Finding an internship for career development, SIP, or even after graduation can be a scary yet rewarding process, and it is good practice for getting a job after graduation! The most important thing is to be organized and to give yourself plenty of time. Most theatres set their staff months in advance, so you have to be quick if you don’t want to miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime. It is also important to be specific — know what you want. Don’t settle for something that doesn’t fit. If you want to act, find an acting internship. If you want to design, find a shop to work in or a designer to assist. You won’t be happy spending the quarter filing headshots if that isn’t what you want to do.
There are many places to search for a good internship. Look as many places as you have time for to expand your opportunities and increase your chances.
- Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) – Yes, they do have listings for theatre! They keep a file of places past students have interned, and of alumni who might be willing to help. They also have the Regional Theatre Guide for the year and for the summer. This is an annual publication of theatres and who they are hiring. It also includes where, when, and how to apply. (The Theatre Arts Department also owns copies of these guides.)
- ArtSearch – This is a bi-monthly publication of job listings in the arts— but focuses primarily on theatre. There is a whole section on internships! The Theatre Arts Department receives this guide and has it hanging on the callboard by the office.
- The Internet – Sometimes you can find internships by looking up different theatres or regions. However, most theatres use webpages to advertise for ticket sales, not to recruit staff.
- Theatre Alumni – There are graduates of theatre who are working in theatre for a living and are happy to share their experiences, connections, and wisdom. The Theatre Arts Department has compiled an official list, called the Kalamazoo Theatre Arts Network (K-TAN). The CCPD also lists alumni.
- Backstage – Published for both LA and NYC, it lists jobs and internships. It is geared for actors, but there is a lot of tech stuff in there too.
How to Get an Internship
Steps to Take
Again, don’t procrastinate. Get started now! Prepare a resume, and if you are interested in acting get some headshots taken. The Actor’s Picture Resume Book is a good source for what they should look like. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money, budding photography majors usually are happy to do headshots for a minimal fee.
When applying for a job you want to have a short, concise, and yet impressive cover letter. Use it as a space to show who you are beyond your resume. Stress your enthusiasm and interest in their theatre. It is always good to do research on the theatres that you are applying for, and to mention something specific you like about their company in your letter.
Follow up with a phone call two weeks later. Emphasize your enthusiasm! Don’t be completely crushed by rejection. There are always other theatre internships that still need to be filled–you just have to keep looking.
Letters of Recommendation
If you need a letter of recommendation (for either an internship or graduate school), always ask the professor, director, or staff IF they have the time; don’t assume they do. Dropping a form off in someone’s mailbox is not a respectful request for a favor! Give as much lead time as possible; at least two (2) weeks is considered appropriate. Last-minute requests are not appreciated and do not put you in a good light. Provide the recommender with an updated resume, and a list of goals or why you want to work at this company (or apply for this program). Most letters of recommendation carry much greater weight if there is confidentiality. Ask the recommender to send it directly to the company. You should then provide an addressed, stamped envelope, or request a sealed envelope with the recommender’s signature across the seal. As a student, and as a person, you have a right to see whatever anyone has written about you. So think about that before you waive access of your right to see a letter. However, if you can’t be reasonably certain you are going to receive a positive letter of recommendation, you are probably asking the wrong person. Again, remember confidential letters carry much more credibility; it’s best to discuss this issue with your recommenders so all is up front!
One last thing – don’t ask for letters of recommendation you don’t need! Be reasonably certain that you are going to do everything possible to enter that graduate program if you are accepted, or that you will take the job or internship if it is offered (certainly this should absolutely be the case when one gets down to the stage of personal telephone calls). To refuse an internship after an offer has been made because you want to hold out for something better reflects very poorly on yourself, the recommender, the Theatre Arts Department itself, and especially future student applications.
Okay, I got the internship, so now what?
Again, don’t procrastinate. Tell them whether you accept their offer or not as soon as possible. They need to make plans if you turn it down. Also, you want to seem decisive from the very start.
Try to find out as many of the specifics as you can before starting, such as how many hours you are going to work, what you are going to be doing, what do you get paid (if anything?), figure out housing. If possible, get a contract before leaving for the internship. Even if you are not getting paid, it is helpful to have something in writing. This will keep people form taking advantage of you!
When you get there, WORK HARD! You may be doing some not-so-desirable-task, but a bad attitude won’t get you anywhere. There are a lot of “grunt” jobs in theatre and they usually go to the intern. But believe it or not, making good coffee and cheerfully running off copies does pay off in the end.
However, if you are unhappy, or the internship isn’t at all what you expected, speak up. Be professional and courteous (burning bridges doesn’t do any good), but do say something. Sometimes you may be able to work it out; sometimes you may decide to find a different internship. It is up to you. But stick to your instincts and find something that is a good fit.
Again, if all else fails and you feel completely lost —go talk to someone! The theatre faculty is there to help you; all you need to do is ask. Also, seniors who have more experience at this can often be a good resource. Just keep at it and don’t give up.