My name is Maria and I am an intern.
Internships have been under a lot of scrutiny lately. I can’t begin to count the number of recent articles that argue against the value of internships. Interns are overworked. Interns are underpaid (or not paid at all). Interns are given meaningless tasks.
All of these things may be true. People have lived through real-life nightmares as they try to complete an internship. Some interns do spend their days purchasing coffee and photocopying paper. However, the stigma attached to interning is somewhat unnecessary. Not every position is a waste of time and energy.
While some industries have internship positions that are quite useless (I’ll refrain from mentioning names or fields), others choose to go the internship route for a very specific reason: it’s truly the only way to learn.
I love my internships. I am an intern for two wonderful literary agencies and I work closely with some incredible agents. Completing internship assignments are often the best parts of my day. You may think I’m a nerd, but receiving an email with a new project makes me giddy. Without going through the trials of interning, I wouldn’t know for sure that I want to work in publishing – and I certainly wouldn’t have the skills to do so.
An internship takes time. They are mostly unpaid, so you need to weigh the positives and the negatives of having very little money for an undetermined amount of time (depending on how long you’re willing to be an intern). If you live in a major city with publishing houses and literary agencies, certainly apply to work in an office. I would love to be able to go to an office every day and see my bosses (better thought of as mentors) in action. Unfortunately for me (and, truthfully, for most people in North America), that isn’t an option. You’ll be happy to know that there are remote internships and these positions are actually quite common in the publishing industry. You’re wrong if you think a remote internship isn’t worth your time and effort.
I am still learning, regardless of the fact that I complete my internships from the comfort of my own home (I love having the ability to wear my Super Mario Bros pajamas while responding to emails or reading manuscripts in bed). As I mentioned, I work with some lovely people. I’m given assignments that force me to learn new skills and explore behind-the-scenes of the industry. You can also make wonderful connections. Not only do I work with specific agents, but I also get the chance to stalk editors (only online – if you’re an editor, I will not be creeping outside of your office window) and interact with the writing community (I have no idea how writers do it, but I sure am glad that they do). Not to mention the amazing manuscripts and proposals I get to read before anyone else.
I didn’t have many expectations when I started my internships. Upon reflection, I am so happy that I gave it a shot. (Even if my bank account is less than enthused.) My brain is crawling with knowledge (does that phrase gross out anyone else?) and I’m excited to discover what else my training has in store.
I highly recommend completing an internship if you want to get a job in any realm of publishing. While it is hard work (and the fun stuff probably won’t happen until you’ve proven yourself), the hard work pays off. You will learn. You will make connections. You will have fun.
Please leave a comment, send me an email (maria at mariavicente dot com), or pester me on Twitter if you have any questions about publishing internships (or if you want to simply say hello).