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STANFORD - By the end of her sophomore year at Stanford University, Tamala Edwards knew two things for certain: She wanted to work in broadcast news, and she wanted to be in New York City. The question was, how would she get her foot in the door, especially with the economy in such a rut?

The answer turned out to be an internship - a summer job, usually awarded on a competitive basis by a professional society or corporation, that gives students exposure to the working world.

While many internships pay little more than subway fare, some can be surprisingly profitable - AT&T interns reportedly can earn as much as $5,000 over the summer. If a student is in financial need, a letter may be all it takes to secure corporate or foundation sponsorship.

"Listen to a three-time intern who knows," writes Edwards, an international relations major from Houston, in the spring 1993 issue of Cosmopolitan Life After College. "Internships have changed my life, taken me to fascinating places and made all the effort of securing them worthwhile."

Edwards began investigating broadcast internship possibilities in the summer before her junior year - searching through file cabinets in Stanford's Department of Communication, photocopying applications and pumping the university's internship coordinator for leads.

After applying for 50 different positions in cities from Washington, D.C., to Anchorage, Alaska, she won a summer job in New York at ABC-TV's news department, sponsored by the International Radio and Television Society.

"It was an exciting, frustrating, insane and ridiculous summer," recalled Edwards, whose assignment was to research and prepare material for foreign broadcasts. "I modified some of my career goals, learned invaluable skills and made new friends and contacts."

As Edwards' experience shows, finding the perfect internship is more than a matter of luck. She recommends spending plenty of time on the search - a year is not too long - talking to professors, relatives and friends; looking through listings in department offices and the campus career planning center; and attending informational sessions.

Among her other tips:

  • Grades make a difference. "In many competition pools, grade point average may be the deciding factor," Edwards writes. "Companies also want to hear about your initiative and leadership. Demonstrate that when something is meaningful to you, you do more than attend meetings. If you can, choose extracurricular activities relevant to your desired career and distinguish yourself."
  • Think small. "Too often, students target only the well- known companies while opportunities at equally desirable but lesser- known places go unnoticed," she writes. For example, one Stanford student intern started out writing obituaries for a small Boston paper and quickly racked up some front-page bylines, something that would have been nearly impossible at the New York Times.
  • Be persistent. "It's easy for applications to get lost or misplaced," Edwards writes. "A second letter or follow-up call can be the clincher."

Finally, she says, be prepared for grunt work - and don't let your employer forget you.

"Many employers see interning as a paying of dues," Edwards writes. "Use your drive and wits to make even the grunt work a testament to your abilities and dedication. . . . If you have done your job well, you should walk away with a stellar recommendation."

And maybe even a job offer.



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