Two weeks ago while running a meeting, I was briefly introduced to a man named John McCarter. Today I figured out that he is the President of the Field Museum of Natural History. I could give you a lot of really fancy excuses for how I managed to meet arguably the most important person at the Field without knowing who he was, but I’m not sure how much that will help the situation. In reality, I just didn’t do my research. I made eye contact, kept a firm grip, and exchanged niceties with ease – I just had no idea who I was talking to!
I’m not perfect. But, over the last six years as an intern in various museums, the mistakes I’ve made have helped me to grow. Working with a variety of interns this summer (some more experienced than others) has inspired me to create a list of things I wish I had known when I first started out. I have deemed this my Guide to Intern Etiquette. Enjoy!
- Always be prepared and remember to do your research. Know the important people in your institution and what their job is (whoops).
- Don’t sit down at a busy meeting until everyone else is seated first. Common courtesy, newbie!
- Phrase comments as questions in large group settings in order to assert your opinions. “Could you explain why you decided to represent ____ like _____?”
- That being said, if someone asks you for your opinion – give it! Let your own ideas develop until it’s time to deliver them with confidence.
- Scrumptious plate of Corner Bakery muffins at the forum? Offer to clean up after and enjoy them then!
- Someone needs an extra copy? We ran out of napkins? Take charge! Volunteer! The smaller tasks don’t go unnoticed by the higher ups.
- Take note of office attire and make sure you always look like you belong! Check out my post about Fashion in the Field for more tips.
- Be open to grow. There is so much that you can learn from your fellow interns, your co-workers, and your higher ups! Make sure to keep your eyes and ears open.
- Seek out new experiences. Volunteer at that program! Ask to help install that show! Not only will you demonstrate initiative but you will also strengthen your resume at the same time.
Internships are places to make mistakes, to try new things, and to learn. What have you learned as an emerging museum professional that you would like to add to the list?