Finding my way at NPR: Internship Guidelines

Candice at NPR

By Dean’s Intern Candice Norwood at NPR

I’ve done temporary work at a lot of news places over the course of my undergraduate and graduate school years. That’s four newspapers, three magazines, and two radio companies to be exact. Though I haven’t quite mastered the cure for first-day jitters I’ve become pretty good at maneuvering intern life. This semester I’m working with NPR’s education team, which is a total dream. I’ve learned a lot from each of my internship positions, but this semester has reached a new level — and I’m only seven weeks in. I’ve decided to share some important intern guidelines that have helped me so far through my awesome journey with NPR.

1)   Breathe, you deserve to be there

This biggest thing I struggled with during the first few weeks of my internship is what I have come to know now as “imposter syndrome.” This is the irrational idea that despite the countless hours you spent crafting the perfect internship application, you still don’t deserve the position. This is usually accompanied by a debilitating fear that the real professionals in your office will find out about you at any moment and forcibly remove you from the building.

At first I thought I was crazy for thinking this way, but I soon learned that this is a common feeling among interns. The only real advice I can give is to breathe and relax. You got the internship for a reason, so take advantage of every opportunity thrown your way!


2)   Make yourself visible

The first few weeks of any internship are usually pretty awkward. Here you are, a newbie trying to merge into an office space where some people have been working for the last 20 years. If you’re at a big company, then the majority of people don’t know who you are or what your purpose is. And if you’re part time, like myself, then you get about half as much face time as the full-time interns.

These are all reasons why it’s important to make yourself visible in whatever way you can. If a group of reporters is weighing in on the newest House of Cards season, join the conversation. Attend team meetings so you can learn how things work. Most importantly: pitch, pitch, pitch ideas. You may be rejected a few times, and it may sting a little. Ultimately, a couple of your ideas will stick. Afterward, you’ll not only look super impressive, but you’ll feel amazing.


3)   Make an internship “to-do” list

I’m kind of a list fanatic. Generally I have a monthly to-do list, as well as lists that I write each morning for that particular day. I find that having a list of things I want to accomplish motivates me to actually do them. The point is that for three or four months, you are working side-by-side with awesome, talented people. You get to be part of the “in-crowd” of this organization. Once you leave those offices at the end of your internship, you might not have another chance to return. Make the most of it! Below are some of the things I wrote on my NPR list at the beginning of the semester.

  • See a Tiny Desk Concert (little did I know that I would actually be in a tiny desk concert)
  • Hear my voice on the air in some form
  • Have coffee with at least three NPR staffers I admire
  • Sit in on a meeting for Morning Edition and All Things Considered
  • Write at least five longer stories
  • See a celebrity up close (a little shallow, I know)


4)   Build relationships with other interns 

As a newbie to DC, I’m always on the lookout for new people to connect with. And why not make friends with co-workers who are in the same position as you? If you’re with a smaller company, this can be more challenging. The first couple of places I interned with had maybe three interns total. Because we all worked part time, it was more difficult to bond.

What I particularly love about the internship program at NPR is that it fosters a nice intern community. Some people might be tempted to look at other interns as competition that you need to “beat out” for an entry-level job. I really discourage this. Not only will forming these relationships give you a lunch-time and coffee break buddy, but it’s just good networking sense. I’m no math whiz, but I estimate that 75 percent of the journalism/ communications professionals I’ve spoken with have landed a cool position because they knew someone at a company — often times either through school or an internship.