Does size really matter or is it what you do that counts?

Get your minds out of the gutter, I’m talking business here!

I recently started mentoring a journalism student at USC, my alma mater. She’s smart, very ambitious and has an extremely hands-on internship with a regional newspaper in Los Angeles. From almost her first day on the job, my mentee was out interviewing high-profiled celebs and getting 1,000+ word articles published. But during our first meeting, she told me that a prospective internship/employer recommended she get a “bigger name” on her resume, meaning experience at a well-known company, which I found disheartening.

When I was a student majoring in broadcast journalism, I interned at the local CBS station in Los Angeles and for CBS Network in New York City. Very big names and extremely impressive on my resume but I did absolutely nothing. Sure, I got to see how an actual newsroom works but for the most part, for eight hours a day, two days a week, I filed press releases, pulled video and answered phones. Whoopee. Oh, except for the last day of my internship at the local station when I got to go out in a news van with a cameraman who took pity on me. He let me knock on the door of a family who’s mother was arrested in a fatal hit-and-run and I also had an exciting interview with a stripper about the new “no touching during lap dances” law that passed. That day pretty much ended any and all of my aspirations to pursue local news in Los Angeles. But I digress.

Maybe times have changed in the eight years since I was an intern, but phones, filing and minor projects seem to be the norm, especially at big-name companies where rules and politics dictate who can do what and how. Of course, if you’re a corporate climber, I’m sure the bigger the company you intern for, the greater your chances are at getting a job. But I think it’s a complete disservice to discourage students from exploring opportunities at smaller or lesser-known companies where they might walk away with a more robust learning experience and actual skills.

As we come to learn when we’re out in the Real World, it’s the knowledge, skills and overall experience that matters, not the size that counts… in all parts of life. 🙂