Internships are a huge part of breaking into the music industry. You've probably heard it's all about the connections – and it's true. However, that can be to your advantage if you know how to establish relationships and make the most out of your time interning. After interning throughout the summer and learning a few things the hard way, I've compiled a list of guidelines to help you best navigate the art of interning.
1. Be a fly on the wall
Get this drilled into your head: your major job as an intern is to be constantly observant, taking in everything that is going on around you. It's on you to be intentionally learning. Observe what professional relationships look like. Take mental notes on specific procedures and the way the company runs. Keep your eyes peeled at all times, and don't be afraid to ask questions.
2. Have common sense
If your job is to make coffee, don't forget to put the filter in. It's a stupid mistake, but I've forgotten it before because I wasn't thinking, and I got in trouble for it. Lots of navigating your internship is having good common sense. It's not about being book smart, but street smart. You won't be babied through every assigned task because oftentimes, it's assumed that you know what you're doing, so you have make sure you're exercising common sense for every decision you make. If you're not sure about something, always play it on the safe side until you can clarify with your supervisor.
3. Build trust
This happens over time. A lot of building trust with your co-workers and supervisors is about being responsible. In other words, mean what you say, and do what you say. It's really not about being the best. It's about showing up and being reliable. People will typically choose a reliable person over a "better" person.
4. Manage expectations
Know what you're there to do, and do it well. Of course, we all want the inside perks and maybe even a job through the internship, but keep your expectations on what you'll get out of it in check. That way, if your only job is to sort out and organize old CDs in the back room all day, you won't be as fuming and angry as you would've been if your expectations were higher.
5. Be willing
In other words, make it a habit to say "yes." Be the one who is always down for anything. Mop the floor? Okay. Organize the mailroom? Okay. Send out tons of promo emails? Okay. When you're always willing to do whatever is asked for, you'll be the first person to be chosen when a desirable opportunity comes your way. People will know your work ethic and dedication, so naturally, you'll be the top choice when the big opportunities arise.
6. Read the room
Know your boundaries and limits. Be able to read situations well. There isn't a hard and fast rule about when you should or shouldn't speak up, but that's when you'll have to assess what is and isn't appropriate. A general rule to abide by, especially if you're interning at a high-profile studio or record label, is "don't speak unless spoken to." Do your job and get out of the way, but if an opportunity does present itself for you to introduce yourself and have a few words, go for it.
7. Be proactive
One major rule of thumb: There's always something to do. There may be times when you'll be sitting around because you weren’t assigned anything, but you can always find something to do. Poke around without being obnoxious, and ask if there's anything else you can help out with. If there isn't anything, find something to clean, organize your workspace, etc. People will take notice. You'll stand out and make an impression. I cleaned the whole intern desk one morning, and one of the studio engineers came by and asked what I wanted to learn for the day – it totally paid off.
8. Cultivate genuine relationships
This is the most important one of all. What matters at the end of the day, regardless of business, is people. Get to know people with no agenda. People can sniff out insincerity in an instant. If your goal is to really get to know the people around you, to build friendships, and to invest in those people, then no matter what happens – whether you've learned a lot or a little, whether you get hired or not – you win. You win when you've made a difference in the lives around you, and that's what’s really important.
Have any other music internship tips? Share them with us in the comments below!
Belinda Huang is a contributing writer for Sonicbids. She is a music production & engineering major at Berklee College of Music and is a staff writer for their online newspaper, The Berklee Groove.