Before I began my doctorate in history, I was certain that I wanted to work in the cultural sector, ideally for museums and galleries (I have a nasty habit of picking incredibly competitive fields - yay me!). My undergraduate degree is in History of Art and, although my doctorate diverted me to history, I have always maintained a passion for the arts and culture sector.
To that end, I did two internships for prestigious galleries in Ireland and the UK. The first was in an Education Department, while the second was in Press and Marketing, each lasting approximately 3 months each. They were amazing experiences but there certainly were some downsides.
Of course, I have read horror stories about interns being exploited, and I am lucky to say that I do not fall into that category. However, they were unpaid internships so I had to pay for transport and food, effectively paying for the experience.
But was it worth it? There are moments when I am not so sure. Now that I am reentering the job market and applying for jobs in the arts, I fear that potential employers do not view the internships as enough experience or even valid experience. I've thrown my name into the ring for numerous arts jobs to little success thus far. However, I did get one job interview in an Education Department in a UK museum, but came second to someone with just slightly more experience than me.
While this was certainly disappointing, had I not done my internships I would not have even had the smallest of chances of getting to the interview stage.
I have two pleas to employers. Firstly, at the minimum interns should have a transport and food allowance. Secondly, employers should put more stock into those who have completed internships and see it as evidence of our commitment, dedication, and passion for our chosen fields.