17 Incredibly Successful People Who Started As Interns

17 Incredibly Successful People Who Started As Interns
Oprah Winfrey gives a thumbs up during a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Oprah Winfrey gives a thumbs up during a rally for Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in Cedar Rapids, Iowa Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A wealth of knowledge, extensive opportunities and a foot in that dream job's door can only describe one thing: internships.

Several of us have been there -- in college, high school or even as an adolescent -- getting a glimpse of the real world and a chance to climb the career ladder.

The paid vs. unpaid debate rages on inside intern land despite many positive work outcomes. It isn't ALL grabbing coffee and making copies.

Internships can actually get you somewhere and Hollywood has proof. We found at least 19 examples. These stars worked their way up before hitting it big.

1. Steven SpielbergThe prolific producer began an unofficial internship with Universal Studios when he was 17 years old. Spielberg continually snuck onto the studio lot (he wasn't granted access) and networked with directors, even creating a short film that found its way into executives' hands. Universal heads were so impressed that they offered him a seven-year contract. The rest is history.

steven spielberg

2. Conan O'BrienFunnyman O'Brien discussed his time interning for Barney Frank at the House of Representatives during an "Inside the Actor's Studio" episode. He says he didn't pursue politics because, "I didn't want to work my way up."

conan obrien

3. Tom HanksBefore he was a movie star, Hanks was a college kid interning for the Great Lakes Theater Festival in Cleveland, Ohio. He obtained stage confidence and a wealth of theater production experience. The internship turned into a three-year gig ... in which the actor would drop out of college (no longer needing formal theater education).

tom hanks

4. Oprah WinfreyThe famed TV host got her start at WLAC-TV, a CBS affiliate in Nashville, Tenn. She did such a stellar job delivering the news that the program brought her on fulltime as an anchor-reporter. In true Oprah fashion, the philanthropist became the first African-American female news anchor.

oprah winfrey thumbs up

5. Tom FordJay Z's favorite designer studied architecture before taking a Parisian internship with Chloe. From there, Ford moved to Gucci where he became the line's creative director. The dapper fashion icon opened a store in 2005 and has since created fragrances, cosmetics, accessories and clothing for his own label.

tom ford

6. Brooke ShieldsDid you know the child model and actress once had an internship at the San Diego Zoo? So cool.

brooke shields

7. John KrasinskiBefore he was Jim Halpert, Krasinski served as a script intern on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien"! Nice to see him keeping it in the NBC family.

john krasinski

8. Spike LeeThe controversial director worked at Columbia Pictures after receiving a mass communications degree at Morehouse.

spike lee

9. Betsey JohnsonThe cartwheeling designer was always into fashion. Case in point -- Johnson interned with Mademoiselle magazine as a teen.

betsey johnson

10. Jodie Foster Despite being an Academy Award-winning actress, Foster took on a summer internship at Esquire in 1982. It turns out the job's 9-to-5 lifestyle wasn't for her.

jodie foster

11. Chloe Sevigny Sevigny cultivated her chic roots in Manhattan, where she was taken on as a summer intern at Sassy magazine.

chloe sevigny

12. Lauren ConradLC was already a reality TV household name from "Laguna Beach." During filming of "The Hills," she famously interned with Teen Vogue while attending FIDM. She's since launched clothing lines, beauty websites and solidified herself as a fashion icon.

lauren conrad smile13. Anderson Cooper The Silver Fox interned with the CIA as a 19-year-old. Sounds pretty neat to us. However, Cooper didn't think so. He called the experience "actually pretty bureaucratic and mundane," and "by the end of the second summer, I realized it was not a place I wanted to work after college."

anderson cooper

14. Mindy Kaling Add Kaling to the list of comedians who got their start at "Late Night With Conan O'Brien." Apparently she wasn't the best intern ...

mindy kaling

15. Bill GatesThe computer wiz and philanthropist had interests outside the tech world. Gates worked as a Congressional page at age 17.

bill gates

16. Sean CombsCombs was always a hustler. The media mogul begged rapper Heavy D to put him in contact with NYC's Uptown Records. The company's executive, Andrew Harrell, gave Diddy an internship (which he worked while also studying at Howard University in D.C.).

sean combs

17. Steve JobsLast but not least, we have Steve Jobs. The computer genius called Hewlett-Packard president William Hewlett to "ask for parts for a high school project." Hewlett gave Jobs the necessary equipment as well as a summer internship with his company. This was where Jobs met Steve Wozniak.

steve jobs

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