Former CNN and Viacom Intern Shares Advice on Navigating Media Internships
By Khadejah Stegall
Khadejah is a part of the TLC College Ambassador Program and attends North Carolina A&T University.
Brianna Weaver is a recent graduate from Florida A&M University with a degree in Business Administration. Weaver has completed internships at CNN and BET. She networked her way to the 2016 Hip Hop Awards although her internship had already ended with BET. Here is some advice on navigating through the entertainment industry as an intern and alumni of a historically black college.
Q: What made you choose Florida A&M University (FAMU) for college?
In my senior year of college, my final decision was between two schools, FAMU and The University of South Florida. I visited both schools, and when I came to FAMU for the Spring Preview, I fell in love. The energy of the event, the passion that the current students had for the University, the camaraderie and the passion administration had for students’ success all made my two-day experience that much more enjoyable. At that point, I knew FAMU was where I had to be. Aside from my experience visiting FAMU, The School of Business and Industry is top of the line, and I knew it would give me the tools necessary for success after college.
Q: What part of your college experience do you believe prepared you for the real world?
The education and preparation I received from Florida A&M's School of Business and Industry equipped me with the professional skills necessary to perform at my highest potential, and succeed in my professional arena. Aside from what I gained in the classroom, becoming involved in extracurricular activities helped me become more diverse, polished my leadership skills, and taught me the importance of networking on a college campus. These are all skills that I plan to transfer into my professional career.
Q: Is there anything you wish you would have taken advantage more of while in college?
I wish I would have been more involved with the Graduate Feeder Program on campus. Now that I have graduated and am looking more into different graduate programs, it would have been helpful to be a graduate feeder fellow, and use the program as a connection for different grad schools. I also wish I would have found a mentor on campus. I never really had anyone on campus to "take me under their wing". I do not regret anything I've done over the course of my college career, but a mentor could have given me guidance and made the ship sail a bit more smoothly.
Q: Did you have any internship experience?
Yes, I did have internship experience. It is a funny story actually. My very first internship was at a startup jewelry store on the south side of Tallahassee. It was an unpaid internship, and I did not stay very long, maybe two weeks max, before I ended up quitting. Luckily, the following summer of 2015, I was fortunate enough to land an internship with Turner Broadcasting System and CNN where I was a Summer Project Assistant. That internship gave me the experience and connections necessary to obtain my Summer 2016 internship with Viacom and BET Networks where I was a 360 Consumer Marketing and Brand Strategy Intern. Both internships were incomparable experiences that helped me gain a sense of what I want to pursue in my career field.
Q: Did your internships lead to you getting a full-time offer after college?
My internships did not directly lead to full-time opportunities. However, following my BET internship, I could continue doing freelance work when I returned to school. I was able to work the BET Hip Hop Awards as a Red-Carpet Escort, and assist with their HBCU tour promoting their show The Quad. My work and association continues with BET.
Q: On a scale of 1-5 with 5 being your strongest, how ready do you feel for the real world after college?
I would say a solid 4. Being from Florida and having traveled to Michigan and New York to complete internships, I have an idea of what the outside world is like. I know what it is like to be away from home, away from family and friends and the status quo. My internships gave me an idea of what it is like to start over in a new city and adjust to different cultures, costs of living, weather conditions, etc. I also had to get a sense of budgeting and saving. My internships did not only help me grow professionally, but forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and excel. I would say internships are a great tool for preparing you for the outside world.
Q: What are your plans for after college?
Upon graduation, I had one solidified job offer, which I turned down. It was a great opportunity, but I knew I could do better. I am currently in the interview process for two other companies, so keep your fingers crossed for me! I am also in the process of applying for graduate school. I am looking to obtain my MBA and Masters in Sports and Entertainment Management from either Clark Atlanta University or The University of South Florida. If admitted, I would begin Fall 2017.
Q: What do you think is important when seeking to receive full-time offers as a senior?
I can go on all day long about this one, but I will narrow it down to three key points: persistence, preparation, and risk-taking. When searching for work of any kind, you must be persistent. I watched an interview with Stephen Hill, the President of Programming at BET, and he said initiative is nice, but follow-up is key. Anyone can reach out and express interest, but it is those who follow through and remain consistent that will be more opt to receive opportunities. Secondly, preparation is a MAJOR key. Success is when preparation meets opportunity. Keep your resume updated, interview skills on point and LinkedIn popping. You never know when an opportunity will present itself. If you have to get ready, you'll probably lose your opportunity to the person who already is ready. Lastly, you cannot be afraid to take risks. If there is one thing I learned in college, closed mouths don't get fed. You can't be afraid to talk to someone, you can't be afraid to ask questions and you can’t be afraid to fail. Even if you don't think you'll get a positive response, go for it! You miss all of the shots you don't take, and the answer will always be no if you don't try.
Q: Where do you see yourself in the future?
After obtaining my MBA and Masters in Sports and Entertainment Management, I hope to ultimately become the Chief Marketing Officer for a Fortune 500 media/entertainment company. I also have dreams of owning and operating my own media outlet before I retire.
Q: Can you share something seniors may not do to ensure their success after college?
When searching for opportunities after college, there are quite a few things many people do not do that could potentially assist in setting their future up for success. Informational interviews can be extremely helpful, in a sense that you're gaining information from someone who has experience in the field you are looking to pursue. Not only do you gain valuable insight from informationals, but expressing your interests and goals to someone more seasoned in the industry serves as a great tool for networking and future employment. I would also suggest to get involved with fellowship programs in your industry. Fellowships serve as a great bridge between college students and internships and full-time opportunities. They are extremely competitive, but if admitted, it serves as a solid foundation for your future. Lastly, I would highly suggest finding a mentor. Not only do mentors provide guidance, but they have many connections in the industry and have your best interest at heart. They will assist you in setting your career up for success.
Q: Who do you look up to and why?
Aside from my parents, I truly admire Oprah Winfrey. She is a strong, hard-working African-American woman, like myself, who made her dreams happen for her. As stated earlier, I eventually want to have my own television network. That's exactly what she does! Not to mention, she's one of a handful of black billionaires. As if that isn't enough, Oprah is also a product of a HBCU like myself. That puts a lot into perspective. If she can do it, I know the sky is the limit for me.
Q: What is one trait you think helped you throughout your college experience receive internships and full time offers after college?
Confidence. I was never afraid to send emails, make phone calls and have those necessary conversations. I was also very aware of my worth and made sure that was articulated in my interviews, without sounding cocky of course. Aside from being confident, I was very open-minded to opportunities. I always looked for ways to get involved with what I was interested in, and was always that person willing to lend a helping hand. Sometimes, just being in the right place, at the right time and doing the right thing, you will stumble upon the right people and opportunities.
Khadejah Stegall is a college mommy blogger that inspires others to achieve the impossible through the power of Jesus. She enjoys family time, eating vegan meals when it's convenient and mentoring others on professional development. To be inspired by more post, follow her blog at khadejahstegall.com.