Mini Guide on Work Experience and Internships

Hey there fellow publishing enthusiast! If you’ve reached this post – it probably means you’re looking for some tips for your upcoming work experience or internship placement. Fear not, I’ve got quite a few notes to help you get ahead.

Since graduating in 2015 with my Creative Writing degree, I have undertaken many unpaid and a few paid placements – all within the books or arts industry. I went straight in as a super shy, self-conscious, confused book lover, and have since come out on the other end a little wiser, and a little surer of myself and my career path. I now work full time in a small publishing company and I am learning more and more each day. 

Looking back now, I have had time to self-reflect on my experiences, and I’ve realised that there were many things I could have/should have done differently. These reflections and notes I will be sharing with you as part of Work in Publishing week. These pieces of advice and tips are for those who are on their first or second placement and want to know what they can do to make the most of their experience. Although this post is generally aimed at the publishing or arts industry, these tips apply to all career paths, and anyone can apply them to their own experiences as they like.
Enough of my boring back story… Here are my tips and advice – please share with fellow publishing hopefuls and good luck on your placement!

Before your placement, it may work in your favour to ask your manager or member of the team if there is anything they would like you to do before your first day. For example, they may say have a look at their social channels or their website (which you should do anyway even if they don’t ask), or they may ask you to brush up on your knowledge on a particular subject. Either way, they will be impressed with your pro-active manner and will certainly keep you in mind for more creative/fun tasks. 

Take in your surroundings. Who are you sitting next to you? Are they from your department? What are they doing? What are they talking about? Pay attention to what is going around you – and soak up as much detail as you can. 

Be brave. Following on from the above point, be brave and introduce yourself to others if you’ve not been introduced already. Be friendly and put yourself out there – talk about your interests, your career dreams, your hobbies, your cat, dog, whatever, just talk and make yourself heard and not just seen! 

Speak up. You’ve got a really cool idea you want to pitch? Find the most relevant person and let your heart out. If you tell someone you think you’ve got an idea on a campaign or if there is a new way to go about something – chances are they’ll be interested in listening. Is there a self-published author you really like and people should know about? Is there a marketing campaign that another publisher has done and you want to suggest it to your current team? Is there a design style you think is trending? Do you have a solution to a problem? Whatever it is, just say it! 

Voice your concerns. If you feel you aren’t benefiting from your experience, or if you are not being given any more interesting tasks – just say you’d like to be more involved with this, that or the other. If you’re not sure what you’re exactly meant to be doing, ask someone to clarify.

Body language and communication. Make eye contact with others when not looking at your screen. Let others know that you are open for a different range of tasks and always happy to try new things. Don’t use your phone unless it’s for work. 

Look for opportunities beyond your team/department. If you are walking around the office or in the kitchen/canteen, find out what other people are doing – perhaps you may find other departments more interesting or intriguing. 

Create a list of things you want to achieve before your placement. Go back to that list after and tick off everything you feel you have done enough of.

At the end of each day, write down a quick list of what you have done, what you have enjoyed, least enjoyed, who you’ve met, any questions for the next day, any new targets… basically keep a little journal of your experience. It will come in good use one day!

Try to make friends/contacts you can go back to when you leave. Perhaps with other interns or with people in their first job. Create a support network of people who are in the same boat as you or have had the same experience as you. Stay in touch after your placement – there were many people I met, chatted to and made friends with on my placement but failed to stay in touch which does sadden me sometimes!

Tempt your team mates with chocolate or any other food. Everyone loves it when you bring in food etc. It also makes a good conversation starter if you bring in something different. Offer to do something for another team member if you see them struggling or if they voice their concerns. Try and be as helpful and supportive as you can.

Your placement can be daunting, especially for introverts and naturally quiet people. So if you can’t do all of the above in your first placement – just at least try to wiggle yourself out of your comfort zone and try something new each day. You will often be pleasantly surprised with the result, and will soon discover yourself becoming more and more confident. 

And that is it for now! Before I sign off, here are just a few CV/cover letter tips which I’m sure you’ve read before, but here it is anyway…

CVs – one or two full sides. Keep it neat and consistent. Keep it simple and easy to read. Use bullet points. Your personal summary at the top should list key skills and achievements (again use bullet points for this, and don’t write in first person). Your work experience placement should be first, and then your educational achievements after, with a small section for hobbies at the end. List any external links such as portfolios and blogs. My pet peeve on CVs is when people put a picture of them on it. Just don’t. No one cares what you look like unless it’s a modelling job. Once you build up experience, take out any irrelevant experience from your CV that does not apply to the job you are applying to.

Cover letter – one side, short and punchy. Make sure to include your USP, and the experience that gave you the most relevant skills. Be polite and formal, and do not ramble on!

Okay, there it is. My mini guide on how to ace your internship!
Best of luck to everyone applying for jobs/internships in the New Year – keep persisting and never give up on your dreams. You will get there one day.

(P.S – if anyone has any tips to add – please leave a comment below!)


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