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The Internship Experience

March 9, 2013

At this point in my early career life, I’ve had a few internships. Some were awesome, some were helpful, and others just awful. An internship should be an experience that helps you further your career, not just coffee and office work (unless of course the internship is office related). But how do you know if your future internships is helpful for you? Here’s a few ideas that may help:

1. Experience. Whether an internship is right for you shouldn’t be based on the money but the experience it provides. If it’s not paid, are you getting out of it something that will help you? Are you getting some other type of benefit? Such as free tickets to shows or the opportunity to work on a production(s) in a way you are interested in doing so? If it’s in NYC do they supply for travel (aka a monthly metrocard for the subway and buses for those who aren’t from here), or if it’s summer stock do they supply free housing? The key thing to think about is how will doing this work benefit you in the long haul (especially if you aren’t getting paid)?

2. “Internship Duties.” A big reasons as to why internships are called internships and not jobs or volunteer positions is because it’s typically that early career intern that’s required to do things that most people don’t particularly want to do. Although looking at the positives you get out of it is the most important thing, but looking at everything as a whole is important as well. Are you working in the office answering phones and taking messages? Doing House Management and Ushering shows? Getting coffee? Some people do look at doing the office work and house management as a benefit while others feel it takes away.  You need to look at all aspects and figure out if you feel it’s beneficial for you or not worth it.

3. Money. Although there are paid internships (and I was fortunate enough to have those before), those opportunities are pretty rare to find. And the sad truth is we all do need money to survive. While you shouldn’t completely overlook an internship because of money, you should think about the amount you are getting paid (if you are!) to what you are doing. If you get paid a “decent” amount per week (you define the word decent since everyone will see it differently) but doing the coffee thing, is that better for YOU then doing exactly what you want and not getting paid? You need to think about what you feel will help you in life more.

4. Theatre Company/Organization. Another sad truth: the big “name” theatre will look better on your resume then the smaller places. If you get a non-paying Off Broadway or top Regional Theatre internship, is it better for you then a smaller, lesser known theatre that does pay? Or, is getting coffee at the known theatre better than more creative possibilities and the not as known theatre?

5. Employees and Supervisors. How do the staff treat you? If you only had the interview or interactions via email/phone, how do they seem? Interested in your growth? Or are they focused on their organization’s needs as oppose to your own? If they are more focused on the company, look at all the other things it does/doesn’t offer before making the final choice.

6. Future Possibility’s and Networking. Will this help you get future possibilities and if so how? Some places do supply that in various ways, from connecting you and providing you the opportunity to network to even just listing the internship on your resume for when you apply to other places and listing a supervisor on your resume as a reference. How will they help you?

Ultimately, everyone is going to view if differently since we are all different people with our own life situations to focus on. Some people are in a point in their life where the money for getting coffee at a big company name IS better for them than a non-paying internship at a smaller organization that gives you more artistic freedom. Others would rather not get paid and get the experience they want. Personally, I’ve left a big company internship that would’ve looked great on my resume since I felt I wasn’t getting anything out of it; for an opportunity to do something perfectly within my interests at a smaller theatre (in this case neither were paid). But I also knew the person who took it after me and they jumped for the opportunity. Although hopefully all the other things to think about does help, everything all comes down to the same question: do you feel this is the right experience for you right now?

sarah sig

6 Comments leave one →
  1. The Mothering Actor permalink
    March 9, 2013 11:43 am

    When I first moved to NYC I had a internship with a NYC theater whose work really inspired me. Six Months later I auditioned and was cast in their new show. It gave me my AEA card and we performed in NYC and then toured in Europe and Japan – It was a dream gig!

    As you said, It is such a time/money balance though. Now I’d love to volunteer/intern for a few hours a week at a casting office but it’s not an option for me financially.

  2. March 9, 2013 10:11 pm

    It’s always hard to figure those things out. Sadly that’s what our world has come to. Maybe there are paying casting intern opportunities though! Something worth looking into! 🙂

  3. March 10, 2013 11:19 am

    Good blog with a lot to think about. I’ve had a couple of internships with really “big” organizations in my life that helped me sort out what I do and don’t want to do, which is also a plus. I think it’s important, though, to work as hard as possible, even if the internship turns out to not be exactly what you want… just being the “best intern ever” and not complaining I think helps your own self-esteem and will put you in a good place in others minds.

    • March 10, 2013 3:45 pm

      I completely agree! It’s always important to maintain a professional work ethic no matter what the situation is. It pays off in the end to do so.

  4. March 10, 2013 2:06 pm

    The best thing I ever did was intern with a Casting Director here in NYC and cultivate that relationship. I didn’t get paid but she has returned the favor ten-fold by bringing me to networking events, endorsing my work to agents/managers, etc.
    Just goes to show! Internships can really pay, even if not in cash- You’re right Crazy Theatre Artist!

    • March 10, 2013 3:48 pm

      I’ve had four theatre related internships since graduating college and all in NYC. One as a general office and production intern, one as AD/SM, one as Literary (which that blog is on here somewhere), and one as an Assistant Teaching Artist. 3/4 didn’t pay, but providing me opportunities to gain more experience and further my career. The one that did pay, although no further opportunities came directly out of it, I feel it made me a much stronger theatre artist and it was 100% worth the experience. It all depends what you put into it. 🙂

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