Name: Alejandra Marquez Janse
Hometown: Caracas, Venezuela
What is your major? Journalism
Where did you intern? What was your role there?
I interned at All Things Considered, the evening news show at NPR. My role was to assist in every step of production of the show: pitching story ideas, finding guests and arranging interviews, editing audio and helping with team projects and their daily podcast, “Consider This.”
How did you get your internship?
I’ve wanted to work at NPR for a while, so I knew they had an internship program every semester. I applied three times before I got this internship. And after each rejection, I tried to get more journalism experience and improve my application materials, like my cover letter and resume.
What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process?
- Be flexible. It’s good to have an idea of what medium and organization you want to work at, but also be open to applying to other things! There are many aspects of journalism besides the web, print or TV. There’s radio, podcasts and audience engagement, for example.
- Stay organized! Every semester I compiled a list of the internships/jobs I wanted to apply to, keeping track of all the materials I needed, and the deadlines.
- Work on keeping relationships, not just connections. Your professors, editors and mentors can guide you in the process, perhaps not by handing you the job, but by helping you hone skills that can make you a better candidate, and by helping you sell yourself better. For example, my professors and former colleagues not only helped me with letters of recommendation, but they also helped me write my most successful cover letters!
- Trust yourself and be confident in your experience and abilities. This is probably the hardest part when you’re looking at a job description or at people who work at the place you’re applying to, but you need to stop comparing yourself and your path with that of others.
- Understand that rejections aren’t always a reflection of your capability. Learn from that rejection and take it as an opportunity to improve.
What projects did you work on?
Most of the time, I was assigned to book guests, write scripts, prepare research for interviews and edit the audio. I arranged and edited interviews, like an interview with the President of Colombia on temporary protected status for Venezuelan migrants in his country and an interview with a local pharmacist in the U.S. helping vaccinate underserved communities. Other times, I worked on my own stories for the web or radio and assisted teams in longer-term projects with research and fact-checking, including the daily podcast.
How does your internship connect back to your coursework?
FIU courses don’t teach much about radio or audio journalism, so most of those skills I have learned in my internships, but every day I use the fundamentals of reporting that I learned through my FIU courses — pitching stories, finding sources, conducting interviews, writing accurately and concisely and following journalism ethics. I also apply some of the multimedia skills that I learned at FIU, like writing web stories.
What was the coolest thing about your internship?
The coolest thing about my internship was watching the show come together. For example, how one idea comes up in our pitch meeting and develops into a fascinating interview in a day or two, or how the team works to dig into news stories to understand their context beyond the headlines and to bring voices on the air of people who are impacted by news events. I learned a lot about being a careful journalist and producing a show just by watching people work.
What are you learning about yourself or how is the position increasing your professional confidence?
I am learning that I need to trust myself more at work! Trusting my skills and capabilities is a work in progress, but definitely something this experience has taught me and helped me improve.
Is your internship virtual? If so, what is it like to have a “virtual” internship during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, it’s virtual. It takes more effort to stay organized and get to know my colleagues, but everyone on my team has been open to answering my questions through text, video or phone call when I need help. The important thing is to have the courage to communicate and send those questions!
A virtual internship can also feel overwhelming, especially as a journalist when so much can happen in a day and when the pandemic leaves us isolated and dealing with extra emotional and economic burdens. I have learned that setting boundaries between work and personal life can help with that.
How did you connect with colleagues and build connections through a remote work environment?
I connected with colleagues mostly through Slack, a messaging app. They would sometimes reach out to me introducing themselves, and other times I would have the initiative to reach out and ask to schedule a virtual coffee through a Slack or Zoom call. I found those virtual coffee chats to be one of the best ways to connect, because they were casual and allowed me to introduce myself, get to know the person and ask about their work and advice. I would also sometimes reach out through email.
What did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I’m good at communicating and can keep improving. It might seem obvious with someone who graduated with a communications degree, but sometimes we aren’t the best at that! I learned that managers and supervisors appreciate when we over-communicate about the progress of our assignments, as well as voice our needs and goals. All of this is especially important when we are working remotely.
I also learned that I can step outside of my comfort zone when it comes to stories and projects. I was challenged to pitch and work on topics I had never covered and to work on projects that had high expectations, which showed me that I am capable of taking them on.
How did it help you prove yourself in the “real world?”
I have always viewed my experiences in college as part of the real world. To me, stories that I reported for classes (even if they were not going to be published) were real journalism. Likewise, previous internships, freelance work, and the South Florida Media Network were part of the real world. So, this internship felt like another step into my journalism career—presenting me with different challenges and higher stakes. It also helped me prove to myself that I can work in environments with more pressure and time constraints. I still have a lot to learn, but I am part of the real world.
Post-internship, Marquez Janse will continue working with NPR through the summer as a news assistant.