Sometimes You Break a Sweat at Work

(Figure 1)

There are a few reasons sweating at work might happen.

(A) The A/C is broken. [This is an especially bad thing if you work with/near temperature-sensitive art, and would presumably result in extra sweating from anxiety. Thankfully, this is a purely hypothetical scenario and has not happened this summer.]

(B) You’ve just seen a book designer create an awesome concept for a catalogue cover while making it look so easy and effortless that it sends awed chills down your spine, thus making you sweat. [Thankfully, this has totally happened this summer.]

(C) You’ve joined the staff softball team, the Whitney Houstons. [See Figure 1.]

Yes, there are many ways to make the most of your internship, and while I went into the summer looking forward to gaining experience by having opportunities to sit in on project meetings and to work on editorial projects (opportunities which have both been successfully realized), I can’t say I ever anticipated inter-museum softball would become another formative part of my summer.

But that’s the funny thing about life – you never know what it’s going to throw at you next, no more than you do the pitcher (Ha! Softball humor!). One day I showed up to watch the Houstons play a game, but when I arrived they only had seven players – one short of the eight needed to field. That’s when I was drafted. Not having played softball since elementary school PE, my expectations were low, but it was actually a good time and my performance was not a complete disaster, so I ended up joining the team for the remainder of the summer.

At this point, you’re probably asking, “Why does this matter?” Well, I’m glad you asked, because that’s a great lead in for the part where I tie this all up with a lesson: one thing I’ve learned over two summers of interning is that you should never limit your experience to what comes across your desk. Nearly every moment of an internship offers a chance to meet new people and learn more about an institution.

On the softball team, I’ve connected with a number of other museum staff beyond those with whom I regularly interact. This has given me great opportunities to find out more about the work other departments are doing, find out about peoples’s backgrounds, and gain a whole new sense of the institutional culture. ¬†All this, in addition to getting to wear a fantastic jersey that glows in the dark and has a great graphic of angel Whitney Houston holding a softball glove on the back:

Ultimately, hands-on job experience and the opportunity to provide vital assistance to an organization, while perhaps the most obvious, are really only two of many components that make an internship a valuable experience. Arguably of equal importance is the level of access you get to accomplished professionals, who can share their stories and insights with you – something they’re usually, at least in my experience, quite willing to do. The conversations you have on a softball field may not be quite the same as the ones you have in the office, but that certainly doesn’t mean there’s not a lot to be learned from them.

In the end, that’s what’s really important – not if you win or lose.

And in any event, you’ll have a great story.

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