So I hopped on a plane to LAX, but I had more than just my dreams and a cardigan. I had great resources (thanks to the Boston-University-in-Los-Angeles staff!), solid connections, and a few internship offers. Heading out to the west coast for the semester was definitely daunting; after all, Hollywood isn’t known to be kind to newcomers trying to make it in the biz. Therefore I knew I had to make the most of the resources I had available to me and my time in L.A.
In the months of searching for my ~dream~ internship, I realized a few things.
L.A. operates on a completely different hiring calendar.
I remember panicking to find fall internships in Boston and D.C. from the month of June until I signed a contract. If it was August and you were still scheduling interviews, you were done: only the bottom of the barrel internships for you, my friend.
Fast-forward a few years, and I habitually started my fall 2018 internship search in May. I had my cover letters drafted and began waiting for postings to go up in June. Come July 1, and I was still waiting for applications to open, and I was panicked.
My type-A personality and fear of already having wrecked my chances of a perfect semester at the perfect internship led me to email the BU-in-LA internship coordinator.
Michael Ouelette told me I was fine, but of course, I didn’t believe him and applied to 20 more internships. Turns out, he was right. Suddenly, the first week of August marked the onslaught of interview requests.
Not only was I interviewing much later than expected, but they were turning into offers and rejections much faster than expected. I was used to waiting around two weeks after an interview to be told they were “close to making a decision.”
However, in the L.A. timeline, things moved much faster. I would interview on Tuesday, have an offer by Thursday–with a deadline of giving an answer by the following Monday! I know, I know. That sounds nice, but when I inadvertently applied to over forty internships, I had more interviews and offers to juggle than I could keep straight, which leads me to my next point.
Interviews are less formal and actually feel productive.
The expedited hiring timeline meant that internship supervisors didn’t have the time to mess around. They interviewed with purpose. That purpose, however, didn’t translate into the structured, rigid interviews I’d come to expect from high-level working professionals. Instead, they seemed to want to actually learn about me and have me learn about their company.
The interviews were conversational and felt genuine. Despite all first-round interviews being on the phone, I didn’t find myself zoning-out or perusing the internet (as I am usually guilty of doing). I was engaged and excited to learn about the person on the other end of the line. This interest also made it easier for me to ask real questions at the end–or even throughout the interview when appropriate–instead of asking the rehearsed and tired questions I bring to most interviews.
In hindsight, there’s a chance that the flowing conversation is a result of all the schmoozing that goes on in the entertainment industry. Perhaps I really am just another victim of a Hollywood exec’s charm, but hey, it eased my interview nerves either way.
However, the ultimate lesson I learned from searching for my perfect internship was this:
Nothing seems perfect at first, so learn to prioritize what you’re looking for.
My mid-summer fear of not finding any internship resulted in me losing sight of what I really wanted to focus on during my time in L.A. By August, I had even applied to a video-game-focused PR agency, even though the last game system I had was a 1996 Sega Genesis.
Thankfully, the BU-in-LA staff (Michael in particular) was very helpful in keeping me focused. Michael sent me, and all other BU-in-LA students, internship leads curated from one-on-one’s he had had with us in April.
When I had needed advice on choosing between internships, he was happy to oblige. Most impressively, he didn’t even give me grief for changing my mind after committing to one internship: a big professional faux pas, I know.
While it wasn’t the most graceful thing for me to have done, I don’t regret changing my mind. I made my reasons known to my would-be-supervisor, and she was actually very understanding.
Plus, I genuinely knew someone else was better fit for that position than I was: someone who had a passion for that agency’s brand. I also knew that I was doing myself a disservice by settling for a position out of fear of not finding something better. And while I now know I did find something better, nothing seemed perfect at first. This, of course, stemmed from my ill-formed idea that this semester was my “one shot” in L.A.
With a little perspective I realize that, yes, this semester is definitely important. I have a team, an administration, and an entire university to fall back on, and when I graduate in December, that doesn’t all just go away. This is only the beginning.
Sucharita Mukherjee, West Coast Correspondent
Sucharita is a native Bostonian, transplanted to Los Angeles for the semester. A second-year PR graduate student, she hopes to be a publicist and make the rich and famous seem stable and well adjusted. Her favorite activities include consuming Dunkin’ coffee, rooting for the Patriots, and quoting The Departed. She will have a tough time adjusting to life outside of Boston.