Internship Diaries

How This Art History Major Beat Out Grad Students for Her Architecture Internship

What do you do when you’re up against grad students and people with advanced degrees when you’re looking for an internship? Rafaela Brosnan shares how she used her connections to find a job for the summer, and what she wishes she had done earlier to differentiate herself in such a competitive pool. She’s finding a way to apply her classroom experience to the corporate world on her way to following her dreams of being a curator.

Name: Rafaela Brosnan

Job Title: Marketing Student Associate, Legat Architects

Location: Chicago’s West Loop

College: University of Chicago

Year: Third year

Major: Art History, Near Eastern Art and Archaeology

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What are you doing this summer?

Legat Architects has 4 offices across the midwest, and they generally do designs associated with schools (preK-universities) and healthcare. I’m working with their marketing team to do any odd jobs, such as organizing online files and pictures or helping research potential clients. I also get to participate in weekly meetings and really get a taste of what it looks like to be a part of a marketing department.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would love to work as a curator in an art or history museum eventually, but that requires a PhD, so along the way, I want to explore different job sectors in art and archaeology, such as working in a gallery or doing research. Many art history majors do end up in marketing, so this experience may help me find a job after graduation before I really kick off my career goals.

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Rafaela on her commute!

How did you get your internship?

My dad works with Legat Architects, so when he heard their marketing team needed help, he recommended me. I gave them a resume and a cover letter, but I do think his connection helped seal the deal.

What do you wish you had known during your internship search?

I did not realize how competitive art-related internships at museums and galleries would be – I was up against graduate students and people with advanced degrees for many of the positions I applied for. I wish I had gotten started earlier than winter/spring in looking for positions and made more use of on-campus resources, like professors or the Smart Museum of Art.

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Rafaela on her way to work.

What does a day in the life look like?

My commute from Hyde Park is about an hour, so I sometimes have to wait a while for the bus very early in the morning and spend about an hour on the L to arrive at work around 8 am. I dress semi-professionally, swapping jeans for heels, and I try to pack a lunch. Working in the west loop though, if I ever forget my lunch there are plenty of awesome restaurants within walking distance.

Some mornings, there are marketing/business development conference calls with other offices that I get to participate in. I do get my own set up at a desk with a larger monitor, a laptop, and my own phone, so it feels very official to me. I spend most of the day going through our computer files to organize them and attach them with project details in an online database called Cosential.

I typically add important contact information or photos of projects (like one attached of Chicago’s city hall). If there is an interview coming up, I research the project and clients as well as looking into the strengths of the competition to help the design leads to come up with the best strategy for their pitch.

Otherwise, I do any odd jobs for the others, who work on proposals, graphic design, or maintaining the website. It’s a supportive, close-knit office, so there are often team lunches or small get-togethers after work ends at 5pm.

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Rafaela’s desk!

How has this job changed what you see yourself doing in the future?

I am definitely more comfortable with what an office job and art-adjacent fields look like. While my ultimate goals are the same, I know what I might be doing between graduation and then. Plus, it’s great experience to have on my resume.

Featured image courtesy of Rhythm and Jews.

Hello! My name is Rosana Rabines! I'm a student, stationery enthusiast, and runner constantly reorganizing my life to make the most of my college experience in Chicago.

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