Learning to take good advice and using it

By Megan Miller

When I first began this internship, I was riddled with nerves and anxiety. From the hardware to the software, I feared I was behind the curve. I dreaded going out on assignments because I was unsure of myself. Would the audio be okay? Would I forget something? Would an interview be out of focus? Would I break a lens?

What bothered me more than anything was that I felt my anxiety was hindering my performance. I knew I could do better.

Now, much of the nerves and anxiety has subsided. I think less about keeping my head above water and more about shooting quality footage. I’ve learned to shoot with purpose instead of out of caution. I not only consider the beauty of a shot but how it will contribute to the overall STORY.

I’ve been working since I was legally able. At 16, I began serving stale popcorn to beleaguered customers at the Regal Cinema in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Since then, I’ve maintained several restaurant jobs throughout high school and college, but nothing within the professional sphere of my career. Being that I was in my junior year without any internship experience behind me, I knew I had to act quickly. I entered the Stony Brook spring internship fair with the mentality that leaving without an internship was not an option, and being that I had been on interviews since I was 16 (even if it wasn’t for my career) I had garnered a few tricks to help sell myself. I was lucky enough to land an internship with the award-winning multimedia team at Newsday, an opportunity that far exceeded the expectations I had set for myself. Newsday had been a place I aimed to work toward, certainly not a place where I thought I’d begin.

Three days into my internship, my editor sent the other intern and me out to shoot assignments. According to him, we were starting quickly. Interns usually were given the opportunity to shadow other shooters before they were entrusted with completing their own assignments, but we were all shooting the Belmont Stakes in a week and I think he wanted us to be familiar with our equipment. My first independent assignments: Film a press conference with Andrew Cuomo and, later, the coveted “Puppy of the Day” (a shooter goes to a chosen shelter and films fives puppies with the results to be edited into five short segments, one for each day of the week).

When my assignment editor texted me at 10 a.m., my stomach dropped and I was launched into a wave of internal panic: Can I do this? What am I doing? Where am I going? What if I’m late? What if people can tell I have no idea what I’m doing? Can I do this? My mom stared at me. “They want a go- getter!” she said. “You just have to go and do this! You’ll be fine.” A word of advice for incoming interns: They do indeed want a go-getter. You got the internship because you have a set of skills that can be applied to what they ask of you. You’re not going to be asked to do something you cannot, and even if you are, they have not forgotten that you’re learning. You’re the one that needs to remember that’s exactly what the experience is all about. People wouldn’t stop telling me to “Be like a sponge” and soak in all I could. You’ll think, “Yeah, right. At this point, I’m just trying to learn how to make office small talk during lunch.” I read this quote about mid-way through my internship, and it not only helped me understand what they meant, but it also helped me address insecurities that were affecting my performance.

“I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped…for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do…But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.” – President Obama

Disregarding the fact that this was said by the President (I’m not tremendously political), I think it offers key advice for any young adult at the start of her career. Once I stopped questioning how well I was doing, or why my bosses weren’t complimenting my work, or how I was doing compared to the other intern, I started producing better work and, in turn, reaping the benefits that good work attracts. From where I began — barely able to film a press conference without rocking back and forth in a corner — to where I am now, a freelancer for Newsday as a result of the work I produced, I say heeding the advice of others is the best advice I can give.