Why You Should Take That Unpaid Internship

Why You Should Take That Unpaid Internship

You never know if it'll make you worth your weight in gold...
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Are you an avid follower of Adam Ruins Everything (Tru TV)? Have you seen his segment on internships? Has it deterred you from taking an unpaid internship in your field? Here are some reasons from an artist's perspective on why you should go ahead and try out that position in a creative field. Not just for the spot on your resume. If your employer is really a creative, they won't be sending you out for coffee runs or limiting your tasks to making copies or posting company tweets.

As an alumni of Columbia College Chicago and present foundations teacher at Northern Illinois University, I urge all young artists to check their school job boards for internship opportunities, gallery positions, museum staff, wood shop and print shop employment. Art school doesn't last forever. Even furthering your education in academia can only go on for so long (as I know, sadly, being in my 3rd and final year of grad school).

Practical skills and knowledge of what professional positions are available in the art world are integral to the survival of the artist - if you want to pursue a position in the arts as opposed to being a barista – not to diss a profession I was only recently able to remove from my resume – you must begin early and build up from there.


Benefits for the intern:

Higher education helps artists to think more critically. The internship helps artists to think more professionally. An internship is a chance to prove to yourself and others that you are a self-motivated individual capable of taking risks and pitching innovative ideas. Professional experience is needed – some companies will take a risk based on education, but a lot of places want you to prove that you have practical experience in your field. If you take on an unpaid internship you will find value in the experience - that someone invests their time in you for your benefit. And the fact that it does not pay makes you reflect more on the experience itself more than the monetary payoff.


If you are an employer looking for an intern – you should keep these things in mind:

Asking for a full-time unpaid intern is unacceptable. A college student or recent graduate must be able to pay their bills. An intern can receive college credit and learn career-building skills just as easily working part-time for your company. Do not use these people for free labor, focus on making it a valuable experience for them.


My experience interning:

Speaking from experience, I worked for two semesters as a part-time unpaid gallery intern and artist assistant at a local gallery where students and recent graduates have the opportunity to intern, working one on one with active Chicago-based artists through Elephant Room Gallery's Intern Placement Program. Though the position was unpaid, school credit was offered as an option. I worked anywhere from 12-20 hours a week depending on what responsibilities there were, (was it the week of an opening, a pop-up?) and was given school credit.


The program is beneficial to both local, under represented and emerging artists and those interning for such artists in their community. The intern placement program provides experience and growth for both artists. Perhaps most importantly, the internship acts as a networking program. The process goes like this, the gallery owner meets with artists, finds out what they need and connects students to them. The comprehensive program entails studio visits, consultations and facilitates a constant working environment. The intern participates in training sessions with the gallery owner, covering many administrative duties. And some of the artists go on to hire the interns for part-time positions as artist assistants. Experience in networking is invaluable to the intern's career.My internship introduced me to the Chicago Artist Resource where I now research exhibitions, grants, and residences for myself. I learned a great deal about marketing digital media, which seems obvious to our generation, but is very important when it comes to web design and social media tricks. The internship expounded on my skillsets and helped me gain greater knowledge about the administrative tasks involved with gallery management. The assistantship helped local artists to focus on their art-making while introducing the clerical side of being an artist to the interns. The intern placement program was very much a two-way street to grow together, short term or long term.

I recently texted my former employer: I want to thank you again for my experience interning with you. A lot of my ambitions, skills, and strategies come from what I learned with you (and Google Docs / Excel are still my go to for sharing info!) I know your interning program helps a lot of young artists get started and helps make us marketable for future positions - thank you so much for that!

Thanks to my internship, I gained my first experience in administrative gallery programing. Major responsibilities as gallery intern included hanging shows, co-hosting artist talks and public art workshops, working and promoting pop-up shows and co-authoring the art blog “Discovering Art in Chicago.” As an artist assistant, I learned the importance of promotion, marketing, and the tedious application process whether it's for upcoming exhibitions, residencies, grants or fellowships (a skill that was grazed over in art school). I gained practical experience with in-studio prep work, file organization, and online documentation. I perfected the art of the press release and in doing so learned a valuable lesson about marketing a concept and building a brand over a series of work.


Where I've gone from there:

My experience as a gallery intern has been the backbone for much of my employment success. The summer after my graduation I was offered a position as a gallery assistant for Art Alliance: The Provocateurs curated show by Shepard Fairey (Obey, Obama Hope, etc.) This ultimately spring boarded my career in gallery and studio management. Working with a high caliber artist and acting as a sales representative in a reputable market made me a valuable candidate for future employment.


Not long after my experience working with Shepard Fairey I was offered a job assisting contemporary fine art photographer, Darryll Schiff in his West Loop Studio. I have since been promoted to Studio Director at Darryll Schiff Fine Art. My accomplishments with Schiff earned me the coveted internship at DeGroot Fine Art, the art consulting firm based in Chicago. Each of these steps have been inter-related and dependent upon my experience interning and getting my feet wet at Elephant Room, Inc. - an unpaid internship.


Try new things:

It is important to learn new skillsets to flourish in a creative field. Trying on new administrative hats helps you to learn what interests you. A career in the arts takes multi-disciplinary focus. You must be self-motivated and willing to try different career paths within your field. Value and honor your BA or BFA by finding work that grounds you in the art scene and never give up the hustle. Expand your network with peers and art professionals as much as possible. There is a certain level of growth that can only come from networking with people in your field, whether it is collaborating, cross-promotion or bouncing ideas off each other, starting that conversation is the key to success.

Check out your school's job board today and get networking!

Happy job hunting!


Cover Image Credit: Photo by Marc Mueller

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Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.

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Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

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Success Is Found In The Journey, Not In Just Achieving The Goal

Strive towards your calling with passion while overflowing that energy into the lives of those around you, bringing them up along the way.

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When you see a Ferrari drive by or a yacht sail past you, what do you think of the person who owns those things? Would you be inclined to believe that they were afforded opportunities that you weren't or that they possess qualities that you lack, thus allowing them to attain such status? I'd contend that each of us, whether rich or poor, intelligent or "average," have the same capacity for success and that it is ourselves that ultimately hinder us from reaching the goals that we create. Each one of us has to play the hand we were dealt as though it were the hand we wanted in order to pioneer a path to success.

Still, those more successful or wealthy seem to have something that we lack, something perceivably intrinsic to who they are as person. Attributes and skills such as social likability, a broad lexicon or vocabulary and knowledge or intelligence in a variety of different areas are the most potent examples. We personify them as being "gifted" or "unique" but fail to see how it is that we could ever reach the same heights. Yet these traits are not fixed, but variable, and are tirelessly developed over many years. Small, seemingly insignificant decisions that are made every day, compound on one another in a manner that is similar to how a financial investment portfolio benefits from compounding interest. Those minute positive decisions that bring the aspiring professional closer to their goals, builds on the previous positive decisions, which creates an increasingly significant and noticeable change with each subsequent addition. Therefore, when we look up at that person and observe how everything they do seemingly brings so much wealth or success, it appears as if they aren't putting in nearly the amount of effort that we are, yet are reaping far greater rewards for their toil. The difference between us and them isn't some intrinsic quality that makes them better than us, but is in how they chose to respond to those minute changes that brought them closer towards their desires versus how we choose to do the same.

Although the abilities may not be intrinsic to the individual, the desire is, and we will inevitably establish a standard which represents a degree of success that we wish to achieve; one of which that fulfills our desires. Once that desire is quantified through the formation of goals, we will recognize the calling on our life; the intrinsic desire that we had all along perfectly matches the calling. "I was made for this!" one could exclaim. At that point, there will come a moment where we are given a glimpse of the summit of the mountain that towers before us and are left with an opportunity to respond in one of two ways. Either we will say, "I have got to get to the top of that mountain because what I've been shown is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined," or we will say, "there's a mountain, I can't go." In order to reach the top, to achieve these seemingly impossible goals, you have to defend your life with your life and not allow your time, heart or energy to be consumed by things or people that only give comfort in the valley and are not going up the mountain with you. This is where the vast majority of people (as I observe it) fall behind and end up compromising on the vision that they once had.

Why, then, is it so easy to lose hope and get distracted, despite having every intention to accomplish what we set out to achieve? The secret, I believe, lies within us. Behind every aspiration, every goal that we strive towards, there is a sinister antithesis that lurks in the shadows. Lying in wait for us to lose hope and compromise in the pursuit of our calling, it steadily takes root while suffocating the vibrancy that once fueled our fervor for achievement. The further we get, the more opportunities for failure arise. This faceless, silent enemy that feeds on our fears and insecurities is the fear of failure itself. As we strive to transcend our weaknesses by avoiding failure through our accomplishments, we suppress that which is defeating us from within. Combined with the ensuing agony that so often accompanies failure, we are overrun as our despondence impels us to concede in the face of seemingly, impending defeat.

What we have to accept is that failure is the very thing that catapults us towards success. A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new nor learned that risk is the price of opportunity. Yet, if we become so focused on the final outcome that we don't enjoy the years in between and the people we meet along the way, then (if we even get there at all) we will arrive alone. Recognized for our success yet not for who we are, leaving us unfulfilled. So why not enjoy the process and share in it with others, every step of the way?

I, too, have goals and aspirations that I am striving towards. I attempt to make small, seemingly insignificant changes in the pursuit of those goals such that I am not looking towards an end goal but yet am living it out each and every day as I work to make it a reality. That is the true, historical meaning of Carpe Diem: to seize the day and prepare for the future. I'm spending my time focused on bringing what He has breathed into me to life and I intend on bringing as many people up with me as I can. Each of us have an opportunity to achieve greatness and can make a meaningful impact in the lives of those around us. To establish the ultimate goal as acquiring accolades, wealth or power is to exalt ourselves over others, rendering them as potential sacrifices on the altar of our achievements. What will it profit a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul? All of the joy we are capable of experiencing from these things is limited and we will keep hitting the ceiling of that enjoyment. We will keep fixating on the next time or the next big thing until we acknowledge them as being insufficient to [ultimately] fulfill us lest we die chasing after the wind. Therefore, as you develop goals and pursue your calling, remember that your abilities are not marked by what you are but who you are. You define the degree of success that you're capable of by making it happen every day. Be who you're meant to be now, today. Embrace it and lead a life worthy of your calling. You and I have one shot, one chance to make a difference, so what are you waiting for?

Cover Image Credit:

Joshua Earle

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