by Dan Rudin

by Dan Rudin

How to get an internship that becomes a job offer

Each week, I get dozens of emails from people who are starting a career as an audio engineer.  Most have just finished a school program and are looking for entry level jobs or internships; some haven’t gone to school and are just looking for an opportunity to be in a studio and learn what they can.  Here are some thoughts on making that first step painless and successful.

For starters, it’s ideal if you can be in a situation where you are able to:

  • watch good, experienced people working on a daily basis
  • spend as much time yourself recording and using different gear and microphones.

Those are the things that schools really can’t give enough of, and they make a difference.  Watching pro’s practice the craft of making records teaches you not only about things like mic placement and signal flow, but also how to talk to clients and artists, how to negotiate rates and work hours, and in general how to provide a technical service in a creative situation.  Remember, RECORDING IS A SERVICE INDUSTRY.  A good studio is just like a hotel or restaurant providing clients with excellent, transparent service. Engineers are very much like the head chef or maitre de, carefully combining technique and creativity.  Observing how people communicate in the studio is a whole education in itself; what the engineer says and does when things are going well and how he tells people they need to improve a performance can make or break a creative mood.  That is a 6th sense you can only learn by being in session after session, whether your own gig or one you’re observing.

The hard truth is that there are not many studios left that have staff positions that can be filled by newbies, and there is a LOT of competition for the few that are left.  Like a lot of industries, most studio hiring is now done from the intern pool… because you get to know your interns well, hiring them is less risky. Getting a good internship and doing a great job as an intern have become more important than ever.  So, how do you get your first studio position?

There are a few things that you can do to improve your chances of a good start, and they happen to be the same few things that, when they become habit, will help you manage your career as it grows.

  • Be remarkable.  I know, it sounds cheesy.  But identifying your strengths and learning how to let others know about your talents is very valuable.  That’s what youtube success is… doing something remarkable and getting it out there for people to see.  People talk about and share remarkable things.  You don’t have to make a video, just know and be able to share the things that you are really into or great at…. the things that make you unique.
  • Make a job for yourself.  Diversity, being open to combining skills to make a brand new job for yourself is most likely the future of employment. You can take your “remarkableness” and turn it into a job (or opportunity).  Last year  I hired someone as an assistant engineer at my studio because of all the skills he brings with him; he’s a great engineer and musician, but also can write code (helped me build 2 websites) and loves learning about electronics (helped me build 6 mic pres).  He brings skills and willingness to share those skills, that will get you a job!
  • Spell check.  Really.  There is a saying in the business world; “dress for the job you want”.  I say TYPE for the job you want.  If you want to be a pro or taken seriously for a job that others are applying for, then you have to write a quality cover letter.  It’s way more important than your resume because it is your only chance for a first impression (I hardly ever read a resume… I’d rather have you tell me what you’ve been doing).  Poor spelling and grammar makes it look like you don’t care enough to crack a dictionary. Why would I think you’d care enough to do your job?
  • Be independently wealthy. Well, this one is optional, but it helps. Entry level positions rarely pay more than minimum wage, and you can be in one for quite a while before moving up.  So if you have a free or cheap place to live or perhaps someone willing to help you with money for a year or two (Mom? Dad?…) it helps take some pressure off.  Most importantly, the less you have to worry about brining in money, the more time you can spend finding bands and artists to work with on your own, either at home or during studio down-time.  Pursuing your passion; that is when you do the most learning.

In part 2, I’ll talk in more detail about what is expected of you once you get in the door

Good luck! Dr.D

My good friend Richard Dodd is a great engineer. Are you next?

My good friend Richard Dodd is a great engineer with a career full of hits. Are you next?

One Response to “Advice for new recording engineers (part 1)”

  1. […] In part 1, I talked about how to approach a first job opportunity. In this installment we’ll look at what is expected of you in your new job and, more importantly, how you might exceed those expectations. […]

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