You’re in your junior year now and are thinking about looking for an internship in publishing. I don’t want to discourage you, but I have some advice that will prepare you for the reality of working in a large publishing house.
1) The big six houses are corporations. Accept the reality that there is paperwork, mundane procedures, and it is a desk job. Wear comfortable shoes and bring deodorant to the office because you will spend the summer hiking up and down stairs fetching manuscripts from the one functioning printer (which will be a different printer every day).
2) You might feel the pressure of being easily replaced due to the competitive nature of publishing. This might cause you to take on more work or to stay extra hours. Have the courage to tell your employer your limits. Never give your employer your personal email address. Anticipate wanting to throw your smart phone away so you won’t feel pressured to answer a work email received at 10AM on a Saturday.
3) Don’t expect to make a lot of money. Remember you are working because you love the printed word and discovering great stories. Work for your passion, not for money.
4) Accept that you will spend a lot of time behind a computer. To busy your hands while staring at the monitor, you will eat too much chocolate and your co-worker’s bag of salt-water taffy, so expect to gain some weight.
5) Ask questions. Introduce yourself to your coworkers and to save yourself from awkward silences, remember their names. Even if they work in sales or marketing, ask questions. Never stop learning. Knowledge is your paycheck.
6) Keep in touch with your employer after the internship ends. Don’t be shy about asking for referrals. Let them know what you’re up to. They will be less likely to forget you and more likely to remember that you are looking for a job.
7) Ask questions during the interview. Research the company beforehand. Ask specifics about their books (you should already know what they are). If you need it, as for a travel/lunch stipend during the interview. Some employers don’t even think to offer this or know what it is. They don’t know you need it unless you ask.
8) Apply for internships EARLY. Publishing houses fill summer internship positions in January/February (sometimes earlier). This advice might save you from the soul crushing monotony that was my first internship (the only one I could find still accepting applications).
9) Apply for jobs LATE and make sure you live in New York. Jobs fill up within 2-3 days. They won’t wait for you to move to New York and publishing primarily exists here. Maybe you can move back to the country later in life.
10) For all the things you have to accept now, remember that if you work hard, someday you might be in a position where you can change those things for the better. Publishing is radically changing. You can be a part of that change if you learn how it works, which will give you ideas on how it can be improved.
Yes, Kim (Age 21), you still will want to work in publishing even after two less than amazing internships. Our internship now is the best one we’ve ever had. It’s not without it’s challenges, though. After a year of interning, you will have learned that you want to work for a small, flexible company (the large companies are frustrating inefficient in this digital age). You even dream about being your own boss. You will have also learned that you don’t want to live in Manhattan and slow walking tourists are your pet peeve.
Wishing You Hope and Courage,
Kim (Age 22)
~Kim Naples, FCRH, 2013