Talks with “Intern Queen”
(Opposite photo of
Lauren Berger and her Intern Friends
- Lauren Berger is in the middle)
Berger went from being an actual intern at
a New York-based publication to becoming President/Designer/Founder
of Intern Queen Inc. (www.internqueen.com).
The self-professed patron
saint to the “overworked and underpaid,”
Berger had fifteen internships during her
four years of college. Only one was a paying
assignment – and for that job, she received
a mere $100 stipend. As she relates, “My
internships were all great experiences, but
was I overworked and underpaid? Of course!
That's the joy of being an intern -- All Work
- No Pay.”
After working for a variety
of publishing offices, public relations firms,
and networks including Fox, MTV, and NBC,
the Florida native established Intern Queen
Inc. in May of 2006 and is has building the
media/lifestyle company into an Internet phenomenon.
While she has graduated to a real job in the
entertainment industry, Berger still considers
herself a “professional intern”
and uses her press and speaking opportunities
to reach out to younger students and encourage
them to intern and go after what they want.
What was your first major interning assignment?
Berger: My first big internship was with Backstage
Magazine, the theatre trade publication based
right in New York City. That was huge! I still
remember the address -- 770 Broadway. It was
a dream come true! I was an editorial intern.
How did you survive that job without intern
advice, and is that what inspired you to start
Berger: I never had much advice when it came
to internships, so I learned what to do by
messing up… and then messing up again.
I survived by growing a thick skin, not taking
anything too personally, and having a positive
attitude while being open to learning new
things. I had to learn the hard way! I wanted
to start my company, Intern Queen Inc, to
help my peers as much as possible with their
internship experiences. It will also save
their bosses some heavy yelling!
NYCool: How is interning
in New York different from other cities?
Berger: Interning in New
York is great because you have someplace to
live with other interns! It’s called
NYU Summer Housing. The University opens its
doors to other college students interning
around the city. I made so many great friends
and we were all motivated interns -- we still
stay in touch. New York was such a big change
from Florida, and I learned how to work and
get around in a big city. And, of course,
the shopping was amazing!
NYCool: What were
the steps to forming your own company?
Berger: First, I needed to decide exactly
what I envisioned my company to be, and that
was a media/lifestyle company for interns.
It was based on my definition of an intern
-- anyone between the ages of 12-30 who is
experimenting with new lifestyles, careers,
relationships. My company has a clothing division,
Internal Ethiks; a consulting division Intern
Queen Consulting; and I'm creating an online
magazine and pursuing other media ventures
My "things to do list" when I formed
my company also included contacting a lawyer
immediately to make sure everything I did
was kosher; getting incorporated (an S corp)
so that my personal earnings were separate
from the company’s earnings; opening
a company bank account; and obtaining my occupational
NYCool: What have been the
rewards and challenges of running your own
Berger: Anything goes, and
my ideas are never too big. I decide what
I want to do, when I want to do it, and how
I'm going to do it. And no one is there to
say "you can't do that." My creative
space is uninterrupted.
The biggest challenges have been relocating
from Florida to California and changing the
business paperwork over and working with people
who do not follow through. I'm spent so much
valuable time working with potential interns,
assistants, and other companies -- and they
have completely flaked on me. That takes up
lots of time and energy. It’s so important
to do business with people who have a great
sense of responsibility and follow through
with what they say.
Did you ever have interns of your own?
Berger: I did - they flaked as well!
NYCool: How does your
new website www.internqueen.com reflect the
way your company is growing?
Berger: The website should serve as an interactive
tool for students to reach me and see what
I'm up too. I'm working on creating an online
magazine as well. The website allows for many
different features, blogspots, news bites,
etc. With the growing trends of sites like
YouTube and Revver.com, I hope my site can
begin to work with sites like those via cross
promotions, videoblogs, etc.
NYCool: What has the
response been to your new clothing line, Internal
Berger: Whenever I go into
a clothing store I always see the table of
logo T-shirts and look for one that I can
relate too -- I never find shirts that I can
identify with. These shirts cater to anyone
who is overworked and underpaid. I've had
a great response so far, especially among
my peers and college students.
NYCool: Now that you
are working in the real world, how did interning
prepare you for an actual job?
Berger: Interning taught me how to work a
copy machine, how to make coffee, how to interact
with co-workers, how to grow a thick skin,
how to deal with assholes, and much more !
NYCool: What is the best
way a person can get started as an intern?
Berger: The best way to
start as an intern is to go to the bookstore
or go online and find the companies you want
to work for. Google the company and find their
contact information. Then call the Internship
Coordinator and put the required materials
together to catch someone’s eye and
get the position!
NYCool: What is one
thing interns should take away with them from
Berger: It’s important for interns to
realize that even during bad internships you
learn something -- something about yourself,
something about working with others and something
about that particular field. Internships are
really priceless, and I absolutely recommend
internships as a step everyone should take
before entering the workplace.
(Elias Stimac is an entertainment
writer and critic. Send feedback to email@example.com.)