A teenage girl reached out from a crowd of approximately 8,000 of singer-songwriter Austin Mahone’s biggest fans and grabbed onto Sarah Stein, who was standing by the side of the stage.
“Take me to the front,” the girl screamed wildly in Stein’s face before a security guard pushed the girl away with a warning: “Stay away from our intern.”
It was the summer of 2014 and Mahone was performing at The Today Show’s Summer Concert series. Stein, a junior marketing communication major, had been there preparing for the event since 3:30 that morning.
“Later that day, I was using the bathroom and a little girl was waiting right outside my stall,” said Stein. “When I asked her if she was lost, she said her mom had told her to follow me down here in case I could introduce her to Austin Mahone. I didn’t even know who he was before the concert!”
Looking back, Stein said moments like these are the most memorable from her time spent interning with NBC in New York City for the past two summers. Stein was most recently accepted into the NBC Page Program, a yearlong post that acts as a significant pipeline for entry-level positions within the organization. According to NBC’s website, pages work with programs like Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show.
Originally from Livingston, New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan, Stein said she had always dreamed of working for NBC. From watching Tom Brokaw on NBC Nightly News with her parents, to discovering comedy and sketch writing on Saturday Night Live, to what she calls her “guilty pleasures” on Bravo and E!, Stein said that the TV she’s most interested in is created by NBC.
“I connect more with the content that NBC produces and owns,” she said. “I think they’re one of the more progressive and young media companies out there, compared to FOX or CBS.”
The summer after her freshman year, she said she wanted to find an internship in the city, but didn’t believe, as a freshman, she was qualified enough to apply for NBC, so she began applying for internships with public relations agencies instead.
Stein, who is currently the president of Emerson’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Phi, said a sister in her sorority, Darian Harvin, who graduated in 2013, was interning with NBC News at the time and encouraged her to apply.
“I distinctly remember her telling me, ‘You’ll never get it if you don’t apply,’” said Stein. “I went home that night and filled out the application.”
Harvin said that because she was already familiar with Stein’s work ethic and personality, she connected her with an human resources representative and passed along Stein’s resume. Harvin said such support among sisters is common in Alpha Epsilon Phi.
“I’m always willing to help a sister,” she said in a phone interview.
After interviewing for the position in March 2013, Stein said she was told that although she had a strong application, NBC was looking for someone with more experience. The semester carried on, and she accepted an internship at a PR agency for the summer. Just three weeks before that internship was set to start, Stein received a call from NBC.
“They told me the other candidate had accepted an internship elsewhere, and I was their second choice,” said Stein. “They knew it was late notice, but they said if I wanted the internship, it was mine.”
After talking it over with her parents and explaining the situation to the PR agency, Stein accepted the summer internship with NBC in the ad sales and marketing department of DailyCandy, an online lifestyle blog for women that shut down the following year.
Stein said although many marketing interns end up doing laborious but meaningless work, NBC treated her differently, which is why she applied again the following summer.
“At NBC, I was the only intern for my department,” she said. “There was so much hands on experience. The program offers workshops, and they invite different talent to come and to talk to the interns.”
This past summer, Stein interned for The Today Show in the marketing and special events department, where she worked on 23 concerts for The Today Show’s Summer Concert Series, which featured artists like Mariah Carey, Fall Out Boy, and Iggy Azalea.
“On concert days, I had to be there at 3:30 in the morning, which was hard for me because I am not a morning person,” said Stein. “I was in charge of checking in the radio winners and I got to work with the security guys. Then I would help make sure the VIPs were taken care of and knew where to go.”
On the second day of her internship, Stein said it was 4:30 a.m. and she was nervous and tired, rushing over to Rockefeller Plaza when she ran into Al Roker, best known as the weather anchor on The Today Show.
“He was so nice and greeted me good morning,” said Stein. “He said he forgot his script upstairs, which made me feel so much better about my first day.”
Stein said her other duties that summer included preparing for upcoming concerts by compiling lists of guests and putting together press and VIP passes, brainstorming promotional ideas for The Today Show, posting on social media, and writing newsletters. Some nights she said she sat in on meetings for NBC Nightly News.
Stein said, that summer, one of the intern mentors gave her and the other interns one very specific piece of advice: By the end of your internship, you want your boss to tell you that you were the best intern he or she has ever had. Otherwise, you fail.
“All 200 of the intern class looked around at each other, like, ‘How can we all be the best intern they ever had?” said Stein.
Stein said she took it seriously, though, and even wrote it out on a note on her desk as a reminder for the rest of the summer. At the end of the four months, Stein said that reminder paid off.
“They took the interns out to brunch on our last day and when I was walking back to the office with my supervisor for The Today Show, she said, ‘I’m going to miss you. You were the best intern I ever had,’” said Stein. “I literally started crying and my supervisor was like, ‘No, stop. I am not talking to you if you’re crying.’”
During the school year, Stein said she keeps busy as the vice president of Emerson’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, a senior staff member at the Emerson Channel, a campus representative for Universal Pictures, and a campus ambassador for the NBC internship program.
She said she eventually hopes to work in the booking department for shows like Saturday Night Live, and has she met many supportive mentors during her two NBC internships.
“I would do a lot of networking while I was there, setting up coffee dates or informational interviews,” said Stein. “Every person I met with would tell me the same thing. Stay in the building. Stay within the family.”
With graduation set for December 2015, Stein has already been accepted as an NBC page, a post-grad program that accepts only 2 percent of its 16,000 applicants, according to the NBC website. This is lower than some of the most selective colleges, like Harvard University, which accepted 5.9 percent of applicants this year, or Stanford University, which accepted 5.1 percent.
Stein said she cannot talk about the page program due to her contract, but said she is looking forward to the adventure ahead.
“I have wanted to be an NBC page since I was 12,” she said. “This is what I was working towards.”