Final Days: Tips for Wrapping Up Your Internship

So this past Friday was sadly my last day at the Michener. It has been an absolute privilege and joy to work at the museum this summer. I met so many wonderful, kind people who helped me to grow personally and professionally. Throughout my weeks there, I gained pedagogical, administrative, technological, and artistic skills that I can apply to whatever career path I choose in the future. I’ll always remember the memories I made this summer.

But instead of listening to me wax sentimental, I thought I’d finish off my blog with some general tips for wrapping up your internship:

  1. Tie up any loose ends. Show your initiative and conscientiousness by making sure you’ve accomplished all of the projects and tasks you were supposed to. Tying up loose ends shows that you take pride in your work and take your internship seriously.
  2. Show your gratitude. Of course, verbally thank the people you’ve worked with for the opportunity to work with them. A handwritten thank-you note is also a “must”; for someone like me who has trouble with verbal goodbyes, a thank-you note gets to say all the things you would like to say. Also, consider getting a small gift. This can be tricky, as it needs to be both professional and personal. It doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive; something from the heart is best. For example, I got mini canvases and easels at A.C.Moore and painted some designs with art quotes on them.
  3. Exchange contact information. Make sure your supervisor has your updated email and phone number, and vice versa, in order to stay in touch. Most people WANT to hear from their interns to see what they’re doing post-internship and are happy to help in any way.
  4. Have an exit interview. Your last day at the internship is a prime opportunity to reflect on your internship experience and discuss your accomplishments, strengths, and areas of improvement with your supervisor. This shows a willingness to improve yourself and can help prepare you for future interviews.
  5. Request a letter of recommendation. My supervisor was kind and proactive enough to write individual letters of recommendation for all of the interns and send us all hard and electronic copies. If your supervisor doesn’t do this, don’t be afraid to ask politely. It is better for her to write a recommendation when you’re fresh in her mind than to come back and ask for one a few years later.

Many thanks to my supervisor at the Michener, the adjunct faculty at the museum, and the Dickinson College Career Center for awarding me an Internship Grant to help make this experience a possibility for me. This opportunity has opened up a lot of doors for me, and I’m excited to see where life takes me.

 

Inside the Classroom

This week I am helping out with the Fashion 3 summer camp, attended by students grades 7-12. Last week, I worked with the middle schoolers (grades 5-9) in Fashion 2. As a person interested in Education, I benefited from being able to compare and contrast my experiences working with students from different ages.

The middle schoolers were great: smart, spunky, energetic, and fun. They managed to sew together really cute outfits in the week-long camp. I loved working with them, but I found them very physically demanding. I would come home utterly exhausted and drained of all my energy. I have so much respect for elementary and middle school teachers! Middle schoolers are at a very tricky age: Not quite a kid, but not yet a teen either.

I have to say, I’m enjoying teaching the older kids more. They are more self-sufficient, independent, and easier to relate to on an adult-to-adult level. I have more energy at the end of the day. As an Education minor at Dickinson, I’m working to obtain my teaching certification and was a bit nervous about the possibility of getting placed in a high school for my student teaching semester, since I’m relatively close in age to the upperclass high schoolers. I thought I would feel more comfortable at a middle school. But having worked with high school aged kids in this summer camp, I’m now sure that I’d prefer teaching the older kids.

It just goes to show that getting real-world experience is essential to learning about yourself and what you’d like to do professionally. I am happy that I’ve obtained a wide range of experiences through this internship as well as my extracurricular activities at school. I hope to continue working with kids in some capacity in the future!

 

Getting Published: Blog Posts & Yearbooks

Sorry for the lack of posts, everyone; I’ve just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime extended vacation with my family, and this is my first week back at my internship. I’m so grateful to my Director at my internship site for not only allowing me the vacation time, but for being so enthusiastic and excited about my trip to the Mediterranean.

Anyway, for this post I wanted to discuss the publishing and editing opportunities I’ve had at the museum. The Michener hosts a blog that features posts about the museum’s collection, programs, and special exhibitions. These posts are intended to engage the community and show people everything the Michener has to offer.

As interns, we have the privilege to get published on this site. For my blog post, I wrote about one of the summer camps I helped out with: Making Handmade Books. The class was so fun, and all of the campers had such a positive response to it; however, this is the first year the camp was offered, and the enrollment was pretty small. You can read my post here to hear my thoughts on why the kids initially weren’t quite sure what to expect from “Bookmaking” and why it ended up being so fun!

Getting the chance to be published on the web is one of the great things about modern-day internships. It’s also something I look forward to learning more about this Fall semester in my English class “Writing In and For Digital Environments.”

I also got to utilize my skills from years of editing literary magazines in high school and college to create the Michener’s Youth and Family Yearbook. By the end, my head was spinning from hours of dragging photos across a computer screen, but it was well worth the effort. I just saw the finished products today, and they look very professional. This year, we even ordered an extra copy for the Development office to show potential donors the programs that their money helps fund.

It’s great to look at what I’ve created and feel like I’m making a meaningful contribution to the museum by applying my strengths and skills as a writer and editor.

Out of This World: Exhibition Opening

Last week was the members opening of the Michener’s new temporary exhibition: Out of This World: Works by Steve Tobin. As an intern, I got to dress up all fancy and attend for free (and bring a guest–my mom!). After seeing the weeks of preparation from “behind the scenes,” it was fascinating watch all of the members experience the finished product for the first time.

The main gallery
The main gallery

The day before the reception, I got to attend the docent tour given by the CEO, Lisa Hanover. Lisa gave us all an “insider’s view” of the exhibition so that the docents have the information necessary to lead tours and answer questions regarding the artist, his works, and the exhibition. It was great to hear Lisa–a longtime friend of Steve Tobin’s and the chief curator of the exhibit–discuss the works of art. Learning about the depth of Tobin’s artistic process gave me a newfound appreciation for the contemporary sculptures, which are admittedly difficult for me to “get” sometimes.

#TobinSelfie
#TobinSelfie

Attending the members reception really opened my eyes to the workings of a nonprofit museum. In my museum studies course last spring, we learned that temporary exhibitions and receptions are important social events to encourage potential donors and get the museum’s name in public consciousness. And this reception definitely was a social event! Although plenty of people were milling about the galleries and sculpture garden, the cocktail room was packed wall to wall with people chit chatting and laughing. It was a very vibrant atmosphere to be a part of! Though I tend to prefer quietly contemplating the art as I meander from room to room.

After spending so much time learning about these pieces to develop the educational materials for the exhibit, I really enjoy walking into the gallery, starting up a conversation with a stranger and hearing his/her perspective on Tobin’s artwork. The varied responses show the controversial and versatile nature of Tobin’s work.

Me next to Tobin's sculpture "Syntax"
Me next to Tobin’s sculpture “Syntax”

Tobin had some impressive pieces that were truly “out of this world.” I really enjoyed his haunting glass “Doors” series, his large exploded clay pots, and his “paintings.” The best part of the night was that the artist himself was so accessible. During his speech, he encouraged anyone to come up and ask him questions about his works! It’s not everyday you get to do that!

The Perks of an Unpaid Internship

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My mom is an avid newspaper comic reader, and she showed me this one a few weeks ago. I couldn’t help but chuckle; it’s a clever, apt commentary on “internship culture,” especially in the U.S. Years ago, the job market was easier to penetrate, and unpaid internships weren’t as prevalent. Nowadays, internships are–for better or worse–vital to securing a career in the future. And it can certainly be discouraging when they are unpaid. But that doesn’t mean you should pass up an unpaid internship like the lad in the comic.

The reality is that nonprofits like museums have a tight budget and simply cannot afford to pay interns. Because the directors at the Michener currently have their own kids in college, they understand the difficulty associated with unpaid internships, and they are committed to creating the sort of experience they would want their own kids to have at an internship site. I’m very blessed to work in such a compassionate, generous place. Although we don’t get a paycheck, the interns at the Michener do get a number of non-monetary “perks”:

  • First and foremost, experience. It might sound cliche, but an internship gives you the real-life experience that helps you decide your career path and makes you a more desirable hire.
  • Recommendation. At the end of the internship, our supervisor provides us with a written recommendation for future job applications.
  • Connections. The directors at the Michener are all very warm, welcoming, and helpful. They are experienced people who can offer invaluable career advice, and forging relationships with these people now can provide you with connections for the future.
  • Flexible hours. This perk isn’t true of every internship site, but I’d say it’s very important to find a place that will be willing to work with you, especially if you hold another job. I’m lucky to have a supervisor who understands if I have to leave a bit early to get to my retail job.
  • Free access to exhibitions. Non-members have to pay an admission fee to see the art, but we interns get access to the permanent collection and temporary exhibitions free of charge.
  • Free access to special events. The Michener hosts a lot of very cool, educational and cultural events like artist talks, studio visits, concert series, and lectures, and we get to attend for free!
  • Free admission to partner museums. Museums are a tight-knit community, so if you show your ID badge to participating museums (even at big names like the Philadelphia Museum of Art or the Met), you can get in for a reduced rate or even for free. A great perk for museum lovers!
  • A foot in the door. As the cartoon says, an internship could lead to a job. A few of the workers at the Michener started out as interns, so that’s proof that it’s possible.

That’s a pretty long list! Don’t let the lack of paycheck hold you back; take advantage of the perks, opportunities, and experiences at your internship site to get the most out of your time there. And always see if your college provides programs or grants to help subsidize the costs of an unpaid internship. Dickinson College’s Career Center offers an internship grant that helps relieve some of the financial pressure of an unpaid internship. Thanks, Dickinson!

 

5 Simple and Easy Ways to Stand Out at Your Internship

After just a few weeks at my internship, I’ve picked up some pretty simple, common sense rules for being a stellar intern:

  1. Be on time. Punctuality is key, especially if you have a team counting on you. Consistently being on time shows that you are reliable, responsible, and have good time management skills. Offering to come in early and work late (within reason) shows interest and commitment. So buy a watch, and here’s a good rule of thumb: if it takes you twenty minutes to get to your internship site, leave at least thirty minutes ahead of time as a cushion.
  2. Dress the part. You may be morally against judging a book by its cover, but first impressions are everything in the professional world; like it or not, the first thing people see is how you dress, and it says a lot about the type of worker you are. This rule is especially important (and tricky) for females. Men can always don their trusty button down and tie, but women have a lot more options. Finding age appropriate professional attire can be difficult, but I’ve found some youthful, fashionable, and affordable business casual clothes at Forever21 and Kohls. Leave your flip flops for the beach, dress seriously, and people will take you seriously.
  3. Be sociable. Simple manners (greeting coworkers upon arrival and departure, saying “Please,” and “Thank you,” etc.) are shockingly rare nowadays, but they go a long way. Don’t be afraid to chat with your supervisor or coworkers. I’m a shy person, so small talk doesn’t come naturally to me. But the good news is that like anything else, it’s a skill that can be learned, and I take any opportunity I can get to practice. Smile, listen, and ask questions! But remember: there’s a fine line between sociable and social butterfly. Building rapport and relationships are important; just don’t put socializing above getting your work done.
  4. Volunteer for projects. If you wait for other interns to raise their hands when your supervisor makes a request, you could be missing out on valuable work experiences as well as an opportunity to demonstrate your initiative. Anticipate your supervisor’s needs and offer to help before being asked.
  5. Ask for feedback. Taking pride in your work means wanting to create the best product you possibly can, and that requires asking for and responding to constructive criticism. Don’t get defensive or discouraged; instead, be open and learn from those who know more than you. Periodically gauging how you are doing can help you find ways to improve and better meet the needs of your internship site.

Navigating the Unknown

How do you create educational materials for an exhibit that doesn’t exist yet? That’s exactly what museum Education Departments are often charged with doing, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past two weeks. It’s definitely been a challenge, but it’s also given me insight into some of the realities of the museum profession.

The Michener is busy preparing for its new temporary exhibition featuring local Quakertown-born, internationally renowned artist Steve Tobin. He’s best known for his Steelroots sculptures, especially the Trinity Root, a bronze cast sculpture of the roots of a tree in lower Manhattan that protected St. Paul’s Chapel from debris during the 9/11 attacks. He also does a number of interesting pieces like bronze casts of forest floors, a life-size house made of old glass slides, and exploded clay pots.

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Trinity Root © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.
Forest Floors © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.
Forest Floors © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.
Lantern House © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.
Lantern House © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.

Working with a living artist can be both exciting and challenging. Tobin has been very hands-on in choosing pieces for the exhibit and positioning them in the gallery and outdoor sculpture garden. Even though the opening is just weeks away, the professionals in charge of the exhibit still don’t have a definitive idea of the exact pieces that are going into the exhibit because Tobin is continually making additions and deletions to achieve his vision. I was surprised to learn that this situation is often the norm in the museum world, and that it creates a “domino effect” for all of the departments. Flexibility is key!

Exploded Earth © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.
Exploded Earth © Copyright 2014, Steve Tobin.

This vagueness presented me with a challenge in designing the activity booklet to accompany the exhibit. I could reference the handful of pieces that had already been installed, but other than that the activities had to be general enough to work with whatever specific pieces Tobin would choose. The activities had to mediate the sculptures for the viewers, be both educational and fun, and work for a wide age range. Steve Tobin’s newly relaunched website and the Michener Library‘s materials proved to be a huge help in teaching me enough about this artist to be able to teach others. This experience was also an exercise in letting go of some control, embracing the unknown, and rolling with the punches.

After weeks of work, the booklets are finally done, and I am very proud of the results. My supervisor and the Director of Education were pleased with our work. We showed a copy to some of the docents, and they wanted to have them printed to use at their next meeting! I hope that visitors find enjoyment and a deeper understanding of the exhibition by using the booklet. If you’re in the Doylestown area, be sure to check out the Michener’s exhibit Out of This World: Works by Steve Tobin opening June 28th.

Top Ten Tips for Jumpstarting Your [Museum] Career

This morning we were privileged to meet with the CEO and the Department Directors at the Michener. What an incredible opportunity to hear sage advice from experts in the field! Each and every one of them was so warm and welcoming, I was instantly put at ease. The executives got to know us, and we, in turn, got to hear about their roles in the museum and, most interestingly, their career paths. From our conversation, I’ve gleaned a list of top ten tips for jumpstarting your career in the museum world, but these tips are really applicable to any field:

  1. Get as much work experience as possible. Even bad experiences are good experiences because they teach you how to deal with tough situations and help focus and narrow your interests by showing you what you don’t want to do.
  2. Be active and take initiative. My supervisor got her job because she left her verbal resume on an answering machine. She got a call back and was invited to come in for an interview. You never know what could happen if you put yourself out there!
  3. Cultivate relationships with your coworkers and superiors. You don’t know what connections could provide that recommendation that sets you apart, or that job opportunity you wouldn’t have known about otherwise. The CEO at the Michener got most of her executive positions because of support from her supervisor at the time.
  4. Keep in touch after you leave your internship. Letting them know what you’re up to keeps you fresh in their minds because maintaining contacts will be essential for securing future recommendations. Plus, most people, especially those with whom you worked closely, are genuinely interested!
  5. Maintain a portfolio of your work. Keeping notes or compiling a binder of the tasks you’ve accomplished during the internship is essential. Showing possible employers the work you’ve done concretely demonstrates your skills and potential.
  6. Don’t job hop. Seeing 2-3 year stints at jobs on a resume raises a red flag; employers (particularly those in the nonprofit world) want to know that you will be committed to their organization.
  7. Learn how to write good well. Any and all employers need strong writers (hurrah for English majors!). Grant writing is an important skill to learn for work in museums and other nonprofits.
  8. Join your city’s professional organization. Professional organizations provide support, resources, and opportunities for networking. In such a small, tight-knit field as the museum world, connecting with other professionals in this regard is vital to furthering your career.
  9. Make the job what you want it to be. A small institution like the Michener allows employees and executives to tailor their jobs according to their interests. Don’t be afraid to ask for new responsibilities or suggest new initiatives in order to follow your passions.
  10. Don’t stress about landing the perfect first job. It’s okay if your career path is a meandering one. You’ll end up where you need to be, even if your road there is unconventional.

A Flexible Education

A museum might seem like an unconventional internship choice for an English major, and in fact the other 5 interns in my team are all arts majors. But after taking a Museum Studies course this past Spring semester, I became really interested the museum field, especially the role museums play in education and society. And the great (and scary) thing about being an English major at a liberal arts school like Dickinson is that the critical thinking, language, and writing skills you learn are applicable to any field! And as an English major, I offer a unique set of skills and a different perspective. For example, because of my academic background, my supervisor asked me to proofread and edit an article to be featured on the web. Because of my strong writing skills, my experience as a tutor in the Norman M. Eberly Writing Center, and my editing internship this past semester as a Dana Research Assistant, I felt confident in my knowledge and ability to accomplish this task.

We dove right into work this week, brainstorming ideas for activities for the summer camp kids grades 1-8 and then breaking up into teams to create the activities on MS Word. The activities had to be clear, entertaining, independent, and age-appropriate, as well as facilitate interaction with the museum and its collection. There were lots of variables to juggle! Here’s where my experience as an Education minor really proved to be an asset. I drew on my coursework from Educational Psychology to evaluate the grade-level of the activity, write explicit instructions, and format the worksheets attractively.

The activities for grades 1-4 were the most challenging to come up with. The activity has to be easy enough for a first grader (many of whom still cannot read) yet maintain the interest of a fourth grader. For example, we generated an adjective flashcard game, with adjectives on one side of the card and a picture describing the adjective on the other for children who cannot read. Here’s an example of what one of the cards looks like:

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Front
old picture
Back

As you can see, I tried to pick fun images from pop culture that the kids would recognize: Pixar’s Up, Disney’s Frozen, Nickelodeon’s Spongebob Squarepants, etc… The concept behind this game is that the children would pair up and lay the card in front of the work of art they agree best exemplifies the adjective. Such activities are great because they are fun, yet subtly educational.

We also created Mad Libs, a few scavenger hunts, riddles, Art ABCs, and even a Harry Potter-themed “Triwizard Tournament.” Here’s a taste of the Mad Libs; they were fun to make:

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These first few days really tested my creativity and computer skills, but I’m proud of the work I produced. It’s great that my supervisor wants us to take ownership of our work, insisting that we put our names on the activities, in addition to the Michener logo. After we polish them up in the coming weeks, she plans on putting them on the Michener website! I’ll post the link to the full activities once they’re available publicly.

Best of all, generating materials that kids will actually use in the summer camps gives me practical, hands-on experience that I can reference in interviews for jobs in schools or museum education departments.

First Days!

Hello everyone! This week marks my first few days as a summer intern in the Education Department at the James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA.

The James A. Michener Art Museum
The James A. Michener Art Museum

I’m delighted to be working under the Director of Youth & Family Programs to help plan and execute the summer art camps for kids ages 3-18. The Michener offers a diverse range of really cool camps, from drawing, painting, and sculpture to fashion and anime. This summer, I’ll be acting as a teacher assistant for the Fashion, Art of Illustration, and Textile Design camps in addition to creating the camp yearbook.

I’m very interested in careers that bring the arts to the public through efforts such as community outreach programs, arts festivals, classes, or popular publications. So, I knew I wanted to intern at a museum or cultural/arts organization this summer. Finding an internship requires good time management skills: look early and often! I searched great resources like internmatch.com and DickinsonConnect, but I ultimately found this internship by asking family and friends for suggestions of organizations in the area, looking at the individual websites, and then contacting the organizations directly.

During my phone interview with the Michener, the internship felt like such a perfect fit that the Director offered me the position on the spot! I’d have the opportunity to do meaningful work with kids, learn about the day-to-day workings of the museum, and even propose my own projects tailored to my personal interests and skills. And since the Michener is an easy 20-minute drive from my house, I’d also have the convenience of being able to live at home during the summer to save up some money by working at my part-time retail job.

Unfortunately, most internships in the arts sector are unpaid; many of these organizations would like to offer paid internships, but lack the budget to do so. That’s why the Dickinson Internship Grant program is so great! Dickinson awarded me funds to subsidize gas costs, which takes some of the financial pressure off and lets me focus on making the most of the experience.

As with any new experience, I was so nervous my first day! To minimize nerves, I test drove the route the day before, and left early my first day to make sure I’d be on time.

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In the car on my first day!

I met four of the other interns on my team, and the Director, who is so friendly and welcoming, gave us a tour of the museum and its collections. The building is absolutely stunning, with an impressive collection of Pennsylvania Impressionist landscapes and a beautiful sculpture garden. We met some staff, got our ID badges, and then dove right into starting our work!

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My official ID badge!

Stay tuned to read about the projects I’m working on next week as a #DsonIntern!

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