Thomas Pineau-Valencienne combined his interests in business and classics interning at Book and Paper Toronto to expand his writing, sales, and communication skills in a remote setting.
How did you get your internship?
As unlikely as it sounds, I got my internship by requesting an introduction through a personal contact. I initially met my site supervisor with my parents when I accompanied them to purchase an antique map. At that time, I had an opportunity to have a lengthy conversation with the person who later became my site supervisor -- she took time to show me her inventory which I found fascinating. I didn’t know it at the time when I met her, but this initial introduction and conversation was all I needed to reach out many years later via email to ask about an internship opportunity. The owner was very happy that her company and business made an impression on me and felt my background in classics was a good fit for her position as a summer research intern.
Why did you choose this internship?
Internships are much more than an opportunity to fill your resume; they allow you to experience different work environments and the impact it will have on your life and on that of your community. With this in mind, I sought an internship that would bridge my interest in business and classics, as unlikely as this might sound. What I found opened a door to a world I didn’t know existed, all driven by the same passion for history and its preservation.
What kind of work did you do throughout your internship experience?
Most of the work during my internship involved filing digital files of texts and prints by date, origin, and date. It was interesting work but also could also be repetitive and require intense attention to detail. I learned how to use a new digital editing platform and write information sheets about texts that would be used for client sales. My work was remote, and once trained I felt able to complete the tasks requested. I learned after many hours of work that there was a great sense of accomplishment knowing my work would be used by other members of my team.
What did you find challenging about your internship?
I had no idea what to expect during my internship. I have never been exposed to what work life is like in art or rare books, so I was a bit nervous at the beginning of my experience. Despite this, I found the team more than happy to offer guidance and answer questions on tasks that were unclear. This helped me to adapt quickly and learn how to complete the tasks requested.
What was the most significant contribution you made?
The most significant contribution I made was getting thousands of digital files of ancient texts and prints sorted in digital files. Having gone many years with this outstanding task incomplete, it was becoming very challenging for the business to quickly locate digital images of inventory and sold pieces. The impact of my work will be long lasting as it will allow for a better workflow, and save the team time and support search and retrieval, which had been a daily problem before this. I find it very satisfying knowing the work I did this summer will be used and will positively impact their work life.
How has your internship experience influenced your plans for your future?
Post graduation I assumed I would work in finance. As graduation has approached however, I have been less sure about this path. My internship choices have allowed me to explore work experiences in both finance and applied humanities. Having just completed my first of two internships, I better understand and appreciate the impact internships can have on future chosen paths. I have gained valuable experience in a niche area of business driven by a collective passion for history. In September I will step into the world of finance, and these experiences will help to guide my path post-graduation.
What advice do you have for other students as they search for their internship?
I encourage you to be open to different internship experiences. Try for at least two internships in different areas where the work life tasks don't resemble each other. You will learn an enormous amount about yourself, what work environments suit you, and maybe even what you don't want to do in the future. Don't think you can’t or won't find people willing to give you a chance, they are out there! After getting a lot of rejection letters, I changed my approach, reaching out to people personally, as unlikely as it sounds, that opened doors to opportunities I was surprised to find.