Sam Jenkins - Internship at The Wilson
Samantha Jenkins was Collections intern at The Wilson in Cheltenham.
Since finishing her internship, she has spent 6 months as a Collections Assistant at The Devil’s Porridge Museum near Dumfries, and a year as an Assistant Registrar with the National Railway Museum. She is currently on a years’ contract work with the National Museum Scotland in Edinburgh as an Assistant Registrar.
“I owe a lot to the internship I completed in Cheltenham, and gained such good experience there that it was much easier for me to find jobs following on. I’ve moved into a very competitive professional sector, and am doing pretty well!”
In 2015, having finished my MA and trying so hard to get that breakthrough position in a museum, I undertook an internship through Create Gloucestershire. I learnt so much during the six months, which helped to springboard me into my next position. Just over two years later, I’m now organising loans from Lairds and rock stars at National Museums Scotland.
I owe a lot to the internship I completed, and I’ve learnt even more since. So here are a few hints and tips
1. Do as much as you can
You can learn a lot in an internship. And I mean A. Lot. Even if your internship is to help with one section of a project, offer to help in other areas, talk to your supervisor about helping out or shadowing other people. The more things you do, the more experience you have. The more experience you have, the more chance you have to acing that interview.
2. But don’t overdo it
It’s extremely easy for people in creative sectors to overwork themselves. Our jobs often rely on extreme passion and it’s far too easy to convince yourself that this task is essential, and you can’t go home before you get that thing done. Burnout and mental ill health are common, so make sure that you’re looking after yourself first. Yeah, work is important, but not as important as your health.
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” isn’t entirely accurate (thank god), but knowing people does help in many ways. You’ve started a new job and your boss shares an idea they’ve had, but they don’t know exactly how to do it. Well, lucky for you you’ve talked to someone who’s done a very similar thing…
Networking is horrible for some people (because talking to other people?!) but it’s so very useful. Go to networking events for your sector – if you don’t see any, try starting some. Museum professionals in London have comedy events, Registrars in Edinburgh go for drinks every few months. These events also give you an opportunity to discuss the realities of work, the good, the bad, and the downright baffling.
4. Social media
The amount of networking done on social media surprised me, at first, but two and a bit years into my career I have a variety of contacts I have never met face to face. Twitter, especially, gives a lot of opportunities to network within creative sectors. Check out any likely hashtags (museums have #museumhour, as well as a variety of hashtags for museum week, and more specific ones like #museumdocumentation and #registrarlife). These often give an insight into real-life work, and can help you to meet people around the world doing similar work.
5. Be flexible in what you’re looking for
Sometimes it’s about moving to where the job is, sometimes it’s about taking something slightly different to what you thought you wanted. But it’s time to be realistic – there aren’t that many jobs in these sectors, so you’re not likely to be able to walk into your dream role, and a lot can be learnt from working in other areas of your profession, or even of the country. Since finishing my internship (which was in Cheltenham) I have lived in Carlisle, York and Edinburgh – it’s meant a lot of scrimping and saving, but I have had some amazing experiences, both in work and outside, and I know more about myself and what I want professionally now.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This especially applies to applications. There are knacks to filling out application forms and writing cover letters, and people who are already in the sector have probably got them figured out. Ask your networks if they’re willing to look over an application, or for interview tips. People usually want to help (or enough of them do, anyway). Free help is definitely better than a kick in the teeth.
7. Enjoy yourself
Seems obvious, but enjoy your work. That’s why you want to be in a creative sector, isn’t it? If you find you’re not enjoying more than you are, something needs to change. It may be that you need a new challenge, or you’d actually enjoy a different type of work (I know someone who was convinced she wanted to be a museum educator, and is now managing a museum instead). Sometimes what we want to do isn’t what we think we want to do, so try and be mindful about yourself and your feelings in work, and make a career that suits you.