An important step in finding a job in the entertainment industry is landing an internship. For Ahrif Sarumi, senior from Calumet City, Ill., a public relations internship didn’t fall into his lap, but the time and effort he put into the search got him further than he ever expected.
After persistently calling Human Resources at MTV, Sarumi was hired as an unpaid intern for mtvU last summer in Chicago.
Sarumi had a few preconceptions of what a job at MTV would be like.
“In the back of my mind I thought I would have a cold beer at my work space in the latter hours of the work day and go to lavish parties on weekends, using my MTV credentials,” Sarumi said.
He quickly learned that the job was more than an over-the-top party. Like most interns, he did some filing and mailing, but he spent most of his time was spent compiling contact lists of student activities directors at colleges and universities from across the country. He eventually completed a list of over 700 schools.
Sarumi’s favorite and most memorable project was for mtvU’s show “Stand In,” in which a celebrity replaces a university professor without the class knowing about the switch.
Picking and choosing the college, class and professor was a lengthy process, but Sarumi’s hard work resulted in an immense personal victory.
“All the work paid off because Mike Judge, creator of the television shows “Beavis and Butthead” and “King of the Hill,” accepted one of the classes I sent to him and recently did a stand in at the University of California, Santa Barbara’s Media, Culture and Society class,” Sarumi said. “I watched the stand in, thinking I picked that class!” he said.
In addition to the in-office work, Sarumi spent time outside of the office to better acquaint himself with the company. He consistently watched the mtvU television channel and familiarized himself with the software programs used at the office so that he could work from home.
“Microsoft Excel is a Godsend,” he said. The computer program helped him organize every aspect of his life as an intern.
Perhaps the most valuable things he learned were intangible, such as the importance of proofreading e-mails. He paid close attention to all e-mails, even those sent to his immediate boss, because there was always a chance it could get forwarded to other executives at the company.
While interning, Sarumi also had to juggle a part-time job because the internship was unpaid, and he wanted to be able to experience everything Chicago had to offer.
“It was humbling because in the beginning of the day I was rubbing shoulders with MTV executives and then later I would be making sandwiches and stocking the freezer at Potbelly’s Sandwich Works,” he said.
Maintaining two jobs is just one example of how Sarumi has always worked hard and devoted time to his tasks, especially during school. Around the J-MC School, his classmates agreed.
“He definitely knows how to balance his extracurricular activities with his school work,” said Elyssa Shapiro, senior from Cedar Falls, Iowa, who had class with Sarumi.
“Interning for mtvU was a perfect fit for him. There is no doubt in my mind that Ahrif will be a big part of the entertainment industry after he graduates from college,” Shapiro said.
Sarumi’s internship experience required hard work but also had great benefits. He would definitely recommend the internship to anyone who is interested in building lasting relationships at one of the leading entertainment companies. He compared the MTV staff to a family, one with which he still keeps in touch.
To prospective interns, Sarumi advises that simply getting the internship is not enough.
“You have to excel once you get there,” he said. “Do yourself proud and immerse yourself in the work.”