Art, Identity, Migration
Social Media Intern Marie Phelps takes a closer look at Ben Uri’s uniquely structured Intern Development Programme.
The art and media industry is a decidedly difficult one to get into – and for recent graduates in particular, whether they’ve finished a Bachelor or Masters degree, it often seems that the only way into their dream job is through an unpaid internship. There has been a lot of debate recently about unpaid internships. The lack of a wage means that you need to be very careful on where you choose to spend your time. After all, what’s the point of working for absolutely free, for weeks on end, when all you’re doing is getting people coffee? Of course, there are good internships out there, even if they are unpaid. There are roles that offer you a great chance to learn, try out the industry you think you might want to spend your adult working life in, make contacts and to, in some cases, even offer you the chance of gaining a permanent position there if they like you enough.
Ben Uri offers one such internship programme, with a uniquely structured few months, complete with an intern adviser and mentor. BU’s intern programme is offered across all disciplines in the museum, from curatorial, operations, learning for schools and adults to social media, web and marketing. Although an education in Art is common, it isn’t a pre-requisite, and Ben Uri’s interns often come from a varied background and different cultures, which makes for a much more satisfying working environment, as there is a melting pot of ideas and points of view. Social Media Intern Sabina Lutiger comments “It would have been great to be paid for our work, but my total lack of experience in this field makes me understanding of their willingness to only pay travel expenses. Anyway, I learned so much in the past few months to compensate the lack of a salary.’’ Once a month ‘Intern Development Days’ take place with the Intern Mentor, Fiona Frank, a full day for interns to take a brief break from their duties at the gallery and concentrate on themselves and their career.
There are often catch ups on what everyone is doing, presentations of personal projects, talks about career plans, and job searches. In fact, the interns are actively encouraged during their internship to be on the lookout for potential jobs not just for themselves, but each other, leaving everyone feeling very supported. During their time at Ben Uri, each intern is encouraged to work on their own ‘Personal Project’, something which can both contribute to the gallery as well as to their future career plans. For example, a former Social Media intern put together a marketing plan that can both help Ben Uri, while being shown as an example of what they did during their internship when interviewing for future jobs. Ben Uri encourages their interns to be independent, welcoming their ideas and input whilst also making sure there is someone there to mentor them and offer guidance and support, and, when needed, show them the way forward.
The entire Intern programme is concentrated on helping the Ben Uri interns to grow and develop, and encouraging them to pursue their ideas and interests. Sabina comments that “Today employers are often looking for young people with a degree AND work experience; therefore I think that internships are a fantastic opportunity to start making contacts and introduce yourself into the job market. I strongly believe that a person that has completed an internship (besides having received an education) has many more possibilities, than a person who has only an educational background.” In the world of unpaid internships, Ben Uri’s stands out as a very rewarding experience indeed.