So you’re ready for an internship, but how do you know if it will be worth your time? Especially if it’s an unpaid internship, which is often the case, you’d better make sure that you’ll have something to show for the time and effort you put in — besides sharpening your coffee-fetching and copy machine skills.
Here are some things to consider before you sign away your summer:
— What do they want from you? It’s important to know what sort of tasks you’ll be assigned to. Are you responsibilities clear? Since it’s not a regular, full time job with a full time salary, then you can probably expect your employer to be more vague about what’s required of you. And the reality of the internship may end up being different than the exciting description in the ad you read online. This just means that you’ll have to reach out and try to get some serious clarification. Will you be working on one project or many projects? Will you have flexible hours or have to work overtime and weekends? Are you just going to be an assistant watching from the sidelines, or are you actually going to be involved in the nitty gritty details and even some of the decisions?
— What are you getting in return? If it’s not a salary, then what is it? Will you get college credit, a certification, a stipend and/or accommodation, serious networking opportunities, solid industry connections, introduction to a professional organization, invites to important and relevant events? Aside from the skills you learn, aside from the experience itself, there’s got to be a tangible take away. Otherwise, you’re just being exploited.
— It’s more than just a resume builder. Think about an internship as a trial period for the job or career you want to have. It’s like trying on a pair of jeans that you’re not sure about. The job looks and sounds very cool, but does it fit you? Can you see yourself doing this kind of work for years to come? You are also here to learn new skills and experiment. You might have to try something you think you probably won’t like — but you end up loving it. And then you might be assigned to a task you think you’ll love—and end up hating it.
Internships can be great for scoping out your dream job — for getting a feel of how it would actually be once you transplanted your dream into the “real world.” Of course, if you are just looking for a one-on-one training period to hone specific skills, then you should instead seek out an apprenticeship with a professional in your field. You may actually get paid something decent as well. Or, if you just want some advice and guidance while you work on your own projects, connecting with a mentor on a regular basis might be exactly what you need.
To start your internship search, try www.internqueen.com/internships or www.internships.com/art. When you better you understand the realities of being a professional artist, the road to a successful and fulfilling career may be a much shorter one.