Arts internship programs help put transferable skills to work


Unlike many other disciplines, students in arts programs commonly believe they don’t possess any of the skills required for some of the more competitive internships out there.

However, to help combat these sorts of misconceptions, arts-focused internship programs have been developed to provide arts students with opportunities that they may not have realized were available to them.

Phoenix Lam, the program administrator for the University of British Columbia’s Arts Internship Program, said the internships there focus on the arts and culture sector, as well as the new green sector.

The organizations that participate in the internship program tend to be mostly non-profits while private sector employers make up about 10% of the total internships offered.

“Many organizations realize that most students will not have the experience, but as long as students express clearly why they are interested and [have] a strong passion for the internship, they have a strong chance,” Lam said.

Students often mistakenly believe that they can only participate in internships within their chosen field field, such as a political science student who might assume his or her only internship options are within government.

Arts students in particular seem to have fewer obvious options, but according to Lam, “Arts students have so many transferable skills, from communication, writing, to research.

Although programs like the one at UBC are not available at every university, students at other schools still have plenty of less formalized options available to them.

Lam said the most crucial skill students have to learn is the ability to network. “I know it sounds daunting, but sit down and make a list of companies you want to work for.  Find out who the key players are. That way, when you meet them at a . . . networking event at your campus, you are ready to chat.”

More often than not, you’ll find that key figures in the field you’re most interested in are willing to offer advice to a student who may be looking for a point of entry.  They may also know which events to attend and which other individuals you should meet with.

Perhaps most reassuring about programs like the one at UBC and all the other opportunities available to arts students is that there are more internships available than you might imagine, and there are many people willing to help you out in your future career.  The key is to get out there and start looking for them!

Photo credit: YouTube Interns by GregTheBusker on Flickr
About the author

José Gonzalez is currently studying English and psychology at the University of Toronto. He's tried his hand at a wide variety of jobs, from pizza maker to autism therapist, but so far he hasn't figured out his exact niche. He figures as long as he's making a positive difference in someone's life, whichever path he goes down is a good one.