Imagine: You’re competing against a record-breaking number of applicants – more than 15,000. One percent of those you’re up against will be chosen for a coveted position. If you succeed in getting past the dreaded online application, a round of surveys and questionnaires waits to determine if you have the right skill set. After that? Well, phone interviews, video interviews and maybe an in-person interview if you’re lucky.
Four months spent in all, vying for a vaunted position. What position, you wonder? Not a high-level, high-paying job at all, but an internship.
Zach Zumbusch, a communication and journalism major, had to go through that process when applying to be an intern at Discovery – and a similar one to secure another internship at NBCUniversal. He’s spending the semester in Los Angeles, juggling both internships while also attending classes.
Telling stories and sharing a message
At Discovery, his internship covers marketing, branding and designing. In specific, Zumbusch is working on the branding and marketing of the Discovery Internship Program. He started there as an intern over the summer and then was invited back to continue into the fall.
At NBCUniversal, he’s a part of Wilshire Studios, which develops and produces content for E! Entertainment and other notable brands, such as MTV, Oxygen, TruTV and VH1. Zumbusch’s work focuses on the development and production of new show concepts to be pitched to the network. His day might mean researching a developing series, helping with casting or working with the development team on a series before the pilots are filmed.
Both positions, in a way, are dreams come true for Zumbusch.
“(Discovery is) genuine, innovative, inspiring and educational all in one captivating package,” Zumbusch said. “I often tell my colleagues at Discovery that I would have done anything to work for them … Scoring an internship with NBCUniversal was one of my biggest undergraduate goals. People who knew me are constantly telling me that I’d be perfect for E!, so I wanted to prove them right, and I wanted to prove those wrong who said I would never make it.”
Zumbusch described both internships as “hands-on” and said that maintaining a busy schedule at St. Thomas has helped him. He said having a good attitude and being persistent and authentic are important as well – and may have helped him land his positions.
Of course, one of the obvious highlights of working in Los Angeles in the entertainment industry is meeting the talent.
“At the E! offices, you literally run into the most random people,” Zumbusch said. “I was coming back from lunch the other day and Nick Jonas walked by, and you’re just like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ … I mean, let’s get real, Ryan Seacrest literally parks in the same garage as me every morning.”
Zumbusch said he’s already noticed how much he’s grown as a young professional and that he’s made countless connections. (“When people talk about how difficult it is to break into the entertainment industry, they aren’t lying,” he said. “Not knowing somebody can be a huge detriment.”)
In the long term, he says there a lot of opportunities for him to explore and is more concerned with continuing to advance himself, but, if he had to pick, he’d love to be a talent and casting director or a development executive, probably on the network side.
“I feel like people in the entertainment industry do what people love,” Zumbusch said. “I find it extremely fulfilling to entertain and captivate an audience, and entertainment offers a myriad of opportunities for that. Entertainment is all about telling stories and sharing a message, and if you can take someone away from their lives, even for a minute and entertain them, that’s what the industry is all about.”