by - March 04, 2015

At the moment I'm doing an internship at a museum. I'm almost half way and it's quite remarkeble to see how much I've learned (and how much I haven't). During the past weeks I've encountered a few things I thought to be interesting to share (or, like, totally not. But who's here to decide?). Some things might be so obvious that it'll awkwardly stare into your face, but some -I do hope- will remind/surprise you in one way or another.

1. You'll be rubbish. At first.

I'm a very lucky person to be sat at an organisation whereby your typical image of the intern isn't the person who provides everyone with tea and coffee (tea will be even brought to me instead!). However, this also implies a few other things. I, for instance, will be given some more "bigger" tasks to tackle. So it's important to remind everyone, including yourself, that you'll probably will do it all wrong. At first.

This is just a friendly reminder that you're in a learning position and you don't have or need to know everything or do everything perfectly at once. Feedback is a very important given in these situations. But also I've found it very important for me that I accept that I probably will be rubbish at everything at first (or at least it's the idea that I'll gradually get better at something, sometime. I hope). An organisation often has their own way of doing something and don't know it themselves because it's just the way they do. For an outsider or newcomer you've first got to adapt that way of working before you can make something by their "standards". However, that's OK. And they all mostly understand that because YOU'RE THE INTERN. If you already could do everything perfectly you wouldn't be there as an intern, but run the whole business (and have you ever heard of that).

Also, you're human. Humans make mistakes. Just saying. 

2. Question time!

Ask questions. It's almost the single reason you're there.

Now I know that asking questions isn't everyone's cup of tea (it sure isn't mine), but asking questions might be one of the most important things you can do during your internship. You're allowed to ask things and to be curious about the way they handle their stuff. To learn means to observe, to question, to absorb and to do. (then to fail and try again). You're also allowed to ask further and deeper and to get to know all the in's and out's (in detail). Try to absorb as much as you can and put it into action (so they know that you're intense question times are used for the positive).

For me conversing is one of the hardest things to do (and it doesn't matter that everyone's really nice and understanding and whatnot). I really have to dig deep to find the courage to get up and ask around. Something that's helped me to actually do it, is to prepare myself as much as I can. I firstly do research to my question (maybe I can find it online or reference to it when I ask it to someone). And I also tend to bulk all my questions together on a list, so I can work through them point for point (this is also a way of not missing anything and to keep you on track when asking. AND it shows in someway commitment and own initiative, which they love...).

3. Gossip comes from the Devil's workshop...

Being an intern sometimes feels like being a spy undercover. You for instance get to ask a lot of questions, but also eavesdropping can be a very important tool to get more known with your environment and the way things get done. You don't have to feel guilty about eavesdropping because I think you can assume that everything discussed plein air, is something that everyone's allowed to hear (otherwise they'll go somewhere private). So eavesdrop as much as you can!

Gossip is something that happens everywhere and isn't necessarily a bad thing (studies actually show that it's "very bonding" and stuff). But not everything that's been said at your presence should leave the work floor. I've actually signed a contract of confidentiality and some things are actually for me illegal to talk about and can get me sued (although I must assure you that not that exciting things are being discussed). You're part of a team for some time which means you built up this kind of trust between you and your colleagues. The world of art and museums is especially small and everyone knows everyone. Sometimes things are said in the moment between your colleagues which shouldn't be discussed outside of the office with anybody else. Also, never ever join in the gossip (don't think you've got the same liberty as them. Always stay polite and never say something you'll later regret).


Write as much down as you can, your future self will be very thankful for it (particularly if you've got to write essays about it). It gives you a good inside of all the things you undertake and how this develops within time. Take notes of conversations you've had and with who and a small rundown of what's been said (and if you don't forget, also mark the date).

I always walk around with a little notebook and pen. This notebook is especially dedicated to the internship and I put everything down there related to that. I'd like to think that it's quite self sufficient, but I've got the bad tendencies to add words on pages where there is no space for it anymore (scribbling on the sides and such). So maybe you (I) ought to be quite strict about how the pages get filled/structured (might helps your future self deciphering all the nonsense you've put to page).

5. Clothes make the man.

Dress appropriately. This ought to go without saying, but as an "employee" you fulfill the role as a representative of the company you work with (even when most of the time you work behind the scenes). However, important note, this doesn't mean you can't dress like you do. Sometimes you just need to make some compromises or tone it all a little bit down. For example: I'm a keen hat-wearer, but being an employee in a (conservative) museum I can't go running out and about with big brim hats, but something that's a bit more conventional and modest (also I must say it's a lot more convenient to wear a "conservative hat" when handling art objects).

5. The working blues *sigh*

The phenomenon we all despise... Basically working a 9 to 5 job brings a lot of pros and cons with it.

Pro: you know when you've got to show up for work and when you're done.
Con: The working blues.

"What's the working blues?", I hear you say questioningly. Well, everday around three o'clock everyone's spirit will leave their body. You'll be sat behind your desk, staring at your computerscreen, without any energy whatsoever. Nothing to worry, everyone gets it. Most try to for instance walk it off or go and hang out at the coffee machine.

It'll be too late to start on something new and too early to call it a day. Especially as an intern you've got to be very careful with leaving early. One rule I live by is to never ever be the first to leave. You don't have to be the one closing the door, but just don't be the first to open it.

I hope this was somewhat interesting or at least informative. The truth basically is that you just have to go and embrace it. When you're trying the best you can and have an open attitude towards the whole thing, I think not much can go wrong. Just be clear from the start with the people you work with, what your position is. You're here to learn, not to be a miracle. Most importantly also, just to add, be curious and have some fun (it'll work, trust me).


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  1. I'm so proud of you that you do this.
    Every day you go whith a big smile to "work".
    I see you enjoy it.....
    I say keep up the goog work!!

    Love, Marjan