conversation, links, community and my ability to tie it all together.

If you’re in college right now, and I don’t care at what stage, sit back and think for a moment what you have produced that will interest a future employer. And this doesn’t mean the twenty-page research paper on media semiotics. Instead, what do you have that is tangible? What have you done that shows your ability to tie your education into your interests? If you can’t think of anything, then make this your semester goal. Grades are important, but a portfolio is what gets you the job.

Tips for personal branding and building your portfolio

Be smart and think about what your end goal is. – If you’re on the medical tract of course grades are important, but if you’re in a skill-based major it might be more important to have a solid portfolio showing your work. An architecture firm is not going to hire a new employee that has nothing to show. The same goes for a newspaper, TV station, or engineering firm. So think about where you want to go and determine what you need to get there. It might be overwhelming at first, but if you do this Freshman year then you have a minimum of four years to do it, which is more than enough time.
When doing a project think about what potential employers want to see. – This is hard mainly because professors are not employers and what they may want to see can be different than your future boss. When you start working on a project look for discrepancies and discuss them with your professor. Smart professors will see your enthusiasm and understand that you are working not only for an A, but a job. They will then hopefully accommodate your requests. The sad reality though is that many professors live in academia and forget what it is like to build a real-world portfolio. If you run up against them, it might be worth getting the B.
Talk to future employers about what they want to see. – One of the greatest things about being in college is that you can always ask questions. It is much easier to get a CEO to speak with you about his/her experiences when you’re eating Mac & Cheese and drinking Natural Ice. Don’t be shy to ask what they want to see when they hire new employees. Now the most important part…Take their advice and follow it! Talking with people does no good unless you act on it.
Keep a personal journal about what works and what doesn’t. – This doesn’t have to be a novel, it could just be a few notes about what you thought you were good at, and what you weren’t. If you start early it’s easier to know what works and what doesn’t. It is also a vital took for writing cover letters and describing your strengths.
Never stop moving forward – If you fail determine what you learned and move on. It’s hard to explain, but college is meant to test you, and sometimes this means failing at a project or experiment. If you do fail, look at it as a learning experience and not a failure. Those who can move on and maintain momentum are the successful ones.

Finally, and this may be the most important part of building your personal brand, expand your comfort zone. Never stop putting yourself in uneasy situations which require quick thinking and a high-level of skill. By forcing yourself to work under pressure, and in an unfamiliar environment, you will become comfortable with your skills and ability, thus branding yourself as a leader and not a follower.

Of course there are hundreds of other tidbits of advice that I could write down, but they are mostly things that will come to you during college. As always don’t EVER be afraid to ask questions or talk with people. College is the time to learn who you are, what you like and how you work. It’s not an end-all to life discovery, but a vital step in the path to success.

Good luck and please share you own experiences with me so I can continue to learn and build my personal brand.

I Am Not A Lemon – Part Three: Why college is less about books and more about learning how to build Social Capital

August 17, 2007 4 comments

Editors Note: The following is the third part in a five part series about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of your college experience. There are a lot of lists out there telling students how to succeed, but not too many of these lists have been written by recent graduates still living in the college mindset. Please read this series not as a “do as I say bible”, but rather one humble ex students suggestions.

Social Capital or Plato? Both can be a benefit of college, yet only one can make you a CEO, award-winning musician, or Dane Cook for that matter. And believe me, it’s not Plato.

From day one college is, and should, be about building relationships. Social Capital, one of the largest differentiators between the lower middle class and upper echelon of the American workforce, is not something that can be taught by a book. But in college, those precious four years spent chasing tail, discovering drinking games and memorizing Plato, building social capital is easy and obtainable. The sad thing is most students do not capitalize on the opportunity.

There has been a rash of posts over the last few months about ways technology is breaking apart face-to-face interaction, and causing some super-connected Gen-Yers to become lonely. It’s a sad reality of always being in control of your relationship with someone. You decide if you want to view their pictures, read their blogs and respond to their texts. As great as this may sound, it’s not going to help build your social capital.

Think I’m crazy? Think again. Take for instance the overly used game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Everyone somewhere has a connection. Sometimes they brag about their connections, while other times they are quiet and shy about the fact that their best friend is a big time movie star. I’ve even gotten to know someone for years before they told me they were roommates with Dick Cheney. Holy cow! Two degrees and I’m at any top tier leader in the world. Very cool.

Some basic ways to build social capital:

Be nice to EVERYONE even if they aren’t that nice to you. It’s a small, small world, and if they’re in your major, it’s even smaller. You never know when they are going to pop up again.
Keep an address book. This does not mean a MySpace page, or Facebook account. Rather, get the details about your friends and start to build a rolodex. Take the time to make some notes about them and why they are important to you. In ten years when you need to refinance your house, there is a good chance you were friends with a broker in college.
Put yourself out there even if you’re scared to death. College kids tend to run in packs. I remember the first time I was left alone at a party and didn’t know anyone. My first reaction was to get wasted, but then I decided that probably wasn’t the best idea since I didn’t know where I was. By the end of the night, I’d made several new friends, one of them who now even works for NBC. Would I have met them otherwise? There is a possibility, but I can’t be sure. As the Budweiser commercial so eloquently says, “Don’t hold back.”
Take the time to get to know someone. Relationships today have been reduced to 160 characters or less. We are forced to communicate through short hand and broken English. It’s OK when you know the person, but not OK when you don’t. When you meet someone new, make sure to listen. They have a story to tell too, and it might just be better than your own. So don’t just rush into what you want to do. You might miss something really important.

These are just a few of my suggestions on how to build social capital and relationships during your college years, but of course they are not all appropriate for every individual person. Take the time to find out what works for you, and when you do, write it down. If you learn how to build relationships early on I guarentee you will find yourself in situations not once thought possible.

Categories: Advice, college, Gen-Y

I Am Not A Lemon – Part Two: Understanding the System of a College Semester

August 14, 2007 2 comments

Editors Note: The following is the second in a five part series about what to do, what not to do, and how to make the most of your college experience. There are a lot of lists out there telling students how to succeed, but not too many of these lists have been written by recent graduates still living in the college mindset. Please read this series not as a “do as I say bible”, but rather one humble ex students suggestions.

College is a system. The smart kids will learn to work within the system and ultimately make the system work for them. It took me two years to understand my college’s system, but when I did classes got easier and my workload more distributed. Though it’s important to note that each college is different, and each major has a different quirkiness to it, the basic system of college remains the same. I’ve broken up a typical semester into several different parts that may help you understand what is expected of you and when it’s appropriate to slack. I understand many colleges are on either a semester or quarter system. For the sake of this article I’ve decided to use the word semester. This, however, does not mean it will not work for the quarter system.

Part 1: Welcome to my class, here is my syllabus; it is the most important class of the year.

Unless you are a science major, the first week of class can seem a bit redundant. Teachers hand out the syllabus, brief the class on what to expect and then usually throw in a reading assignment or two. Sometimes they threaten a quiz that will be 10 percent of your grade. But DO NOT stress, this is mostly a scare tactic. Take this week to prepare yourself for the onslaught of work ahead of you and study the semester.

Many times I would get out a calendar and mark all my tests and large assignments for the semesters. Then I would look where I could slack, where one class would take precedence and where I would need to stop having a social life. Some classes made it hard by having weekly quizzes, but the majority of teachers are too lazy so they revert back to midterms, finals and a surprise quiz that really doesn’t matter.

It’s during this first week of a semester where you are able to get a high-level overview without the clutter of looming assignments and tests that need emergency cramming. An hour of your time can be a huge benefit.

Part 2: Read now, don’t fall behind and you can drink more later.

Most college students start out the semester with optimism. They want to do well. They want to learn and they want to impress their professors. Then the second week hits and there isn’t an assignment due for two more weeks. Suddenly the reader that was front-and-center in your mind, shifts to give way for beer pong, intramural sports and a new fling.

DO NOT let this happen. Most successful students know that hitting the books hard for the first few weeks can be the difference between coasting mid semester and freaking out. Think of it like building a house. First the foundation needs to be built, and then the exciting stuff takes place. The problem is that the foundation takes forever and the framing only a few days. It’s like that in a college system. Two weeks seems like an eternity, but slack at the beginning and the mid semester midterm comes up blindingly fast.

Now this doesn’t mean you have to over work, just work enough not to fall behind. Take it from me, I’ve gone both routes and my life is probably ten years shorter because I would stress mid semester when my roommate, who is a hell of a lot smarter than me, would watch 24 and say “I told you so.”

Part 3: Midterms are here, life is over I need a drink.

This is the time for no social life. Everyone goes to the library and takes college seriously. OK, not really, most take it seriously for a few hours and then shuffle their way back to Starbucks or the pickup game of soccer their friends are playing, but if you can do well here the final exam will be easier.

Most students don’t think ahead. At the end of the semester you want to be hanging out with friends, talking about the good times and living it up. Not be stuck on the third floor of the library wishing you had worked harder over the semester. If you’ve taken the time to keep up with the reading then midterms shouldn’t be that hard. Just a test that forces you to pay attention to what you’ve read. Of course if you’re a science major, then it’s going to be REALLY hard. For that I’m sorry.

Part 4: Slack

The smart kids slack here. Midterms are over and your next reading assignment, even though big, isn’t that important right now. Seriously, GO OUT and enjoy yourself. This is where the smart kids make the system work for them. They understand that a semester is built on a reward system. Take a test and the teacher and assistants most likely don’t want to grade another one for at least a few weeks. They, just like you, dread the large exams and need room to breathe. Make sure to keep up, but also make sure to have fun. This will be your saving grace.

Part 5: This sucks, the weather is nice, I get to go home soon, my teacher is killing my vacation and I really, really don’t want to do this right now.

My chemistry teacher in high school had a great word for this. He called it TQS or “Third Quarter Sluff-Off.” He would warn us of falling behind due to nice weather, vacations or laziness. In college the allure of going home, or a wild spring break trip to Mexico magnifies this. The trick here is to work HARD right before the break so you don’t have to work over it, or after it. I can’t tell you how many times I would come back form a vacation and have a pile of work left to do. I would kid myself saying that “Oh, I’ll do that on my trip.” Yea right. If I was sober any amount of time I’m sure it was to find my way back to the hotel, not open up my anthropology book and read.

No, this is your vacation. You deserve it. Work hard and take it. Its good preparation for the real world when only get two weeks a year if you’re lucky.

Part Six: Finals are here, I need to move out, I want to go to the bar, I should have read more and my parents are going to kill me.

There is a tip that will get you through finals. I learned it from a senior my freshman year, who told me he learned it his freshman year. I’m sure it wasn’t that romantic, but it goes like this. During finals week, DO NOT worry about money, within reason of course. If you want a smoothie—go buy it. If you want pizza—go get it. You need to take care of your body. Don’t stress out your mind. Finals suck so make it easy.

Remember that finals are where teachers decide just how much you have learned during the semester. They tend to forget that you have four other classes and a social life. They tend to also forget that they are not God. But don’t let this get to you. Go into finals with the understanding that you’ve learned their system. Hopefully you have learned how they talk, how they grade and what buzzwords they like. I’ve found that several of my past teachers scanned responses and if they saw particular words they would immediately give full credit. This is working within the system.

When finals are over, GO OUT and celebrate. You’ve made it through another semster and it’s time to rejoice. Let yourself forget your classes for a while and bask in the fact that you’ve successfully made it.

Part Seven: Write down what worked and what didn’t.

Give yourself a roadmap form nest semester. It doesn’t have to be an essay, but a few key notes can be huge in helping you continue on how to use the system.

Of course there are hundreds of ther tips and suggestions, but the majority of them are things that you will find out on your own. Hope this helps.

Part Three will be about how to build relationships in college and why they matter more than grades.

Categories: Advice, college, Gen-Y