SOJ internship fair continues to prosper

When Kate Mustakas walked into SAC room 302 on a Thursday afternoon in October, she never expected to leave with an internship at hand. Neither did she expect a connection to land her at a news station.

Through the internship fair, Mustakas obtained an opportunity to intern with Heather Walsh Photography for the rest of fall 2013 semester.

“I was excited because I love taking pictures and wanted to learn more about marrying art and photojournalism,” said Mustakas. “I was really looking forward to learning more and more about the technicalities behind photography for journalists.”

Soon after the fair, she used the art of networking to gain a connection at News 12 Long Island, for the spring 2014 semester.

“I didn’t really believe it until I actually went to the studio and met the anchors, reporters, and crew,” she said. “I was more in shock but my initial reaction was a feeling of complete inspiration.”

Barbara Selvin, internship coordinator, continues to hope for more success stories like Mustakas.

“When I heard about Kate’s achievements at the fair, I was delighted for her and the school,” said Selvin. “I thought it reflected very well for our program.”

Every semester, the School of Journalism holds an internship fair for students to practice interviewing skills with recruiters and to obtain an internship.

“The fair gives more advance students a chance to interview for internships and some do get them,” continued Selvin. “It also gives students in the earlier stage a chance to check out how the interview process is.”

This semester’s fair included representatives from Newsday, News 12 Long Island, Newsday.com, Riverhead Local, and Dan’s Papers.

The recruiters were very impressed with the students.

“Everyone was very eager and happy,” said Tracy Brown, Deputy Long Island Editor at Newsday and one of the representatives. “I liked seeing the next generation that’s into print journalism, because I’m always focus on the news so it was nice to see some enthusiastic students.”

But it seemed that the attraction of recruiters wasn’t what made this semester’s fair a huge success.

“I decided to attend after not getting an internship from Newsday,” said Mustakas. “I was extremely discouraged but was contacted by Professor Selvin personally to attend the internship fair, which I think helped me.”

The countless emails and reminders from Selvin and Maureen Robinson, staff assistant for the School of Journalism, made the attendance at the fair one of the highest the school has ever seen, with 35 students attending.

“I sent out a lot of individual emails to students encouraging them to go,” said Selvin. “The more people you meet that can help the better, because short interactions can pack a powerful punch.”

Although the turnout well represented the School of Journalism than in other semesters, there were still a lot of faces missing.

“I think many students undersell themselves and that’s why they’re so nervous,” said Selvin. “Just as it takes some courage to talk to strangers for stories, same goes for the fair.”

Brown agreed.

“I think that some people have difficulties promoting themselves because they feel like they’re bragging or uncomfortable,” she said. “I think that more encouragement can fix that.”

Mustakas felt differently. She felt that she was nervous but hadn’t undersold herself. Although she had a small setback with a cup of coffee and plate full of nerves.

“I ended up getting coffee spilled all over my résumé copies initially, which set me off track,” said Mustakas. “I wanted to walk into the internship fair confident since I got denied from Newsday, but I wouldn’t say I undersold myself.”

But at the end, Mustakas regained her composure and shined.

“When I walked in, I thought at first, ‘wow, I’m overdressed,’” she said. “But, I do believe that I was the very best that I could be at that very point.”

The annual semester fair began in spring 2009 for summer internships only, until Selvin noticed a need for semester-based internships. That’s when the first fall internship fair took place in 2012, which was a huge success.

“We got excellent feedback from recruiters, but students seemed to still be underselling themselves,” said Selvin.

Brown suggested that ways that students can be a little more comfortable.

“Mock interview sessions or lectures on the topic may really help the students,” she said. “As future members of the workforce, you need to persuade someone to add you to their staff and make an investment in you.”

Whatever the reasons of nervousness can be, Mustakas found a way to put aside her feelings for the hour she attended.

“I placed myself with several people behind the representatives so I had time to think about the questions I was going to ask,” she said. “I was only really nervous because I wanted to make sure I represented myself appropriately to these professionals who could potentially offer me an internship at their organization.”

The internship fair encourages professionalism and a chance to practice in a professional setting.

“It takes practice and students should come and get the practice of talking to interviewers,” said Selvin. “Some of these same recruiters come back time after time again, so it’s best to start that relationship now and reap the benefits years from now.”

Brown also felt that there are many benefits to the fair.

“Students get the chance to speak to journalists in the field and it gives a great opportunity to find out what the jobs entails,” she said. “It gives you an opening on whether you want to continue on the track or not.”

Mustakas, who used her connections quite well to land an internship, can put that into better context.

“The best part about the internship fair was getting to know the professionals who were representing their companies, she said proudly. “It was a great way to network, and it gave me a lot of experience with informal interviews.”