Advice on learning, connecting, and making a good impression from two participants in the Getty Foundation’s Multicultural Undergraduate Internship Program

Corinne (left) and Gabriela (center) in a productive meeting with Getty Villa exhibitions coordinator Robin McCarthy (right)

DO participate in meetings! Corinne (left) and Gaby (center) in a productive meeting with Getty Villa exhibitions coordinator Robin McCarthy (right)

An internship at an arts organization like the Getty is an up-and-coming museum professional’s dream. The Getty provides endless opportunities to meet amazing people in the arts and to learn from them.

Based on our experiences as Multicultural Undergraduate Interns this summer, we’ve devised five simple rules to follow to make the most out of any internship experience—rules that apply equally well to your first job.

1. Don’t eat lunch at your desk.

Gaby eating at her desk at the Getty Villa.

DON’T: Eat alone at your desk. (Exceptions can be made for cake.)

With a busy schedule, it’s sometimes easier to have lunch at your desk than to see the light of day and eat with your coworkers. While your computer’s gravitational pull can be quite powerful, some of the best networking opportunities occur over lunch conversations.

Gabriela discussed the idea of using the hashtag #gettyinterns to document the intern experience on social media at the Getty Villa’s Fourth of July staff potluck (pictured below) with Communications staff. The hashtag was approved and all the interns have been using it ever since.

2. Talk to as many people as possible.

Gaby and staff at the Getty Villa picnic

DO: Meet as many colleagues as possible—and attend every staff picnic

Don’t be afraid to reach out and approach people across different departments. It gives you the opportunity to learn what other people do and establish connections with them. You expose yourself to different perspectives by engaging in conversations, and you never know what may come of it.

Gabriela was able to conduct informational interviews with colleagues in communications, events, and the legal department by reaching out. More often than not, people are willing to offer help and advice on personal projects. A simple phone call or email can go a long way, as do “please” and “thank you.” And always say “good morning!”

3. Attend every meeting you can. No matter what.

It’s easy as an intern to get sucked into the vortex that is your desk. You might be getting a lot of work done, but you’re missing out on witnessing the most important parts of the work environment. If your boss invites you to a meeting, go. Even if it’s for a project you’re not a part of. Even if you weren’t invited (but ask first). Going to meetings gets your face out there to others at your organization.

Additionally, young interns in the modern world usually have an “interesting perspective” in the eyes of other employees, even if all they’ve done is make a suggestion by dropping the f-bomb (Facebook, that is).

4. Take on a special project.

There are always quiet points in an intern’s work day. Times when you’re not quite sure what to do, and you fear that if you barge into your supervisor’s office demanding work, you’ll find her in a meeting with the CEO for a top-secret mission, and they’ll both fire you on the spot. This is when a special project comes in handy.

Taking initiative on a project shows leadership and follow-through, and your supervisors are there to help you along the way. During our internship, Corinne was able to design and implement an entirely new tour for the Getty Villa, which supported important skills in presentation and independence. A project like this also makes for a great résumé item when you’re done with the internship.

5. Try a mock job interview.

One common intern fear is that an internship won’t wholly prepare you for entering the workforce. There are many ways to maximize your experience and prepare yourself for applying for a job, such as trying a mock interview for an open position. As mentors, your supervisors should be happy to talk to you about how to succeed, and participating in the interview process is extremely eye opening. Be open to feedback on your performance. Even ask for it. It shows a lot of initiative, and no one is better suited to critique your interviewing skills than a boss!

Have other tips to add from your own experience as an intern or a supervisor? Share them with us!