School: Fairleigh Dickinson University
Major: BA, Communication, MA, Media and Professional Communications.
For many college students, the summer season is the perfect time for seizing internship opportunities. While a paid job has immediate, tangible benefits, an internship also hold the possibility for yielding positive, long-term outcomes. Whether you’re hoping to gain practical work experience before heading into the professional world, or a freshman looking to add work experience to your résumé, an internship is the perfect option.
For Sheryl Gauntlett, the summer season was strictly designated for internships; in fact, she spent every summer of her undergraduate and graduate career interning at various production companies in the Tri- State area. However, it was Sheryl’s third internship at The Martha Stewart Show that jump started her television production career. She was immediately hired at the end of her internship to become a freelance production assistant for the show and the rest was history. Read more on Sheryl’s internship journey below.
Tell me about your background.
I am currently the Executive Assistant to Director Stan Lathan on BET’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood.” My interest in arts and entertainment started very young. At the age of four, I was enrolled at The Princeton Ballet School. While in high school, I participated in plays and went as far as applying to acting school afterwards. However, I decided that coming to Fairleigh Dickinson University would be a better fit, because of the financial assistance, but also because of the commute to the city, giving me the opportunity to still audition and pursue my dreams. When you look at it, acting is ageless. During my collegiate career at FDU, I fell in love with the production side of entertainment. That caused me to further look into internship opportunities during the summer. From being a receptionist, to being an assistant accountant, to being a travel coordinator, to doing talent coordinating, to being a production assistant, I have delved in a lot of responsibilities that have led me into a successful career track in the television industry.
What are some things that you’ve learned during an internship that has helped you in your career?
For me, it was learning the systematic nature of the industry. Witnessing the behind-the-scenes work required to have a show was an eye opener for me. Also, learning about the sectors in television that I could go into was impressive.
My advice for anyone looking to be in the entertainment industry is to remember to budget every time you have a gig because everything is project based. Periodic unemployment is guaranteed within the earlier years of your career in television.
How do you keep in touch with your professional network?
It depends on how I met the person and the type of relationship I have with them. In the entertainment industry, during off season, it’s a great idea to set a time up, whether it’s lunch or a dinner, to catch up with your colleagues. Usually, during the conversation they will mention a project they are working on or whether or not their company is hiring. LinkedIn is another great tool that I use to keep in touch with my past co-workers. “Every job that I got was because of someone I met from the previous one.”
What are 3 tips you want to share with current interns?
1. Build a relationship with the entry-level employees.
If they have been there for a while, when it’s time to move up the ladder or leave the company, they might give you a heads up about an open position
2. Be on time and be available to help.
At times, when working an unpaid internship, many people tend to clock the least amount of hours and not volunteer for anything that is not in the job description. This approach is a common way to be unnoticed, and perhaps miss out on being considered for a full-time job opportunity. If you are passionate about your work and craft, pursue it and give it your all whether it is paid or not. This is the time to prove you can perform in the field. You want to work so hard that they wish they were paying you with something other than college credit
3. Remember to be gracious and courteous.
Quick story: on the last day of my internship, my co-workers and I baked cookies and made a yearly calendar with our pictures on it. At the time money was tight, so we wanted to be remembered but also wanted to show how much we appreciated the opportunity to work there. Our colleagues loved their personalized gifts. Within a few months of our internship ending and us graduating, each of us got a call to work for the company in some capacity.
If you were to write a letter to your younger self about being successful in your career, what would you say?
Truthfully, I don’t know what I would say. I wouldn’t want to change anything about my past professional experience. All the mistakes, decisions that I’ve made have led me to where I am now.
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