Insights from an intern extraordinaire: Melody Lau on how she opens the doors to opportunities
This spring Workopolis teamed up with our friends at MuchMusic to find them an Intern Extraordinaire for the summer. We posted job descriptions and advertised online, on TV and across our social media connections to find the right candidate to spend the summer pitching in behind the scenes at Much.
Now as the eight week internship is drawing to a close, we sat down with Melody Lau, the Ryerson University journalism grad who landed the role, to talk about how it went.
So, Melody, what was it that set you apart? Why were you chosen over the thousands of other applicants?
I think it was my background in writing. I have a lot of freelance experience writing for publications from The National Post to Rolling Stone and The Onion. They wanted someone who could talk about MuchMusic and pop culture, and those are both things that I know a lot about.
I was one of eight people chosen to be interviewed, and I just had a great connection with my boss. It was a smart, casual conversation about music, Much, and culture. So I got the call.
What had you been planning to do with your summer?
Since I just graduated, and I’ve been in school or on internships forever, I was actually planning to take the summer off. I heard about the Much internship and a job as the Director of Communications for the SummerWorks theatre festival at the same time. As it turned out, I got them both. So it’s been a crazy summer. It’s fun, but I’m exhausted.
So you’ve done other internships before this one. What do you think of them?
Throughout my studies, I’ve done about five other internships. None of the others were paid, but they were all for school credits. So that is something. Still it’s not necessarily an excuse not to pay your interns for the work that they do. Especially when you have no intention of hiring them at the end. Interns are willing to put in a lot of work, but they need to feel that it has the potential to lead to something.
The Much internship was paid. It was billed as ‘Canada’s Coolest Summer Job.’ What was your first day like?
Like any first day, it was a little nerve wracking. Being at MuchMusic was sixteen-year-old Melody’s dream. But it’s a very fun environment, everyone is very nice and welcoming. They’re like a family. It’s great to be a part of that.
What was your day-to-day like? What have you been doing?
My role is the Digital Intern, so my primary responsibility has been to keep the online news site updated all day with the latest headlines. Which was great because it only took a couple of days to earn their trust and to really be able to run with it – picking the news stories to feature and writing the headlines. They’ve been really open to my story pitches. That’s been the best part of this experience.
Did you meet any celebrities?
Sadly, no. Digital is up on the second floor, and they don’t go up there. Although I did come down one day and see Will Ferrell. That was something.
What have you learned?
Time management. Between working two jobs, keeping up my freelance writing, and finding time to sleep, it’s been quite a juggling act. You can do anything, but it takes planning and determination.
It’s also been nice to be in a broadcast environment. Most of my experience to date has been in print and online. Being behind the scenes in TV has broadened my journalism perspective.
What are you doing after your internship wraps up?
Well I’ve been thinking about going to New York. I have big goals to be the editor of a music magazine down there. I know it’s a competitive market, but I am determined to try. Until then, I’m going to keep job searching and freelancing. Oh, and because I never got my summer off, I may take a bit of a break. Sleep in and actually watch MuchMusic.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the grim employment situation that young people find themselves graduating into. You landed two cool arts jobs right away. What advice would you give to others?
Well, they did kind of fall into my lap, and neither one is a permanent position. But I was happy to get them.
The secret is in non-stop applying. You end up having a lot of free time after graduation, and without the routine of school, there is the temptation to do nothing. You have to create your own routine – one that involves applying for jobs daily.
That, and to stay determined to succeed. I actually limit my options by only applying for arts journalism roles. I’ve known too many people who take jobs writing about things that they aren’t interested in, and they become unhappy and eventually stop being writers.
There’s rarely a time that I’m writing about things I don’t like. I know that as long as I can keep writing about arts and music, and the things that I really care about, I’ll be okay. I think it helps that I’m hopeful.
As well as being a freelance writer and the 2012 MuchMusic Intern Extraordinaire, Melody Lau co-edits the DIY magazine Static Zine. You can also read her on her blog, The Singing Lamb. She spoke to us in the Toronto Workopolis HQ.