It’s helpful to begin your internship with realistic and practical expectations.
1. The Learning Curve.
Like most new experiences, expect there to be a learning curve. As you go through training, you will review detailed materials about rules and processes. At first, it may seem a bit overwhelming, but as you begin writing, the pieces start fitting together. Your first writing assignment, a Mock Veteran of the Day post (VOD), is part of your training. A VOD is a 300–500-word story about a Veteran’s life and military service. For your Mock VOD, you will work with an editor and go back and forth with rounds of edits as you practice the writing style and format required. After you complete your Mock VOD, you will start to write real ones and expect your learning curve to continue. You will now be working with a team that includes an editor, a graphic designer and a researcher/fact checker. The graphic designer will use the photographs you provide to create the graphics for the VOD that will be posted on the VA website. The researcher/fact checker may provide sources and will ensure that everything you write is factually correct. After you have written a few VODs, you will start to grow more confident in your writing ability.
2. Editing feedback.
Editors will provide feedback that covers several issues, such as adherence to Associated Press (AP) guidelines, format corrections and suggestions to improve clarity. If your initial drafts come back pretty marked up, don’t fret, as this is part of the learning curve. Some of the feedback will be more subjective in nature. In this case, evaluate what you wrote versus the suggestion. You may not agree in every instance that the suggestion is better, but you may surprise yourself how often you do. Being open to new ideas is a helpful mindset to have when reviewing the more subjective editing feedback you are going to receive. As time goes on, you may find that you take some of these new ideas and apply them to writing you do outside of this internship.
3. Time Management… Time to Move On?
As a writer, it is your responsibility to find Veterans to write about and provide photographs of them for your VODs. The majority of the VODs you write will be based on Veterans you find online, although there are some exceptions. When you are searching for a Veteran online, a word of caution is to learn how to manage your time. You need to find sufficient information to write a VOD and sometimes you will not be able to find enough. At some point, you need to decide whether to continue searching because you think you are close to finding what you need, or to stop and move on. There is no magic formula, but you will get better at making this determination with practice. This issue also exists for finding acceptable photographs. You will learn in training what the requirements are, which can also be a reason to stop searching and move on.
As you progress in your internship, you will look back and find that you climbed that learning curve faster than you thought, and maybe even find yourself writing helpful tips for other interns.
Writer: Michael Veronda
Editors: Erica MacSweeney
Graphic Designer: Katie Rahill