Alex Walker: An intern looks back

I had always limited my passion for journalism to writing for and editing magazines, newspapers and websites at school and university. Knowing how fiercely competitive the industry is, and how scarce the paid positions, I had never dared pursue an actual job. It was only during a seemingly endless wait for a visa in Argentina that I plucked up the courage to apply for the internship I had seen advertised so many times before in The Economist’s pages. Somehow my sample article caught the editor’s eye and after tracking down a reliable internet connection for a Skype interview, I was delightedly planning my return to the UK to write for one of the world’s most famous and successful publications.

The internship itself was an incredible experience, from being told on my arrival (armed only with my copy of the famous style guide and an unkempt beard) that “we have no rules on hirsuteness here” to bittersweet farewells around the departments four months later. Returning over the Atlantic would have been worthwhile just for one chance to sit in on an editorial meeting, or even some of the conversations I enjoyed over freshly cooked lunches in the boardroom.

A typical day at the paper saw me lining up interviews with experts on the other side of the world (and sometimes closer to home), debating the future of the eurozone and international energy policy, and listening to the old hands’ war stories about reporting from far-flung countries. The highlight has to be—of course—seeing my own words laid out in three impeccably presented columns in the main paper. I was constantly surprised by the generosity of the writers with their time and even with their story ideas; many of my most interesting pieces came from leads sent to me from around the newspaper, and even senior editors took time to chat with the interns and discuss our career plans.

Six months after completing my internship I took up a position at a specialist financial services consultancy, as the best way to continue learning about the industry. I plan to continue blogging about international finance and economics in my spare time, to share my experiences from within the industry and keep working on my writing style.

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