What did I gain from my internship?
May 8, 2015 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Please help me figure out something that is not quite obvious to me.

The past few months in addition to my coursework I've been doing an internship for an independent film company ( 1 day a week). For context, I am 27 and in grad school and already have 2 years of full time work experience in communications. I did the internship thinking I would learn something about film production. During the internship I did stuff like updating blogs and social media accounts, translating documents from french to english, and running errands.

I've had to submit journals every week to my supervisor at the school, so I have spent a lot of time writing about the experience and trying to figure out how it is supposed to benefit me. I know that one major benefit of an internship is that you gain connections. How do I make use of the connection I made with this production company (they are too tiny to hire me)?

Basically, I want to know how I'm supposed to make this experience benefit me. Besides the fact that internships are kind of bull, what opportunities does an internship open up that I didn't have before (even if I didn't learn anything)? What should I be asking my boss at the internship before I finish it? How do I ask her for help? My instincts keep telling me that I've wasted a bunch of time on this, but I know there must be a hidden benefit which I am not comprehending at the moment. Does anyone have a story to share of an internship that actually helped them move forward in their career?
posted by winterportage to Education (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have (presumably positive) references and work experience.

The only people I know who have had internships that have actually, tangibly propelled them in their career had paid internships. Otherwise it's a line item on the resume and people to vouch for you not being a fuckup.
posted by phunniemee at 8:49 AM on May 8, 2015 [5 favorites]

I know that one major benefit of an internship is that you gain connections. How do I make use of the connection I made with this production company (they are too tiny to hire me)?

You haven’t made connections just to this one firm you’ve made it to this firms network. The next time your internship boss here’s about someone looking for paid help with xyz they may think of you and go “Oh, Hey winterportage would be good at that I wonder if winterportage is available” and then e-mail you. Of course the person/firm you’re interning with may not be all that well connected, but that’s where you roll the dice.

It does however sound like you took an internship hoping to gain experience in one area and they used you to do work that you already have enough experience in to find paid work for.
That’s something you might want to negotiate or investigate before taking on future internships or negotiate with you internship boss. You may want to ask your supervisor how to help deal with the fact that they’re working you but not training you. Perhaps your supervisor would be concerned that an internship for graduate film students is using them as PAs and would not want to recommend future students use them. Perhaps your expects internships to basically be PA work, you'd at least get a better sense of what is out there/expected.
posted by edbles at 9:01 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: How do I make use of the connection I made with this production company (they are too tiny to hire me)?

Those people know other people. Keep in touch with them and keep them updated on your job and your search, and ask them to keep you updated on any opportunities they hear about.

What should I be asking my boss at the internship before I finish it?

"If you were in my position, what step would you take next to [insert your career goal here]? Who should I talk to about that step? Can I use you as a reference?"
posted by Etrigan at 9:02 AM on May 8, 2015

Best answer: You did learn about film production--film production companies have offices, and social media that needs to be updated and documents that need to be translated, and errands that need to be run. That you didn't learn how use grip equipment or block a scene doesn't mean that the internship was wasted. Now, when you go to look for other jobs, you have the relationships from this place to help widen your circle of contacts. You can join other groups, like Women in Film (or the equivalent) to meet more people. You don't have be a social butterfly, you just have to be interested. If you want crew experience, you can volunteer, or look for entry level PA work that puts you in the field or on set.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:05 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

So you spent 10-18 days updating blogs for a film crew too small to hire you. So maybe 120 hours of work.

This is a resume internship. It'll look better on paper than you are describing it here. Depending on how you put it on there it may even look great.

Meeting active successful professionals in a field is one of the biggest intangible benefits. Stay in touch, be proactive about it. I have gotten maybe two jobs in my whole life cold. Where I didn't know someone, who knew someone, who knew someone.
posted by French Fry at 9:06 AM on May 8, 2015

Best answer: Your internship may come into play in getting you a future gig – or it may not. You may not get immediate benefits, but you now know a few more people, and you may encounter them in the future in different relative roles. The film production biz is like any other small, creative culture, the same people percolate around but there are always a lot of aspiring people who are flakes.

I know a Montreal woman who started as an intern for a small production house, she was reliable, they liked her, she stayed on – now she's an independent producer and doing quite well with it. You have to be good at what you do, reliable not flaky, and think of such situations as opportunities to make positive impressions. You're building a reputation. Be patient, it takes time.
posted by zadcat at 9:13 AM on May 8, 2015

you probably learned something about professional interpersonal relationships and how to navigate the particular bureaucracy of the place you interned at.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 9:54 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

You learned about the work environment and the needs of a small company. Maybe you realized that you flourish better in a more corporate, or at least more established, environment, or maybe you really liked the "all hands on deck" aspect of working in a small company.
posted by Liesl at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2015

Best answer: While you're still there, you can ask your boss for learning-related favors, like the chance to visit the set during a shoot, or the cutting room during an edit, the mix... you can ask for permission to shadow someone associated with the production company that you could learn from. Essentially, your responsible work at your internship should have earned you some trust, and you can use it to ask for more learning or more responsibilities. You cannot imagine how many interns in the film/tv business are total flakes, so being a good intern carries a lot of weight.
posted by xo at 10:42 AM on May 8, 2015 [1 favorite]

> My instincts keep telling me that I've wasted a bunch of time on this,

You did office work nobody else wanted to. However, hope you made a good impression. Like it or not, competitive industries are based on hiring those people like. If people like you, they will recommend you.
posted by GiveUpNed at 5:36 PM on May 8, 2015

Best answer: When I interned in film (distribution), the most valuable perk was invitations to openings, screenings, and other industry events. I went to everything, met a ton of people, and made connections for my next job. Ask your bosses if they can share any invites they're not using and let them know you'd appreciate any introductions they can make.
posted by judith at 5:45 PM on May 8, 2015

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