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The Museum Internship: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

nmai-interns
  1. As with any job search, be strategic. Know what you want out of your experience. Random experience brought to you by an internship is not an answer. Strategize about what you need. What builds and connects with what's already on your resume?

  2. If you're looking at something unpaid, make sure the organization defines your role. What will you do and for whom? What are your takeaways? Is there academic credit? Does that matter to you if your degree requirements are complete?

  3. And even if you're not being paid or getting credit, ask what else the organization offers interns: paid attendance at workshops or a regional meeting, free admission to events that support your areas of interest; parking or travel supplements; opportunities to speak or publish. Don't be bashful. You're offering time and skills. This is not indentured servitude. Get something back.

  4. Can you manage financially and balance an internship while paying your bills, eating, and having any kind of life?

  5. If not, consider volunteering. I know it sounds a lot less fancy, and in many cases it is, but as a volunteer you donate your time, which puts you more or less in the driver's seat. Nonetheless, everything from bullet point one still applies only more so.

  6. If your area of specialty is development, communications, leadership, or anything found throughout the non-profit world, don't confine yourself to museums. Look everywhere.Organizations

  7. Internships are not scut work. Good internships can launch careers. Be honest: If you don't have the time or temperament to supervise internships, for goodness sakes, don't do it. The museum field doesn't need Cruella De Vil.

  8. If you have a donor or donors interested in education, consider helping them create a named (paid) internship. Your organization benefits as well as the field. Conversely, if they would rather endow a position, ask the board if it would consider shifting funds from the endowed position to create fellowships or internships in other departments.

  9. If you can't fund a position, can your organization ally with a local college or university and offer an internship for credit? And while you're at it, gather some of the students together and ask them to help structure the program. What works best for them?Graduate Schools

  10. Be realistic with your students. Understand the job market.

  11. Create alliances (and internships for money or credit) with museums nearby. If you're a virtual program, consider leveraging your brand in an internship partnership.

  12. Build opportunities for students to meet and work with museum staff into your program. Require them to have mentors, not just advisors. Mentors aren't advisors.

  13. Too often getting a job feels like another job. Teach students how to strategize about what it is they want as they build careers. If this week is a holiday for you, best wishes for a happy time with family and friends. And when you have a moment, share your thoughts about the internship conundrum here. Joan Baldwin P.S. And for more detailed information on classifying someone as an intern, you may want to read this: Four Takeaways—and Good News—for Nonprofit Employers with Internship Programs

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