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Interning while earning graduate degree?
Old 7th May 2006
  #1
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Interning while earning graduate degree?

I'm looking for perspective from some of you that hire interns. I'm about a year away from getting my doctorate in biochemistry. While I'm going to complete the degree, I feel tremendous pressure to at least try my hand in the recording industry as an enginneer. The science isn't doing it for me these days. Engineering is what really gets me up in the morning.

So, I've come a across a potential opportunity--a very good one--to intern at a local studio. I haven't really discussed much with the folks there except to tell them that I'm looking for an internship, am 33 years old, professional and am willing to answer phones, make coffee and do whatever I can to help them out.

The downside of course is that I'm working on my doctorate. My time is limited, but my schedule is flexible. I could give these folks my weekends and evenings.

Would this be at all attractive to them as a studio? I'm not looking to get an internship to sit around, but to learn as much as possible and help them out as much as possible. I intend to work very hard finishing up my degree and doing the best job I can for them.

How should I broach this issue of being in grad school? Should I wait until I'm done with my degree? Just wondering, again, if I'd still be an attractive candidate.

Oh, I do have some experience recording, but need to learn a lot of the fundamentals, and have some business experience.

Any candid input is greatly appreciated.
Old 7th May 2006
  #2
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The very nature of the studio business is ensuring that clients can record when they need to and can count on a studio being able to go the extra mile in order to meet their deadlines. The hours are always very long, stressful and unpredictable.

I've learned to always choose people who are totally committed to a recording engineering career over "better qualified" people who aren't.
Old 7th May 2006
  #3
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Thanks Bob for the perspective. That certainly makes a lot of sense.
Old 7th May 2006
  #4
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Jeez, take that PhD and go into venture capital and make TONS of money...

Then buy yourself all the toys you want!

Interning is a good idea though in the meantime to learn a lot...
Old 7th May 2006
  #5
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TheJook,

That's what I'm hoping to do is learn a lot in the meantime as I finish up school. I'm hoping to craft a win-win situation for the studio and me. Would love to try to get some business in the door for this studio as well.
Old 7th May 2006
  #6
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I'd act as a salesperson for the studio. Bring in business and help out on those sessions. You might even work into co-producing with the engineer. That role might be a better fit than being an intern.
Old 7th May 2006
  #7
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilkinswp
TheJook,

That's what I'm hoping to do is learn a lot in the meantime as I finish up school. I'm hoping to craft a win-win situation for the studio and me. Would love to try to get some business in the door for this studio as well.
Go for it...hell, I did that as an undergrad in Biology...

Not the same (at ALL!) as the tremendous undertaking you took, but you should be somewhat flexible as to your hours if you're that late in your studies, no?

Really, the best situation is to be able to do it when you want, where you want. Working for clients sucks. Being able to pick only the projects that interest you will make it the most fun hobby you could have. In the meantime, a PhD in biochemistry offers a LOT of opportunities if you are burned out from academia or lab science. I work in the biotech industry myself, and most of my collegues with PhDs are working on the business side of things, making their own hours and doing whatever they want. And making a lot of money at it.

Hell, take a couple years off if you can after you finish, and just have fun. Intern under someone you admire, and you'll never forget the experience (I didn't...I interned at Gravity Studios, worked at another studio under an amazing producer/engineer, and I owe everything I know today to my ears and their mentoring).
Old 7th May 2006
  #8
A limit on your available time is going to be a put a downer on the internship prospects..

I hired an 18 year old a while back, when ever I call and ask if he is available - he pretty much says - "Yep!"

But I have to seriously question one part of your opening post... When you say you could only do evenings and weekends.. at this late stage in your studies - do you really have to attend college 9-5? five days a week? Or is this a work schedule you have set for yourself? Cause I thought you doctorate types just cycled in about once a week wearing a scarf and had a 1/2 hour chat with a tutor in a garish sweater, hush puppy's & corduroy trousers.. and then spent the rest of the time at home banging away at a laptop doing the "thesis" .... Hmm er.....bio chemistry eh.. perhaps there is a lot of practical stuff you need to do for that?..er...

If you ARE in charge of your own schedule - then I would offer the studio this -

'flexi time' - two sold days (24 hours per day if required!) per week (any days - they pick them according to the studio diary & when they need your help) + the willingness to "drop stuff" - if they really need you on an important session to do 3 days, even 4.

That's pretty much the deal I have with my intern, (different situation obviously) he's in a recording / media course - but his tutors know that he's really learning the sh!t when he is on real sessions - so they cut him some slack if he needs school days off (he attends school Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) If we are quiet I like to get him in at least one day to keep the place tidy + he's always nipping in to work on his course work projects etc in down time / weekends..

I would not suggest you offer 'half days'(evenings only) to them. Or ever give the impression that "weekends may be a problem"

But see what others say here and obviously, do what you think is best for you and your situation,

Good luck!

Last edited by Jules; 7th May 2006 at 11:14 PM..
Old 7th May 2006
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by thejook
, but you should be somewhat flexible as to your hours if you're that late in your studies, no?
OK I am the 2nd person busting your chops for this... Whats the deal with the 'weekends and evenings"?

Old 7th May 2006
  #10
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Unless the studio in question is offering you time in the rooms don't bother. I'm assuming you already know how to stock a fridge, clean a bathroom, and make good coffee.

Most big studios will abuse you till you burn out and you'll only see the rooms when you go in to empty the trash.
Old 8th May 2006
  #11
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Thanks everyone for the insight so far.

I must clarify where I am with my education. My finishing up my graduate degree still requires 40 to 50 plus hours in the laboratory running experiments. It's virtually a job. I'm paid to go to school, but must produce and become an independent researcher. It's hardcore. Yet, I can run these experiments when I want, but they are ongoing experiments and can last several days or so.

So, my time is likely not as flexible as it needs to be I'm gathering. My intention though is to be upfront with this with these folks from my first meeting with them.

I'm starting to feel that I should develop a positive rapport with this studio from the get go and perhaps finish my studies first. However, I could offer them what I can do and see if they bite. If not, perhaps when I'm done or when I have vacation time, I can intern.
Old 8th May 2006
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wilkinswp
Thanks everyone for the insight so far.

I must clarify where I am with my education. My finishing up my graduate degree still requires 40 to 50 plus hours in the laboratory running experiments. It's virtually a job. I'm paid to go to school, but must produce and become an independent researcher. It's hardcore. Yet, I can run these experiments when I want, but they are ongoing experiments and can last several days or so.

So, my time is likely not as flexible as it needs to be I'm gathering. My intention though is to be upfront with this with these folks from my first meeting with them.

I'm starting to feel that I should develop a positive rapport with this studio from the get go and perhaps finish my studies first. However, I could offer them what I can do and see if they bite. If not, perhaps when I'm done or when I have vacation time, I can intern.
I find your post very interesting since I am in a somewhat similar situation myself. I, too, have wondered about soliciting an "intern" like position but I do not have the time to commit to being the typical cheap/slave labour nor would I necessarily put myself in a toilet scrubibng position knowing my time could be better used. I have thought about trying to get some sort of arrangement where I can "shadow" or observe an engineer or producer. I imagine a situation where I would be willing to put what free time I have into being present in the studio and helping out as much as possible without any other compensation other than allowing my presence and hopefully the learining that would ensue. So, the arrangement would be rather casual but hopefully mutually beneficial (I would not want to be "in the way"). I wonder how those who run studios feel about something like this?
Old 8th May 2006
  #13
I don't know about anyone else but the words 'observe' 'shadow' or 'sit in on a session' all have a 'non working' ring about them to me.

So I would avoid using them when talking to a studio owner. - I always never liked them.

I would try not to get uber wrapped up in, or be too transparent about your horror of the "typical cheap/slave labour" or "toilet scrubbing position" issues and would instead use phrases like 'would be very keen to make myself useful, make coffee, run to the store, help set stuff up and tear down afterwards etc etc - all clear indications that you aren't planning on just sitting there scratching your chin 'observing' or whatever - but are very willing to put your back into the session and be an active and useful part of it.

Don't lose sight that recording is an expensive treat for musicians - and many wont take too kindly to a non working 'tourist' just sitting there in the room with them on their big day and studio owners are acutely aware of this from a client "recording experience satisfaction" point of view.

There are some tips for you from a mean as mustard, jaded studio owner - who gets asked this sort of question often. Take em or leave em.
Old 8th May 2006
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilkinswp
I can run these experiments when I want, but they are ongoing experiments and can last several days or so
Could you for example run them on the weekend and work some weekdays for the studio if needs be?

Be flexible?
Old 8th May 2006
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
Could you for example run them on the weekend and work some weekdays for the studio if needs be?

Be flexible?
Jules,

This is really good info you're sharing. I, for one, really don't mind making coffee or whatever. Loading in drums and helping with mics would all be totally cool.

And, I could work some weekdays and do my experiments on the weekends.

My girlfriend just had a good point and mentioned that, for me, my interest in recording is not a "fleeting obsession." I've invested a ton of money on gear, have taken the courses offered at the Recording Workshop in Ohio--yet, I don't begin to believe that these courses prepare one to run a session--and have briefly interned before at another studio.

And now I'm being told it is time for me to go to bed. . . .

Last edited by wilkinswp; 8th May 2006 at 05:41 AM.. Reason: add info
Old 8th May 2006
  #16
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Rednose's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson
The very nature of the studio business is ensuring that clients can record when they need to and can count on a studio being able to go the extra mile in order to meet their deadlines. The hours are always very long, stressful and unpredictable.

I've learned to always choose people who are totally committed to a recording engineering career over "better qualified" people who aren't.
I would look for a studio that can accomadate your schedule.
Ussually if your willing to work for free/cheap you can find a place if your in a big city.
I have a small but busy studio and I advertised on Craigs List.
I found some amazingly capable interns.
Its part time, if they cant make it, I have a list of others that can.
Try craigs list.
I think you can find a studio that will let you help out.
Matt
Old 8th May 2006
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by wilkinswp
I, for one, really don't mind making coffee or whatever. Loading in drums and helping with mics would all be totally cool.

And, I could work some weekdays and do my experiments on the weekends.
OK pre interview progress here for sure.. thumbsup

2 solid days "flexi time" + the occasional extra day is an attractive prospect in this day and age IMHO.

Offer that.. Just DON'T 'frame it' with ANY date restrictions at all. Flex-i-ble hitt

If they say - "OK lets give it a go, how about next Wednesday?" even if you were busy - say "OK!" and rearrange your time to make it. (if I were you)

Good luck!

Last edited by Jules; 8th May 2006 at 04:58 PM..
Old 8th May 2006
  #18
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Thanks Jules and everyone else for the advice.
Old 8th May 2006
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jules
I don't know about anyone else but the words 'observe' 'shadow' or 'sit in on a session' all have a 'non working' ring about them to me.

That feedback is right on, Jules. Of course my intent would be to work and contribute to the session. I just didn't know how to present such an interest knowing that I am not seeking a traditional intern role as most understand it and how some might expect it (no money, toilet scrubbing, infinite availability).
Old 9th May 2006
  #20
Lives for gear
How about this for your interview:

"Hi, I'm a PhD in Biochemistry and so I'm obviously looking to work at a recording studio when I'm done. Knowing how the various enzymes in different creamers act with the acidity of the coffee (and not to mention the variable temperature of the water!) means that I, Dr. Intern, will make a *damn* good cup of coffee. Do you have a bunsen burner? You will now..."

Make sure you show up in your lab coat and safety goggles...having an exaggerated, "just blew something up in the lab" frizzy hair a la Einstein would help the stereotype along. A conspicuous green stain on your coat is also a plus. A patch cable hanging out of your pocket would tie it all in, though.

Seriously though, as long as they can count on you to be there when you say you will, I can't think of a studio in the world that wouldn't want someone who has the maturity and intellect of someone with a doctorate. My experience with interns has always been that most of them are morons who flunked out of junior college and decided that music was their life and that this was the legitimate way to do it (even though they were 'selling out' and made sure they carried that bad attitude with them whenever it came time that we needed them to be useful).

The advantage of having an educated, intelligent person next to you at the board would make *every* session more fun and the fact that you went through such a rigorous academic program (unless, of course, you're going to the Hollywood Upstairs School of Biochemistry, too) means that you know how to open your ears and be unobtrusive, and have a good work ethic.

Just make sure you're honest and open with the studio owner so he can get past the fact that you're egregiously overqualified (and in most cases, this means a flight risk). I'd explain that you're not trying to 'work your way through the ranks' like most interns, that you just want to help out and learn, and that way he won't think you're being unrealistic in your goals.

Best of luck!!

The Jook
Old 9th May 2006
  #21
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Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

I think the only way an intern can really learn anything is by being present for entire projects.

It's about learning a set of priorities and learning how to respond to a variety of situations that come up. This is a combination of both people skills and having a deep bag of technical tricks to draw from. It's learning why engineers make the choices we make.

Many clients also really want to see the very same personnel at every session. They are forming a collaborative team with the studio personnel and new or part-time personalities can be very distracting. Never forget that our clients are generally putting their careers on the line for every recording session.
Old 10th May 2006
  #22
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Thanks everyone. . .

for all of the helpful advice. I had an interview with the folks at the studio and was granted an internship. Since, they are pretty booked, they have 14 different shifts a week. One during the day and one from early evening until midnight every day. I'm working a day during the weekend and one evening during the week.

Scheduling seems to be working out.
Old 11th May 2006
  #23


They may 'test' you a little on these two trial days, scowl at the gopher tasks at your peril..

If simple tasts are greeted with rolled eyes and a "DOH! I aint THAT stupid!" responce each time - it gets to be a drag. Its hard for an employer to know exactly just what an intern DOES know already, so it is safer for them to assume the worst..In those conditions an intern who keeps repeating "I know that already" like a scratched record is missing out on a subtle point (and so many miss this...) the employer or person charged with training, as well as imparting simple tasks - will be wanting to set out a blue print for how things are done at that facility - and a person rolling their eyes saying "I know, I know, I know" - will be missing the whole point - AS THAT'S SOMETHING THEY CANT POSSIBLY KNOW! (and will need to learn about)

So - Top tip - Simple tasks just need a simple "yep! OK" responce..

Last edited by Jules; 11th May 2006 at 12:24 AM..
Old 11th May 2006
  #24
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Thanks Jules! Great tips or tip rather! Hopefully one day I can do the same thing for others. You've been very helpful and for that I'm grateful.

I'm going to try to go in there and just let them train me as if I know nothing--and honestly I don't know anything.

By the way, if you have any other wisdom to share, I'm all eyes. . .
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