Sincerely, Leaders of Color: How to give your interns a leg up in their next job search

Not every internship is going to end with a job offer. Here are some ways you can give your interns a boost as they enter the jo

Three interns running from the Supreme Court with the latest decision and one person taking a photo of it.

It’s not enough to help your interns solely during their time with you, it’s imperative to help set them up for their next job search, too. (Photo by Ted Eytan)

About this series: Sincerely, Leaders of Color is written for everyone in the journalism industry who cares about creating a more supportive environment for journalists of color to do their best work. Have a question for the team? Drop it here and watch for it in a future column. This column is proudly sponsored by the Executive Program and the Tow Knight Center at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY, and our guest writers budget is sponsored by The American Press Institute.

Welcome to summer, folks. The sun may be shining and the temps are (probably) rising which can only mean one thing: the return of intern season.

Last year, Benét Wilson went deep with examples for setting your BIPOC interns up for success.

This season, we want to build on that message: it’s not enough to help your interns solely during their time with you, it’s imperative to help set them up for their next job search, too. This especially applies to interns from historically marginalized backgrounds.

When I talk to hiring managers, I hear several themes from them around opportunities for candidates to help themselves shine:

First: Help them with their personal elevator pitch.

If they can’t clearly communicate an answer to questions like, “So why do you want this job?”, they are going to struggle to win the hearts of hiring managers.

Spend time with your interns this summer and help them set goals, so they can understand how and what they want to learn, and where they are still growing their skills.

Second: Help them package their work.

For most folks, gone are the days of cutting clippings out of print issues and photocopying them for every single application. If your portfolio used to come on a reel or tape, things have changed! But it’s still important that you help your interns package their work in some kind of portfolio. Show them multiple examples of what portfolios could look like, and offer to edit any descriptions they write of how they contributed each piece.

Third: Encourage them to update their digital footprint.

Ask your interns to search for their byline and see what kinds of results pop up. What surprises them? Regularly updated pages like verified social media profiles or LinkedIn pages can rise in search rankings, helping to push down dated or irrelevant materials.

They should do things like use consistent language for bios and similar usernames or handles where possible. Pages that get linked to frequently can also help manage your SEO rankings.

Fourth: If you work with or as a photographer, donate a headshot to them.

Whether it’s a press release about their hiring, a future award, or a prestigious fellowship, if your intern is going to continue to be successful, they will need a professional headshot. We see too many early career folks relying on vacation candids or mirror selfies. Consistently using the same profile image across platforms can help journalists better connect with their communities and audiences, and you can help your intern get that professional headshot before they leave.

Fifth: Teach them to negotiate.

The best gift my last internship editor gave me was an offer to look at my first job offers and give me feedback about whether they were good, fair offers or not. This wasn’t a full on lesson in negotiation, but he taught me to have a number in mind and to communicate it to the company, so that they would know how I valued my experience and skills.

Stay in touch with your interns as they venture into the job market. When they get lowballed for the first time, teach them how to negotiate and fight for a better package.

Finally, spend some of your social capital on them.

This can look like lots of different techniques, but remember the power imbalance between you and your intern is vast and wide.

A simple ring-around to your peers, friends, and former colleagues, who are hiring managers at other newsrooms is a great way to support your intern (assuming they were awesome, and you really do believe in them). Even easier, forwarding their resume to a few key recruiters in your network, with your explicit recommendation, gives them a leg up over other candidates.

Some folks will list you automatically as a reference during their job hunt because they don’t know what else to do, or they don’t know what to ask first.

If you are willing to be a reference for your intern in the future, let them know and do so explicitly:

  • Can they call you at the last minute for a letter of reference?
  • Can they give out your cell phone number to hiring managers and HR people?
  • Would you prefer them to use your work email for all contact?

Decide how available you want to be and make those boundaries clear. If you would not be comfortable offering a positive reference for this person in the future, consider letting them know this gently as they wind down their position. Again, if your relationship wasn’t great throughout the summer, some interns will know to find another reference or ask someone else, but some may list you anyway.

I was fortunate enough to have several internship editors with whom I’m still in contact today. These are folks, some BIPOC and some white, who have stayed with me and continued to cheer me on from afar.

I’ve also been fortunate to hire and support several interns, some of these things I’ve done for folks, while others reflect the changing job market. Let’s remember that as leaders, mentors, editors of interns this summer, that we hold the seeds of their careers in our hands. Do the best you can to help them blossom, either in your newsroom or elsewhere.

Emma Carew Grovum
P. Kim Bui
Leaders of Color

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  • Emma Carew Grovum

    Emma Carew Grovum is a journalist and technologist in New York City. As the founder of Kimbap Media, she coaches and consults with newsrooms on key strategy areas including leadership, product thinking, and diversity/equity/inclusion.


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