It’s the million dollar question – how to turn an internship into an actual career. And we’re talking the kind of career that allows you to pay rent in an apartment building…not your old bedroom at Mom and Dad’s.
Someplace named Avalon, Cherry Crest or Park West.
Doing multiple internships while in school is the most important step toward getting hired after graduating, but it’s just one step, not the entire journey.
During his junior year at Ball State University, Alberto Pimienta had an internship with Voice of America (VOA), the official external broadcast institution of the U.S. government. Based in Washington D.C., VOA produces news content in 43 different languages, reaching an estimated global audience of 123 million viewers.
After interning for three months, Pimienta went back to school for his senior year hoping a career at VOA was in his future.
“The moment I left, I knew I wanted to come back. Everyone at VOA was so friendly and we established real ties,” remembers Pimienta.
After graduating one year later, Pimienta was hired full-time as a TV reporter for Voice of America’s Spanish Service flagship newscast “El Mundo al Dia” broadcast in Latin America.
A year apart is a lifetime in the TV business, but the hiring managers at Voice of America remembered Alberto and wanted him on staff. What did he do to stand out, to make himself memorable and to stay top of mind?
Read on to find out.
Getting TV Jobs isn’t easy – you did an internship with Voice of America for three months your junior year and then a year later they hired you full-time, what was your process over that year to stay in their sights?
Pimienta: The main thing I did was keep in contact throughout the year. I also think a big part of getting hired is how you conduct yourself during an internship, here are the keys as I see them:
- Work super hard – people will remember that
- Be kind and nice – it means more than you think
- Be yourself – in this industry people can tell if you are fake
- Offer to help in every way possible – take on every opportunity big and small
- Make yourself memorable – or at least try
Most importantly, when you leave the internship, leave thank you notes for everyone. Showing appreciation goes a long way. A little luck helps too, I graduated at the same time that a great, amazing reporter was leaving so there was an open opportunity.
Looking back, I think it was being humble, being kind, working hard, staying in touch and opportunity. It was an intersection of all those things.
Let’s go back and talk about the actual internship at VOA – what were you able to do? How much did you learn?
Pimienta: My internship at Voice of America was a HUGE opportunity. The first day I was there I wrote a VO/SOT (Editors note: VO/SOT stands for voiceover/sound on tape – a piece of video with a corresponding script that leads into a sound bite). The next day I was in front of the camera covering an immigration story.
Everything happened so fast.
They asked me if I thought I would be able to be a reporter for a story and I said yes. That is one of my big recommendations for anyone looking for TV Jobs: always say yes to a challenge.
From that day on, I was on camera. I learned so, so much. My writing, my on camera delivery, my narration delivery, my reporting experience, everything improved. So many more organic things that just happen with practice.
That internship was invaluable. I was an amazing opportunity.
Tell us about the interview process with Voice of America – what was that like?
Pimienta: The interview process at VOA was kind of quick.
I talked on the phone with the Managing Director of the division and she already knew me from my internship. However, she was still interested in what I had learned in the year since I completed the internship.
She really wanted to see what skills I had developed over my senior year. Most important to her was that I:
- Was able to work on different platforms
- Knew what was going on in the news world and was up-to-date on current events
- Was still curious
- Wanted to work hard.
I guess it went pretty well.
Take us through what a normal day is like as a reporter for VOA -
Pimienta: I set up interviews the day prior, so each day starts with me meeting my photographer, at a predetermined place where we will conduct the interview. We go shoot BROLL, (Editors note: B-Roll is the additional video footage used to enhance a script) and gather sound bites and then we head back to the station.
I write and edit my pieces. After I finish writing, the managing director checks my scripts, then I track and start editing.
Ball State has a unique approach to education, immersing students in experiences that are like real TV jobs as part of their curriculum – how much did that style of education prepare you for entering the workforce?
Pimienta: The immersive experiences at Ball State are what got me ready to enter the workforce.
News Directors are always interested in someone who has experience. Even though it is your first real world TV job they always expect you to have experience before you walk into the door.
The immersive learning approach taught me the basics of how to write, my delivery on camera, how to ask questions, how to shoot, how to edit, how to call sources, everything in the news gathering process was something I did as a student because of programs like NewsLink Indiana, WCRD News and Sports Link.
Those experiences are factors that news directors, or whoever is in charge of hiring, really value. I believe, hiring managers would pick someone with those characteristics over someone that they need to teach everything to.
What are the most important skills that you learned in college and help you in your job with VOA?
Pimienta: Writing, being comfortable in front a camera and always and always try to tell people-centered stories.
Tell the audience why something matters and how it affects them.
That is something I think of every morning before I start tackling an assignment. Why does this matter to the viewers at home and how does it affect them. After that, I focus on how to tell it in a compelling way.
If someone came up to you and said “I really want to be a TV reporter, how do I do it?” what advice would you give them?
Pimienta: I am still learning the ropes, but I would say: be curious, always be curious.
Do not forget we are here for an audience.
Be kind, be nice, be courteous, be optimistic, be positive, but do what you love and like. When you do that working hard is a given, it just happens because you love what you do and want to give your best.