Someone recently asked me again questions about finding some DAM interns. I have gotten repeated emails asking where organizations can find Digital Asset Management (DAM) interns for a while now, so here is my answer in the form of a blog post openly shared with all.
First, let us look at the question from the organization’s perspective. An organization wants an intern (or a few) to help them do some work with their DAM.
What will the intern do for your organization specifically?
An organization commonly wants an intern to upload assets and/or apply metadata to those assets in their DAM. Sometimes, an employer wants interns to do the work they do not want to do.
On occasion, interns may do the work the organization does not know how to do themselves, but that is rare (good luck guiding the intern to do that and still understand what they are doing…good or otherwise for the organization. Note the switch in roles of teacher and student).
The organization may also need someone to organize, sort and structure their folders and files.
This could involve working on a taxonomy and expanding it. We need to understand the needs of the organization to find who best fits this situation. An intern is an intern is an intern, right? Not really. If a marketing department of an organization needs some help managing information and metadata with some files, that does not call for another marketing intern. Why? That it is not their core competency. What is the competency of the intern? Hopefully, you are seeking an intern that is more than just a pair of hands and eyes to the organization.
Ground Rules for having an intern
It seems important to set some ground rules when getting an intern to work with you (some of these rules may seem the opposite of what you think, depending on what your expectations are and what you have heard of about interns in the past).
- Interns are there to learn. Find out what they want to learn and what you plan to have them do. Hopefully, some of these things will align with each other. If not, expectations will likely be missed as disappointment meets both the organization and the intern. Luckily, a completely unrealistic movie/TV show depicting Digital Asset Management professionals doing highly recognized work has yet to be made, so that will not be problem (unlike the CSI).
- Make sure the intern is willing to learn and they are actually teachable. If not, keep looking. Listening is key. Asking questions is another good sign. Communication is very important.
- Interns should be interviewed, at least by phone or video conferencing. Resumes, cover letters and intern applications are just a first set of filters for all applicants on an equal basis so there is not bias from the start.
- Interns must have a sponsor, mentor or coach within the organization ready to give the intern answers to their questions and give them the needed support. Kind of like a junior employee. Monitor their progress and what work they have completed regularly.
- Give them feedback. Not just “good” or “bad”, but rather what/why something is good/bad.
- Be specific and detailed enough. Ask them if they have any questions after you explain what is needed in case they need clarifications.
- Interns will have many basic questions which may seem obvious after working there for N years, but they need answers because they do not know, might not assume to know and they have not been there for N years. If you do not bother to answer these ‘stupid’ questions, you should expect stupid mistakes to be made. If you answer the interns questions in writing (email), you can recycle the question/answer responses for the next interns that come around and the interns can refer to them as a guide. This can lead to the creation of FAQ pages for interns as well as new employees. Try this unless you like to repeat yourself to each intern.
- Interns are not simply free labor nor are they slaves at your beck and call. In fact, interns may be paid a stipend or paid hourly, depending on budgets. Some organization treat interns like contractors for a fixed term and fixed hourly rate. If they are not paid, it is often expected that someone within the organization will assist them with approving some paperwork so the interns can get respective college credits for this internship work. Unpaid interns should pay nothing to work their as a volunteer. Some organizations reimburse the interns’ travel expenses to/from the office if they are unpaid or if they are required to travel. Sometimes, interns get paid and get college credit. Both the intern and organization should value the experience as well as their mutual benefit.
- Interns from specific, qualified schools may come with specialized knowledge and skills based on what they are studying. Be sure you are looking for the right skill set (Keep reading. I am getting there.)
- Interns are temporary workers. Some internships treat the interns just like regular temporary employees with few benefits and expect just as much from them as other employees or contractors. On rare occasions, IF an intern excels well beyond expectations and IF there is room for them within the organization and IF there is budget for them, the intern may be offered a junior position after their internship. Do not hold your breathe though, but if the intern is interested, they should discuss it toward the end of their internship. The internship can be a stepping stone for the intern. Again, think mutual benefit and value. This is not about adding a line on the resume/CV after watching reruns online or playing games while “working.” You can do that at home on your own time.
- Interns are not there to fetch everyone coffee or tea on an hourly basis. If an intern gets any coffee, they should be drinking it themselves. Do not be a lazy, slave driver. Invest in a good coffee machine.
- Interns are not there to spend most of their time making photocopies, stuffing envelopes nor fax all day long. Using ancient technology teaches the intern nothing. Not even patience. What is next? Typewriters? Dictating replies to your emails? There is software for that now. Learn how to use resources and interns in a non-wasteful manner.
- Do not have “sexual relations” with an intern (whether you work in the White House or not). Do not abuse your position. Professionalism is still required from everyone. We all know some who try to sleep their way to the top.
- Bad interns may not show up often nor on time nor will they put much effort into completing any of their work. There is a maturity factor involved here, but it may not all be tied to age alone.
- Some people still value having a work ethic for themselves and with their fellow co-workers. This is not overrated and can get noticed.
- Signing on a junior, senior or recent college graduate may yield a more experienced, skilled and mature intern, but that is not a guarantee.
- Set requirements and expectations early on, before the internship begins (during the interview process) so there are less surprises for all. An intern may come with tremendous energy and excitement toward experiencing the real working world. Encourage them both positively and realistically.
- Do not bore the intern. Have enough work for them. Keep them busy with real work. Challenge them. Not with useless busy work.
- Allow them to learn. They will not get everything right. Point out these learning experiences calmly (as needed) in case they miss those points. Yes, they could fix their errors themselves with some guidance.
- Be flexible when using the interns’ skill sets/knowledge to help your organization.
When should I start looking for an intern?
The best time to look for a summer intern is the beginning of the year. Yes, six months ahead of time would be planning ahead so you have the time to actually get applicants, review applications and interview potential candidates for the internship(s). Fall or Winter internships are not unheard of either, but start looking for them early. DAM interns do not grow on trees.
Have them commit to a specific time frame, such as 3 months. Within that time frame, set a minimum number of days per week and a minimum number of hours per day, otherwise the internship will be more trouble than it is worth for all parties involved. If an intern comes in 1 or 2 hours per week, this hardly justifies your time spent finding them nor their commute. On occasion, you may even need to set a maximum time commitment as well or they may start living in your offices seven days a week. Real world experience is what they crave, so do not deprive interns from this if they made the cut to stay and learn.
Where to find that Who
While some job boards have some internships posted, this is not necessarily the best place to get interns with a particular educational background. I would recommend researching the top schools/colleges/universities which have the right programs. In the case of Digital Asset Management, the top schools with digital librarianship and information science programs can yield the basic skill set you are looking for. Why? Because they love to catalog and sort things like digital assets. That is likely a need for your organization and a want from them. Name me another group who gets excited about that. Not many. Who else are you going to find whose heart rate increases in excitement when you tell them there is metadata to find, sort and match to respective digital assets. This is not a bad trait to have. Be careful not to mistaken physical cataloging like traditional librarians with digital cataloging of assets. Many librarians who are paying attention to the job market are noticing the shift from physical cataloging to digital cataloging, but they need to learn new digital skills. Those in schools where they teach them these things are key. Otherwise, it requires enrichment outside of school which is highly recommended to move beyond the theory and into practice itself. The fact that many library schools do not teach digital librarianship and information science today is a really big issue which I hear many students complaining about, but that will be addressed later in a future blog post.
Here are the best places to post internships to actually find interns you may want and need:
- Some professional associations have online job information banks available which may take internship postings as well.
- LinkedIn Groups with specific interest in “Digital Asset Management” are a great places to post if they have a large member base.
- Post internships within the networks of the top schools in your region or in the country. Contact the school itself and find out how to post internships on their listserv or online internship database.
- Some Meetup groups have internship postings, but this only works if there are many members
What NOT to use an intern for
There have been a few postings for internships at a couple organizations who were looking for unpaid interns to implement their Digital Asset Management system. I could write a novel on how many ways that will fail. Common sense will tell you that A) I do not need to write much more about this provided you are thinking beyond a budget discussion and B) realize what you are asking them to do.
Even if you have the most talented intern ever seen, how long will they be there? 10-12 weeks or about 3 months is common for many internships because they are temporary workers. They are often far less experienced as well. As mentioned before, DAM is not a temporary task. It should not be a temporary, unscalable solution either. DAM is far more than software and storage.
Consistency and continuity are key things to remember when implementing a DAM, but these are not really options when using interns. Especially, if they are cycled in and out every few months.
When implementing a DAM, it takes a large effort from many parties within an organization to understand and decide across multiple layers of options. There is no ‘out-of-the-box’ COTS DAM for an entire department or organization ready to use as soon as you pay for it. If you think you found an off-the-shelf DAM, you are likely looking at an image/video/audio browser. Not a DAM. Otherwise, someone is lying to you.
Having an intern (who is usually at the absolute bottom of the organizational chart, as if they were even plotted) try to focus the scope, work on requirements/expectations, keep schedules, maintain budgets and discuss this with the highest ranks within the organization to get sign off for decisions is not likely going to happen. Decisions need to come from top down, not bottom up, anyhow. Otherwise, we invite scope creep with open arms, instead of any completed project.
Feedback on DAM is needed as well, but if an intern is there for 12 weeks, there will be little time to collect, process, analyze or do anything useful with this feedback or testing.
Where do you find your Digital Asset Management interns?
January 31, 2013 at 12:09 PM
Great piece, Henrick. I also highly recommend students from Graduate Library programs. These will have eager students who are looking for these kinds of experiences and are being trained in a number of the disciplines that Henrick discussed, tagging, metadata & thesaurus development. I came from that sort of background myself. If you are in the US, this list of schools might be helpful to you, they are the accredited Library and Information Science programs from the American Library Association.
February 3, 2013 at 1:11 PM
I’m a student in a relatively large information science program, and I definitely agree that department listservs (for departments relevant to digital asset management) are a great place to find DAM interns. The internships that get posted on my department’s listserv are highly competitive. Many organizations stop taking applications within the week due to the high volume of responses.
The subjects that my deaprtment focuses on (metadata, systems analysis and design, information classification) seem highly relevant to DAM, yet I never see postings for digital asset management internships on the listserv. I would guess this is because many organizations aren’t aware of what information science is or that these programs exist, but they are a great resource for qualified, interested interns.