Monday, January 7, 2013

The Intern Dilemma

Our first interns of 2013 arrived at WPAS today, and even though I'm not that far past my own intern days, their presence makes me reflect on that experience.

In early 2012, like many people looking for a stable job in the arts, I wasn't finding one. Either I didn't have the right experience, or more commonly, I didn't have a master's degree in arts management.  I was advised by many people not to spend the money, and instead spend those two years working.  Even working for free for two years could cost less than a master's!  So, figured the only way to convince an organization that I'm qualified is to show them.  It's a horrible thing to have to do - working for nothing, or close to nothing as some internships come with a stipend - but with so many people wanting these jobs and so few openings in the current environment, you gotta show your stuff before you see the paycheck.

My advice for anyone starting out (or changing careers like me): find an organization you want to be with long-term.  Do whatever you can to get your foot in the door.  This includes offering to file music for free, volunteer in the mail room, apply for an internship and figure out how to pay the rent or live with your folks.  Meet and get to know everyone, offer to help everyone, and show the organization that they need you.  This will help them justify a salary.

In most arts orgs, it all comes down to budget.  So, start off cheap and then put your best skills forward.  If you are lucky, someone will recognize your abilities and move some money around for you.  But don't count on luck.  If you really want to be there full-time, tell them you'll keep volunteering until they make room in the budget or another organization hires you.  Whatever happens, you will get great experience and make a great impression on a lot of people with your commitment.

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