Ireland's jobs and recruitment service for the arts, culture and creative industries.

Things to consider before taking an internship

Taking on an internship can be a positive first step towards entering the creative sector; it’s a good option for those who wish to learn, to acquire skills, to make connections, and to explore a possible career. However, the quality of internships vary widely. Some organisations give serious consideration to their internships and feel a strong responsibility for the training and development that their interns receive. Other organisations are less organised, and see it as an opportunity to fill a position that might otherwise be a paying job. Finding an organisation with a good reputation, which is respected in the industry and which you trust is important.

Questions you should ask yourself before accepting an internship:

  • What am I hoping to get from the internship: new skills, good connections, an insight into a particular sector? Is this organisation well placed to offer me these?
  • What are the chances of there being a job for me at the end of this internship? You might decide this for yourself based on your knowledge or research into how many staff the organisation employs, if their income or funding is generally on the increase, if this is their first time hiring an intern or do they regularly take on interns (if the latter, how often have they hired an intern at the end of the process?)
  • Is the organisation respected and widely known in your sector? If yes, then completing an internship will look good on your CV. Potential employers in the sector may know the Director of the organisation and will respect their opinion (and, therefore, will respect the Director’s opinion of you). If no, what else are is the organisation bringing to the table?
  • Is it an individual rather than an organisation that is offering the internship? If yes, be wary, do your research, find out exactly the terms of work and make sure they’re giving as good as they’re receiving. Will it be a fair exchange of work for experience?
  • Will the company pay me minimum wage or a fair stipend toward travel and costs?
  • If not, can I get paid for my work as an intern through a CE Scheme of Jobbridge equivalent?
  • Have I worked in this kind of organisation before? If so, am I just killing time before I find a job? Is there a more productive way to spend this time?
  • Is the organisation going to appoint a mentor who I will work under, learn from, answer to?
  • If not, am I being given lots of responsibility and free reign to prove myself as an independent thinker or doer (and is this what I’m looking for), or am I just a dogsbody for the organisation?
  • Once I begin the internship, am I going to feel resentful if I become aware the employer is getting more out of me than I am from working with them?
  • Would I be better served by taking my own initiative and setting up my own organisation, festival, event, company and learning from that experience? Am I experienced enough to do this yet, or would becoming an intern in a particular company give me the experience required, a better knowledge of the industry, and an insight into what is actually missing or needed in the industry?
  • Would I be better served by taking the time to upskill and improve my chances of getting a paid job instead? If yes, what skills does the industry that I’m interested in working with most need or value at the moment?

Try to answer these questions honestly and work out if an internship is still the best option for you. Try to work out if there is anything specific you want to get from the organisation offering an internship and ask for it directly.

Visual Artists Ireland’s Guidelines

Visual Artists Ireland are the representative body for visual artists in Ireland. They have a lot of experience both advertising and offering internships, and have given much thought and consideration to creating these guidelines for employers offering internships, outlined below (see also: http://visualartists.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Internship-Guidelines-January-2014-0.0.pdf)

Definition of the internship

An internship should:

provide a valuable supported learning experience; provide mentorship; allow an individual to develop or enhance skills that are applicable to their chosen area;

ensure the development of interpersonal work relationships; enable the candidate to learn good work habits such as communication, time and project management skills;

offer networking opportunities that will lead to paid employment or help to further the intern’s career in other tangible ways.

An internship is not Volunteering, Student Placement, Apprenticeship or Work Experience.

A Internship MUST be offered with the following Written Agreement:

  • Each intern should be provided with a contract / letter of understanding outlining the role and responsibilities within the organisation that will be allocated to the intern. A same checklist is provided in the Guidelines.
  • An intern should be provided with a defined role and job title.
  • An internship should be short term and ideally between three and six months.

Objectives

Educational

  • Many interns have some experience and qualifications that would be advantageous to an organisation.
  • An internship should be either the first experience of a role or an advancement from a voluntary position. In order to achieve this supportive and advantageous internship; one which will provide a meaningful experience and enhance an interns employability in the future; there should be a clear set of achievable objectives from the outset. These include transparency on day-to-day activities and responsibilities and clarity of progression within the organisation (if applicable). In general all interns should be given a level of responsibility that will further their experience.

Recruitment

  • Interns should be recruited in the same way as regular employees of an organisation, with proper consideration given to how their skills and qualifications fit the tasks they will be expected to undertake.
  • Recruitment should be conducted in an open and transparent way to enable fair and
    equal access to available internships.

Induction

  • Before the intern starts, a written contract should be put in place defining the intern’s working hours, the length of the internship, the intern’s goals and their obligations.
  • Any training the intern will require for their role should be planned in advance. This plan should be shared with the intern on their first day. The training should include a health and safety induction tailored to the individual organisation.

Supervision

  • Organisations should ensure that there is a dedicated person(s) to supervise the intern and conduct regular performance reviews. This person should provide ongoing feedback to the intern, be their advocate and mentor during the period of the internship, and conduct formal performance reviews to evaluate the success of their time with the organisation.

Payment & Duration

  • Where possible the intern should be paid the National Minimum Wage. At the very least Host Organisations should cover necessary work-related expenses incurred by the intern: travel to, from and during work. This will ensure wider access and allow people from varied economic backgrounds to access internships.

Reference

A detailed personalised reference should be provided at the end of the internship.

Working conditions

Health & Safety: The Host Organisation must be fully compliant with current workplace health and safety and all other legal requirements.

Garda Vetting: The Host Organisation has responsibility to ensure that the appropriate process is applied to placements that require Garda vetting. Interns must agree to comply with requests for Garda Vetting where necessary.

Annual Leave: Interns are entitled to all Public Holidays and 1.75 days annual leave for each month they participate in an internship.

Sick Leave: The maximum cumulative sick leave permissible over the course of an internship is five working days over a three month internship; ten working days over a six to nine month internship.

 

 

Your first Job in the Arts – Nobody gets into the arts to get rich. And while many people at the top of their game do make a very good living, be it in artistic, managerial or directorial roles, you should be realistic about your earning potential, particularly in the early part of your career when there is a high demand for entry-level jobs in the creative sector. Here are some tips to help you get your foot in the door.

  1. Do your research on the industry that you’d most like to work in. Read journals, magazines and websites relevant to the sector. Get an understanding of how the industry works, who the largest or most important organisations are, and where the funding comes from and goes to. The Arts Council, for example, gives out figures on all funding decisions, this can give you an idea of the pecking order in specific sectors. Attend professional development events to get an insight into your specific area of interest. Don’t be put off by people telling you it’s a difficult sector to get into or that it pays badly. If you’re interested, determined and good at what you do, you’ll crack it.
  2. Get out and about, network! Networking is sometimes considered a bad word, but really it just involves talking to people with common interests. Go to events, conferences and shows. Volunteer at festivals to get behind-the-scenes experience. Find out who the lead organisers are and find out how they got to where they are today. Can they offer you further experience or career advice? Is there anything you think you could do for them or their organisation? Do they need a web developer, researcher or fundraiser and could you offer support in any of these areas?
  3. Information interviewing is a step on from networking. It involves identifying specific people in the industry, and talking to them about the work they do and the kind of people they employ. Is there a family member or friend who knows somebody working in the sector they could put you in touch with? Is there a particular organisation that you’d love to work for? Perhaps one of their junior staff would meet you for a coffee. Don’t be offended if they can’t, many organisations are understaffed and have little time (and lots of similar requests), however some organisations are set up specifically to give information to prospective artists or staff. Equally, career guidance counsellors in universities like NCAD or IADT might be able to give you valuable industry information. The more people you talk to, the more informed you’ll be and thus in the best position to make a decision on your next steps.
  4. Create Your Own Project. Developing your own creative projects is a great way to gain relevant and valuable experience. Instead of being an intern for someone else, become a creative director for yourself, even if it is just for a one-off, small-scale project. Look for creative gaps in the industry, community or university. CreativeCareers.ie began life as a university project. Initiating and managing your own event series, blog, exhibition or mini-festival will give you better real-world experience of the creative sector. If successful, it shows you’re an innovator and an achiever. If unsuccessful, try to evaluate why; hopefully you’ll learn how to do it better next time.
  5. Self-promotion. Again, sometimes considered a bad word, it simply means letting interested people know who you are and what you’re good at. Most jobs, even in the arts, require a standard two-page CV, but sometimes a portfolio, brochure or showreel is more appropriate or a valuable addition to your CV. If you can get a well-designed website to display what you do, it lets people know you’re serious about a creative career and organised enough to create a good website.
  6. Become very good at what you do. I once worked with an editor on a creative writing journal. For every 100 short stories he received in the post, he could only about three or four. His advice to writers was ‘make it so good that I can’t turn it down’. This applies to any artist and their work. Or any creative for that matter. Don’t compete, be desired! This means hard work and perseverance. Some raw talent is necessary but nobody who attempts to write a short story gets it right the first time, second, or third time either. As Samuel Beckett said, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

 

Great, you have an interview… now what?

How much do you know about the creative or cultural organisation you are interviewing for? It should be plenty, and much of the information you need is available online. Here are tips on how to research, get the inside scoop on the culture, and use your connections to gain an interview advantage.

Visit the Organisation’s Website

Visit the creative organisation’s website, review their mission statement and history, services and management, as well as information about their culture. The information is usually available in the About Us section of the site.

Use Social Media

Check Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Like or follow the company to get updates. You’ll find information you may not have found otherwise. LinkedIn company profiles are a good way to find, at a glance, more information on the organisation you’re interested in. You’ll be able see your connections at the organisation, new hires, promotions, jobs posted, related companies, and company statistics. Take a look at your interviewer’s profile for insight into their job and their background.

Google and Google News

Search both Google and Google News for the organisation’s name.  You can also set up alerts to receive a notification when they are mentioned in the news.

Be prepared

You may be asked to take originals and photocopies of your professional qualifications and/or your original passport or birth certificate to confirm you have the right to live and work in Ireland or Northern Ireland. Failure to take the required documents with you to interview may give the impression that you are disorganised or unable to follow instructions.

Presentation

If you are asked to prepare a presentation as part of your interview, we would suggest you forward a copy of this to us prior to your interview to enable us to forward to the panel. Technology doesn’t always work the way we want it to so please ensure you take a hard copy of your presentation with you just in case your pen drive or memory stick doesn’t work on the day.

On the day

Plan your route, allowing extra time for any unexpected delays. Arrive early for your interview (but not too early) -we suggest 10 minutes before your interview is due to start. It does not do any harm to do a test journey to the interview location in advance. Remember traffic varies at different times of the day and car parks can be full at peak times. Have change with you in case you have to park on a meter. If you are too early you can always go for a coffee and look over your notes.

Whilst you may anticipate your interview taking no more than an hour, on occasion, they do run over the time allocated which may result in your interview time being delayed.

Dress to Impress

If your appearance is neat and clean, you will give the impression of being someone who is organised and pays attention to detail.

Whether you are asked to meet the creative organisation for an informal chat over a coffee or attend a formal panel interview, first impressions are very important! We would recommend you always dress smartly when meeting your potential new employers.

No one has ever not been offered a job for being too smartly dressed!!

Ask Questions

You should always have some questions for your interviewer to demonstrate your interest in the position. We recommend you prepare a minimum of three questions, some of which will give you more information about the job and some which delve deeper into the culture and goals of the company.

Do not ask  questions about time off/holidays at interview as this can show a lack of commitment if you are already thinking about how short you can make the working week. If you need flexible working for an issue like childcare please discuss this with the recruiter at application stage as they can on your behalf before the interview.

Flexible working is not always appropriate to a role or organisation, and employers do not like to find the perfect candidate only to then be forced into negotiations on hours.

Finally, everyone at Creative Careers wishes you the best of luck!

 

Have you ever wondered why even though you apply for lots of roles, you either don’t hear back or miss out on shortlisting? It might be the case that you’ve got some excellent skills and experience and you know that you would be a great candidate for the role – but may be where the issue lies – YOU know you would be, but are you making it clear enough? Often applications can come in to recruitment agencies and creative organisations which aren’t always clear to read, or lack some crucial information about you, like a particular type of experience or evidence of your past successes. Very often application forms come in where the recruiter or creative organisation see’s potential in a prospective candidate, gives them a call and then finds out that they would, in fact make a great candidate!

So the question is, how do you fill out an excellent, clear and descriptive application form?

We’ve come up with a few tips to try and help, and if you’ve got any other helpful hints, we’d love to hear from you.

  1. Read the Application Pack Thoroughly – It may sound like a simple request, but when prospective candidates come to fill in their application form they often forget that they need to address every point highlighted in the application pack. If there is a list of essential and desirable skills or qualities, list these down and explain how you match each of them. If there are certain personal qualities or interests that the creative organisation asks for then explain and give examples of how they apply to you.  Remember that you may have transferable skills too.  For example, if the role includes event management but your experience is in a voluntary capacity, then this is still essential to highlight.
  2. Give Examples – Quite often a candidate may say that they are good at such and such, but if you haven’t given evidence showing how or why you are good at whatever this may be, then it’s difficult for the recruiter or creative organisation to appreciate your abilities.
  3. Be Clear – don’t presume that recruiters of creative organisations will understand everything without explanation – you might need to explain business abbreviations that are not familiar or widely used in the creative industry.   Often candidates are willing to move location for a role, if this is the case for you then make it clear on your application. We’ve all been confused when a candidate living in Sydney applies for a role in Dublin – until we find out that they have been in a temporary role abroad and are moving back to Ireland!
  4. Try Not to Leave it Too Late – We all live busy lives, however we recommend you get your application completed as early as possible, to give you the best chance of success. Being well prepared means you can get friends and family to check for mistakes, or you may even be able to contact the recruitment agency and ask that they briefly review it for you. A fresh set of eyes over your application is always helpful.
  5. Don’t Panic, Ask for Help – If you’re having difficulty filling in your application form, get in touch with the recruiter and ask for help or clarification – we at Creative Careers are always happy to do this!
  6. Do Your Research – You might be surprised by the number of potential candidates who don’t do their research on the creative organisation whose role they are applying for. Surely candidates should know exactly what type of organisation they are applying to be a part of! When it comes to interview stage it is absolutely essential that you are well versed in the organisation’s background, activities and future ambitions. If the creative organisation in question is a venue, be sure to attend events in the lead up to interview. If it’s a TV production company, be sure to watch some of their films or shows – this will set you apart from other candidates, and show you have a particular interest in that organisation‘s work. It will certainly give you  more to talk about at interview.
  7. Convince the Interviewer – A knowledge of what the organisation does is important, however your ability to convince the interviewers of your skills and experience to carry out the job is even more so. Job applicants in creative or cultural organisations can often focus too much on their interest in the art form and not enough on their ability to do the job in question. Try to strike a balance between both.
  8. Simply Does It – We’re talking about the presentation of your application, or indeed CV or covering letter too (unless, of course, you’re going for a job in design!). As a rule of thumb size 12 or 10 Ariel font in a safe option. Do not use comic sans. Ever.