Internships: A Field Guide

There's more to being an intern than a chance at special immunity. So while the rest of the country concentrates on the position of one former intern, we asked former interns who worked in a variety of fields what they got for their grunt work.


K
E
Y
sex on the job possible
celebrity sightings likely
leads to a better job
lateral progress only
souvenirs have resale value
easy work
/ high/low pay
high coffee intake
can score pot at work
nepotism helps

POLITICAL Some follow the traditional path to a Beltway internship (parents, friends, parents' friends, friend's parents), others take a roundabout route: They apply for the job. Still, a few months of treading the D.C. linoleum will make the next move easier for anyone—"In Washington, it's all who you know," says one former Hill 'tern. But don't save pages in your autograph book just yet. Unless you get breathless about "attending some big meetings," Washington's glam factor is perilously low.

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SHOWBIZ The glitz and easy money of Tinseltown might make the words "Hollywood internship" sound like an oxymoron, but even Babylon needs people to clean up after the party's over. Though they probably have better tans, showbiz interns have much in common with their brethren in D.C.; some even see the two as interchangeable—one former radio show intern said she "originally wanted to be a White House intern, but...didn't get it."

CORPORATE About the only thing that qualifies these relatively well-paid corporate jobs as "internships" is the complete lack of recognition for backbreaking work. "I was just totally behind the scenes," lamented one former intern. Still, it's not who sees you that counts, it's who you see: "I met some top corporate people," notes a one-time PR flack. Almost all said the internship got their career going. However, not everyone was as lucky as the gal who "bumped into John F. Kennedy Jr. at the photocopier down the hall."

JOURNALISM Low pay and long hours are the standard for professional journalists, so it's somewhat surprising that anyone would take on the burden of "intern" on top of that. Yet journalism internships remain mystifyingly popular with many college students, who often use the experience to...get another internship. Thanks to the growing sense of self-importance among the media elite, however, the chances of running into a "celebrity" (or someone who acts like one) on the job are pretty high; one starstruck intern even bragged about meeting "the publicist for Naomi Wolf."

GRASSROOTS "It's what you make of it" is the refrain from interns who toil in the nonprofit world, but unlike other internships, you won't necessarily be making many contacts: "It wasn't the job that's going to get me the job," says a former intern. Most grassroots volunteers want to save the world, and these internships will let you try if you show initiative. More material perks, on the other hand, are few and far between—though one person did admit, "It got me some good weed once." And as far as brushes with fame go, well, one proudly announced, "I met Ralph Nader!" For the most part, you work hard and all you get is a lousy T-shirt in return.

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