I am the luckiest woman alive. I have been accepted onto a two week internship with a global publisher. That’s two whole weeks working with books – actual novels – and it’s going to set me on the ladder, properly. On an actual step. This time.
It is actually my fourth internship in the last three months, but the other three were just small independents. This is there real deal. Hopefully by the end of the fortnight, I will have made some contacts which may potentially lead to a prospective interview, somewhere with… Someone. It will. Hopefully.
I must look smart and professional. I have spent the rest of my wages on today’s outfit after rent came out. This is money earned from a waitressing job I have in the evenings and on weekends, I have it to fund the internships.
Today I am wearing a black skirt with a pink blouse. I enter the building to said publisher. All along the walls of reception are photographs of their most prominent and established authors. I think I silently make an ‘ooooh!’ face. Perhaps I will have the opportunity to make their coffee or tea for one of them when they pop in for their weekly meeting with their editor. I wonder what Salman Rushdie drinks…
‘Sorry, can I help you?’ The receptionist is looking at me expectantly.
‘Oh, yes, sorry…’ I tell her, a bit surprised she isn’t looking out for their new intern. I know they do really value our input to their business, even though they can’t pay us, but they do appreciate us. One past CEO I worked for said that he thought his business would fall apart if it weren’t for his interns. He meant it too. I could tell by the way he said it. ‘I’m here for an internship in publicity.’
‘Oh, hang on…’ The phone rings and she picks it up. She impatiently waves me into a seat in the reception area. After three and a half minutes she hangs up, asks for my name, types it into the system, tells me there is no record of my name, I tell her there should be, she tells me there is not but she’ll double check, she makes a phone call, rolls her eyes, hangs up, sighs, says, ‘nope, no record, but you’re here now so we’ll squeeze you in somewhere. Publicity you said?’ She types away. ‘Nope, they’ve got too much on today to have to worry about looking after you, I’ll put you on mail outs so you’ll be in the postal room for this morning at least.’
YES! I’m in! I was always in, just so you know, but there was a moment there where I might not have been in.
This was the job description (in short): ‘We are looking for an intelligent graduate to assist in day-to-day duties within a busy and exciting publishing environment. You will liaise with best selling authors on a daily basis. Candidates must possess a minimum of three months experience in the publishing industry. You must have achieved no lower than a 2.1 at university in order to be considered for this role. The position is unpaid but we will, as a generous gesture, pay for travel costs upon receipt approval. Candidates must have impeccibal grammar.
The Actual Job
I am introduced to a Taiwanese man called Bob in the basement. He is wearing a jump suit and looks at what I’m wearing with pity. ‘Dahling, I don’t think you want to be wearing those clothes for this job.’ There’s not much I can do though, although I do have my waitressing clothes in my bag for my shift after work, I’m still dead-set on making my best first impression. Besides, I think I’m only here this morning, by this afternoon, they’ll have me back in the office when they essentially will need me. I do have a First Class honours degree in English Literature after all. Somebody will see this when they find my resume under the latest author manuscript, and they will say ‘ahhh there it is! Maybe we should check out the intern’s thoughts on the new Amis proof – her dissertation was on his work. Actually there is a job in editorial I might put her forward-‘
‘Dahling! Can you help me with this?’ Bob is struggling with a 10kg mail bag which replicates the size of himself, so I run to help him.
The first job Bob allows me to help him with is sorting out the mail into departments. It’s not too laborious really and I do use my brain for some of the work. It’s also a fantastic way to learn the key names of staff in each department.
Our next job is mail outs. The most exciting part of this is that I get to meet Rita from publicity. She gives me some stickers with the addresses of her media contacts printed on to save me the effort of writing them all out, which I thought was really kind of her. She apologises for the earlier mix up and says she will try to find me space upstairs in publicity at some point this week, hopefully even by Wednesday. At least somewhere with a window. She laughs. I laugh. Bob does not laugh.
The mail outs take a few more hours and Rita comes to get me for lunch. There is an embarrassing moment where I think she is taking me out for lunch, but this is soon resolved and I blushingly shuffle outside to eat my homemade sandwich,
After lunch, I finish my mail outs and I don’t have anything left to do. I don’t know where Bob is so I decide to venture upstairs to publicity to find Rita. I see her through the glass walls of her office, she is with a man with grey hair, perhaps an author?
I don’t want to interrupt the meeting, so I awkwardly hover outside, waiting. A tall, thin lady with bags under her eyes hurries past but then stops dead in her tracks.
‘Who are you?’
‘Hi, I work here. I’m the new intern, I was just looking for another job-‘
‘Ah. Ah, ah, ah.’ She is wiggling her finger at me as if I am a misbehaving infant and have gotten my ABC’s wrong. ‘You. Do. Not. Work. Here. You are an intern. You only ‘work here’ if you are good enough to get paid to work here. Interns do not work here. They are the few privileged who we allow to learn from us. And you appear to be disrupting the office environment, so please, as I understand you were allocated to the basement, return to this location and Rita will see to you when she is ready. If I find you disrupting any more author meetings, I will have you removed from the premises.’
I retire to the basement, where I spend the rest of the day waiting for 5.30 to arrive so I can escape and go to work at the restaurant. Tomorrow is a new day …
What’s your experience with publishing intern work? Or any intern work for that matter. Let us know your thoughts below.