Although this week’s blog instalment was meant to solely focus on the value of internships in developing practical, transferable skills, there’s been a slight change of plans. A few weeks back, I was presented with an opportunity to apply for an event production and management course through Shellharbour City Council called the Evolve Program. Essentially, Shellharbour City Council, in conjunction with the NSW Government, offers several grants to young people within the Illawarra to help fund their own creative event: “The Evolve Program is a development opportunity for young people living and working in the Illawarra passionate about producing creative events in their local community. Young people will be supported through a program of mentorship, training and practical experience, enabling participants to acquire new skills, gain experience and open pathways to employment.”
Just days after posting the second instalment of my blog series, I received an approval letter inviting me to attend the program (my preferable future, to link my digital artefact back to the subject content). Since then, I’ve attended two workshops at the Blackbutt Youth Centre to listen to a range of industry professionals share their stories and advice, and have submitted a complete proposal for my event that’s been given the green light! Now, thanks to the support from Shellharbour City Council, pop-punk duo 3REE will be headlining the very first Listen Loud event at Blackbutt Youth Centre on the night of June 25th, with support from Sydney-based grunge trio RADICALS and heavy-alt quintet Commodore Charlie! (Keep an eye on my socials to secure your tickets from next week!)
My acceptance into this program is a major step towards achieving my career goal as it allows me to gain first-hand experience in the exact industry and role I’m passionate about, while also promoting opportunities for me to network with both likeminded individuals and industry professionals. Although it is an amazing opportunity and I’m so grateful to have been successful in my application, producing an entire event myself (with guidance from experienced staff) has involved a lot of work on my part to arrange and source everything necessary for a successful gig. For someone completely new to the industry, it’s understandable that an experience like this would be overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to produce an entire event yourself, however, my experiences with volunteering, multiple casual jobs and my recent internship have all given me so many valuable skills to succeed in this role.
“One of the most important things to have in this industry is experience. Whether it’s through on-campus jobs, clubs, internships or personal projects – you need to do what you can to get different experiences. It doesn’t have to be entertainment related (though that can help) as long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing. Getting experience and having work that you can show helps a ton because it shows initiative, a capacity to be involved, and that you can walk the talk. If you find yourself struggling to land a position or join clubs, that’s fine. Create your own opportunities! Don’t be afraid to cold email about opportunities or work on your own projects.”Jane Nguyen, UCA
After having spent all of the previous blog instalment discussing the importance of event experience, I need now to talk about the importance of internships and work experience outside of your field. While, obviously, work experience in the music industry would be ideal, the reality of the situation is that it is much more difficult to obtain an internship in your dream role right out of university (especially in the entertainment industry) – but that’s okay! While your internship may be in a different industry or field than the one you’re ultimately hoping to work in, it will still provide you with the opportunity to develop incredibly valuable skills that you can use in a plethora of positions and fields, from soft skills like teamwork and time management, to hard skills such as (in the marketing world) various advertising tools and how to write press releases.
From early February this year until just last week, I’d been interning with Surry Hills-based communications agency Wasamedia as their Social Media and PR Intern. The company specialises in social media and public relations work in the hospitality industry, and so the majority of their clients are restaurants, cafes and bars. Obviously, this isn’t quite what I’m trying to get into, however, they were able to introduce me to many social media tools which automate a lot of their work; brought me along to photoshoots to see what goes into capturing an image and the time it takes to get just a handful of published shots; familiarised me with the process of finding and contacting potential partners and suppliers; and invited me to meetings to discuss how best to promote different brands, products and events. Each of these skills, while initially learned and practiced in the hospitality industry, are easily transferable between fields and have proven useful in now planning my very own event.
As I always knew I wanted (and had) to do an internship or two during my studies to best prepare myself for work ‘in the real world’ (as every one of my teachers liked to call it), I never considered why they were important beyond developing skills in a professional setting and building up experience to qualify you for a paid job later on. So, in writing this piece, I figured it was about time I looked into them further in order to best justify my stance. After reading countless blogs and articles about interning for students, I’ve summarised the key points below. In short, interning allows you to:
- Apply knowledge from your studies into a practical setting.
- Explore different career pathways and specialisations you may not have previously considered. Use this opportunity to decide what you do and do not like!
- Understand what is involved in a typical day on the job.
- Gain experience to increase marketability and build your resume.
- Network with and learn from industry professionals.
- Develop transferable soft skills as well as role/industry-specific hard skills.
As you can see, there are so many advantages to participating in an internship. These often far outweigh the downfalls, however, in the interest of being as useful and informative as possible, it’s only fair we touch on these as well. Unsurprisingly, the biggest disadvantage of internships is that they’re most often unpaid. This isn’t so bad if you’re working just a few hours a week, however, some companies will expect you to work the equivalent of a full-time job. If you’re having to travel to get to and from the workplace, this will add even more time, too. Many companies who employ interns have also been known to treat them like assistants rather than prospective employees, and so you may ultimately spend your time fetching coffee and making phone calls than actually learning the skills necessary for a future paying role. What’s involved in your own internship will depend largely on the company culture and position description of the hiring organisation, and so be sure to fully suss it out before accepting an offer. Asking task-specific questions in your interview is also a great way to understand which of you (yourself or the company) will be getting the most benefit from your time.
While these downsides are important to keep in mind, don’t let them discourage you! Internships are one of the easiest ways to gain experience in your chosen field and can really boost your skillset, resume and network. While it’s not as common, many students do get offered permanent positions following their internship, too, so there’s always potential to score a job by the end of it! The other thing to remember: don’t be afraid to say no. If it isn’t working out, or you don’t feel as though the position is what you’re after, don’t be afraid to speak up. Many employers, from my experience, are happy to negotiate different work that is better suited to your interests if you demonstrate genuine passion and commitment, so try to get the most value out of your time there!
Finally, in actually finding an internship, there are so many options to consider. Many companies will choose to advertise these on their website under a careers page, while others prefer using third-party apps and websites such as LinkedIn or SEEK. Depending on your field of interest, companies are also more frequently advertising positions through their social media channels, so be sure to check these too! Additionally, it never hurts to reach out directly. While you’re less likely to get a response from cold emails, you’ve got nothing to lose, and your initiative may be just what the business is looking for. Lastly, never underestimate the value of word of mouth recommendations! Whether you’re asking around about available positions via your existing network, or being approached by someone from a related company to your field of interest, most every business runs on a who-you-know system. If you have people vouching for you, you’re already one step ahead of the rest!
If you’ve done an internship before, I’d love to hear about it! Where did you work, what did you do, and how was your experience? If you haven’t, would you consider one? Why or why not? Let me know your thoughts in the comments, and keep an eye on my socials to hear about all the awesome Listen Loud events coming up in the Illawarra and beyond!
Be sure to follow my blog through the email box below and my twitter @taylorsumelj to stay updated on the rest of my digital artefact series!