Interning as a graduate student can sometimes be a frustrating, but enlightening, experience. While studying full time in Annenberg’s Communication Management Master’s program, I also intern at BET (Black Entertainment Television), a subsidiary of Viacom. Though I’m truly grateful for these amazing opportunities, I sometimes contemplate the decision to postpone my entry into the workforce in exchange for advancing my education. These ruminations are often accompanied by internal questions like, “So when are you going to get a real job? “or “Aren’t you ready for a real paycheck?” However, all of these doubts go away when I reflect on the advantages I’m constantly being afforded. For example, interning gives me a free pass to make and learn from mistakes without facing serious consequences. I’m also allotted more time to figure out where my passions lie and to “test the waters” of different sub-industries. Even better, I get to apply what I’m learning in the classroom at BET, making my internship a case study in real time.
Applying to internships as a graduate student is also a very humbling experience. At first, I felt entitled to certain opportunities because of my higher education level. But I couldn’t have been more wrong. There are tons of applicants with less educational and higher work experience who are more qualified than me for certain positions. For example, I applied to Viacom multiple times before landing an internship at the media conglomerate. After my first couple of times getting denied, I felt pretty discouraged about my prospects in the entertainment industry. I spent an excessive amount of time mulling over the obstacles I had yet to hurdle. If it was this hard to find an internship, how could I possibly secure a job later down the line? But once I stopped taking the rejection personally, I began to focus more on making myself a viable candidate. I realized that in order to get accepted into a larger company, I needed to first gain more experience at smaller organizations. These initial experiences not only improved my writing and analytical skills, but also gave me a plethora of knowledge about creative development and production. These experiences also yielded my long-awaited acceptance at BET.
As an intern in BET’s Original Programming department, I give feedback on television projects in development, conduct research on industry talent and trends, and offer administrative assistance to executives within the office. I’ve also been granted the opportunity to work as a production assistant for the BET Experience, a celebrity-filled festival of games and concerts open to the public.
I am so appreciative of my opportunity to work with a brand that touches millions of lives, including my own, on a daily basis. BET is more than a network or channel; it’s a place of comfort and a form of escape for the black community and for young women like myself. BET uplifts audiences by celebrating characters and real life figures that transcend the stereotypes and barriers built by American society. Likewise, interning for BET inspires me to avoid second-guessing my decision to pursue a Master’s degree full time. Working hard as a student now can only yield positive opportunities in the future.
-Gabrielle Sawyer, Communication Management