Although internships are in progress year round, spring and summer seem to be the busy season. So we thought we’d give the Chefs a rest this month and talk to people that have either been interns or have identified best practices in managing internship programs.
Back in 2015, Emma Brink discussed her internship at Wiley in her post “Internships: Where Everybody Wins!” She described an experience where she:
…was treated like a full-fledged employee, and better yet, my internship was treated as educational experience. Everyone made sure to answer all of my questions, to stop by after meetings and presentations and break down what was discussed. It was a group effort to make sure I was fully integrated into the team and the company.
This month we asked our respondents: How do internships add value for the individual, the organization, and our industry?
Let’s start with some best practices and then we’ll hear from the interns!
Simon Holt (Elsevier and SSP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee): Internships can either help people from diverse backgrounds to enter the publishing industry, or exclude them from doing so, depending on how they are set up. Several reports (see here and here) released in recent years highlight the publishing industry as a whole continues to suffer from a lack of diversity, from an ethnic, disability, and LGBT perspective. Several publishers have attempted to use internships as a mechanism to recruit candidates from non-diverse backgrounds. Pearson and Cell Press are two examples of publishers who have taken this approach.
- All internships longer than one month should be paid at least the national minimum wage
- Internship positions should be advertised publicly, rather than being filled informally
- Recruitment processes should be fair, transparent and based on merit
It is important to remember that interns are still employees in that they are doing work that will help the organization succeed. It is therefore unfair for an employer to profit from an employee’s work when the intern isn’t paid for it. Not paying means that candidates who cannot afford to work for free, or do not live very near the office are excluded from taking part, or have to take a 2nd job in the evenings, which may mean they are unable to make the most of their internship as they will be tired. Similarly, openly advertising internships allows people who don’t have an ‘in’ to the publishing industry through family or friends to enter the industry on their own merit, instead of their connections.
Internships can be really positive for both the employer and the intern, since they offer the employer a flavor of the intern, and the intern a flavor of the industry. I remember talking to my first boss in publishing several years ago, who said he only offered jobs to people who had done work experience or an internship, as it ‘showed commitment to the industry’. If internships are to remain a prerequisite for entry into the industry, however, it is vitally important that everyone is able to take part.
If internships are to remain a prerequisite for entry into the industry, however, it is vitally important that everyone is able to take part.
Joe Esposito: What seems to get lost in discussions of internships is that these positions are primarily intended to be instructional in nature. Too often people talk about bringing in an intern because it will be a low-cost (or no-cost!) way to get some repetitive task accomplished. Wrong!
The tasks should be designed to introduce young people to a field. This is especially important for publishing, which is not really a field that you can study for; it’s an industry built on apprenticeships. It takes time to work with an intern, not only correcting their work (inevitably) but also to explain why to do something one way and not the other. This is a much bigger, but hidden, cost than actually paying the interns — but you should pay them, too: don’t exploit young people.
The tasks should be designed to introduce young people to a field. This is especially important for publishing, which is not really a field that you can study for; it’s an industry built on apprenticeships.
Like support for First Amendment rights and strong copyright laws, training an intern is something that is part of one’s participation in the publishing community, even when there is no immediate or direct benefit. And if you don’t train young people, think of the (ill-advised) guidance they may get from others.
Stephanie Lovegrove Hansen (Silverchair): I got my start in publishing through an unpaid four-month internship at Milkweed Editions, a small but prestigious literary publisher in Minneapolis. The internship meant working obscenely early hours at a coffee shop before going to the press each day to make ends meet, but it launched my now 15-year career in publishing. As interns, we served as first readers for unsolicited manuscript submissions (deemed “Purgatory”), helped with fundraising campaigns, processed reviews, and helped promote readings. The benefit of interning at a small publisher is that we got to see the inner workings of every department and try our hand at a variety of roles.
I’ve brought that sense of experimentation to the internship programs I’ve overseen at UVA Press and now at Silverchair, providing interns a window into multiple departments to try on the ways their interests might manifest into a career.
As an organization, interns are an amazing resource for the types of projects we always wish we had more time for – deep dives into website and social media analytics, research into the best practices and innovations in other industries, and generally bringing a fresh eye to all our processes and messaging. Every intern brings different strengths, backgrounds, and interests, helping to support our long-term organizational goals while keeping us functioning efficiently and mindfully.
Every intern brings different strengths, backgrounds, and interests, helping to support our long-term organizational goals while keeping us functioning efficiently and mindfully.
Jessica Bowman (Wiley): I participated in a publishing internship program within the marketing department. The 10-week program gave me the chance to learn about marketing, corporate culture, and networking. Guest speakers shared insight on the publishing industry and department heads spoke about their team functions with my cohort. Those talks helped to contextualize the work I completed within the marketing team and motivated me to continue making an impact. At the end of the program, I was lucky to continue working with the same team on a part-time basis while I completed my undergraduate degree.
By the time I graduated, I was well-versed with the team’s needs, and seamlessly transitioned to full-time to fill an open position on the team. My experience as an intern provided opportunities to learn about the company and work with a global team, while growing as a professional. Interning helped grow my confidence in communicating with organization leaders and clients. I also learned the value of mentors and connected with colleagues who have continued to be my sounding board three years after joining the organization.
Interning helped grow my confidence in communicating with organization leaders and clients. I also learned the value of mentors and connected with colleagues who have continued to be my sounding board three years after joining the organization.
While the internship program gave me many opportunities to learn and grow, the program also benefited the company by training interns to understand company systems, culture, and clients early on. By the time I was ready to enter the workforce full-time, I had a solid foundational knowledge, so I was able to jump into projects right away, as opposed to spending weeks training and learning the business and industry.
Internships play a key role in recruiting talent in the publishing industry. Publishing newcomers can take the time to learn the intricacies of the industry, identify where their talents may be best suited, and come to understand the different stakeholders in the industry.
If you have the opportunity to participate in or offer an internship, I highly encourage you to do so.
Kayla Dos Santos and Kathryn Eryilmaz (Elsevier): The Association of American Publishers and the United Negro College Fund sponsor an annual internship program. Elsevier, along with other publishers, has been an active participant in this program for 9 years. For us, this represents action that correlates with our goal of creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. In addition, this internship program helps contribute in at least a small way to our larger mission of creating an organization that better reflects the community we serve.
The pandemic has added an unanticipated layer of complexity to conducting an internship program. In fact, there was a point at the start of the pandemic when our team, who sponsor and work with the interns, were faced with the decision to either cancel Elsevier’s participation in the program or come up with another solution. We chose to run the program virtually (which has never been done before). Elsevier and our entire team remain committed to this program and made the decision to move forward. Our team is fortunate that we have the technological resources necessary that will enable this innovation. We also have the support of the program’s sponsor and stakeholders.
A big challenge in developing and running an internship program during the pandemic was solving the problem of how to move from an in-person program to one that was run entirely online.
A big challenge in developing and running an internship program during the pandemic was solving the problem of how to move from an in-person program to one that was run entirely online. We did face many practical technology obstacles, but our main concern was how to create a program robust enough to offer formal and informal opportunities for the interns to network and connect with our colleagues and with each other. To achieve this goal, we set up different types of meetings for the interns. These included remote trainings, informational interviews, and virtual social interactions to help interns meet key staff. We have tried our best to create flexibility in the program as we realize we are not only working from home but working during a pandemic. We try to remain mindful of “Zoom Fatigue.”
We note that we are both book acquisitions editors; this role does not usually involve acting as a manager. For us, this is an important development opportunity that will assist us in learning skillsets related to managing people.
We’re getting a crash course in remote management, being pushed out of our comfort zones, and proactively strategizing and problem-solving. At the same time, we are learning so much from our interns.
As we write this, we are several weeks into the program. We’re getting a crash course in remote management, being pushed out of our comfort zones, and proactively strategizing and problem-solving. At the same time, we are learning so much from our interns. They are sharing with us how to improve the program and sharing insights on how they perceive their interactions with our organization. For our incredibly talented interns, we hope that this program will serve as a real stepping-stone on their career paths. As an organization, we hope this program will continue to provide our team and Elsevier with insights into how to actively promote diversity and inclusion.
Ajamu Amiri Dillahunt (Duke University Press): Having graduated from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) with degrees in History and Political Science, scholarship and being an active participant in movements for social change were introduced to me as being inseparable. What I read and learned in the classroom at NCCU not only helped me understand the world but it guided and significantly informed my political participation outside of the classroom. As a result, I committed myself to the task of ensuring those associated with academic institutions understand the obligation we have to the community. Due to University Presses being a critical part of the academic community, I firmly believed the conversation around accountability was something the Press had to also have on its radar and that Duke University Press (DUP) was uniquely positioned to lead the way.
As we are currently witnessing a historic period of rebellion against police violence and the racist foundation of the United States, the struggle to build a new world requires action from all aspects of society, including University Presses. While there have been a significant amount of books published on topics that help us better understand this historic period and the Black freedom struggle more broadly, it is important that in addition to being committed to publishing, University Presses incorporate being in service of the movement seeking societal transformation. In other words, as education has been and continues to be used to suppress the freedom struggle, the books that challenge the dominate white supremacist narrative of the world urgently need to be more widespread. The books need to “come to life.”
While an intern in the Book Acquisitions Department at DUP in summer 2019 (and currently), I was given the opportunity to explore the ways in which a University Press could be accountable to the communities it publishes about.
While an intern in the Book Acquisitions Department at DUP in summer 2019 (and currently), I was given the opportunity to explore the ways in which a University Press could be accountable to the communities it publishes about. DUP, as part of its mission, supports those who commit themselves to “effecting positive change in the world.” The Press also values transformation and understands that “knowledge drives change.” Given this approach to publishing, and the wide body of literature DUP publishes on social movements, as an intern I was eager to figure out how make these important books be accessible to and on the radar for the current freedom struggle.
On July 12, 2019, I had the opportunity as a student intern to organize a meeting entitled: “Community Accountability: Press from the Student Perspective.” To my surprise, over forty DUP employees were in attendance and eager to discuss the role of the Press in the freedom movement of the twenty-first century.
DUP has already had significant outreach to the community. In 2017, the Press launched a Read to Response series, followed by staff-curated syllabi series, which have been highlighting important scholarship that helped us better understand various societal problems. My intention for organizing the “Community Accountability” session was to get different departments within DUP to think critically about how the Press can expand and build upon its values of transformation and being daring. In my estimation, outreach, while important, is geared toward going to the community with a plan already established. Accountability on the other hand is allowing the community to express their needs and for the Press to adjust its program accordingly. Accountability is more communal, collaborative, and allows for sustained action for change. Put differently, the central question was how can DUP’s relationship to social justice and the broader community become more institutionalized and a central part of the Press’s agenda. To aid the process of building a Press that is more intentional about its relationship to the social justice community, I proposed to DUP the development of a community intern with the main objectives of:
- Build relationships with on- and off-campus social justice organizations/attend community events in Durham
- Coordinate book discussions and study groups for community members in DUP’s Library, public libraries, and coffeeshop
- Popularize DUP books and coordinate author/community discussions
I firmly believe that when DUP fully embraces the Daring aspect of our values and combines publishing and practice, other University Presses will be compelled to do the same. I hope that Duke, and other publishers, consider funding a position for student interns or staff members to truly engage the community in an accountable way that helps advance the struggle to build a new society.
I hope that Duke, and other publishers, consider funding a position for student interns or staff members to truly engage the community in an accountable way that helps advance the struggle to build a new society.
Noelle MacDonald (Wiley): When I began my internship at Wiley in 2017, I entered the publishing world with genuine interest but very few expectations. Up to that point, I had viewed internships as elusive, résumé-building opportunities, impressive bullet points meant to bolster the long list of camp counselor positions I’d previously held. I thought a temporary job at Wiley would help me narrow down my search for a permanent career. After only a few days, I realized I was surrounded by an extensive network of former interns all eager to share their past experiences and current roles. Over the course of the ten-week program, I began to understand why so many of my colleagues were compelled to stay.
As an editorial intern, I provided administrative support for a portfolio of Social Sciences and Humanities journals. By monitoring journal performance, analyzing citation data, and updating journal websites, I was able to hone my technical skills while helping my team reach their objectives. Beyond these responsibilities, my managers actively encouraged me to take a step back from daily projects and ask challenging questions about industry trends. For example, to end the summer, my fellow interns and I were asked to create a “Shark Tank”-style pitch for a service that would expand global access to research, specifically in developing countries. While nervously stumbling through my first ever professional presentation, I felt increasingly at home and empowered in an environment that welcomed independent, big picture thinking at all levels.
I gained the background knowledge and skills to readily complete entry-level tasks, the confidence to speak up and work collaboratively across teams, and a continued personal investment in a company that personally invested in me.
I’ve been working at Wiley for two years now, and my time as an intern remains invaluable to my professional development in this industry. I gained the background knowledge and skills to readily complete entry-level tasks, the confidence to speak up and work collaboratively across teams, and a continued personal investment in a company that personally invested in me. My internship kickstarted a fulfilling and, I hope, long-term career.
I’m aware, however, that mine is not a universal experience. In an industry notably lacking in diversity, many do not have the same opportunity to get their foot in the door, or if they do, they are often faced with obstacles from which my privilege has shielded me. As someone who directly benefited from an internship, I want to broaden the sense of community and inclusion that first inspired me to apply for a full-time position in this field. I think we have a collective responsibility to reexamine and redefine what we mean when we say “our” industry: whose voices are heard, whose are not, and how can we change that? I believe internships are a great place to start. Creating more diverse internship programs through inter-organizational collaboration and expansive, intentional outreach is an important first step toward removing barriers to entry in scholarly publishing.
I think we have a collective responsibility to reexamine and redefine what we mean when we say “our” industry: whose voices are heard, whose are not, and how can we change that? I believe internships are a great place to start.
Now it’s your turn.
Have you been an intern? Have you worked with interns or managed an internship program? Do you have ideas on how internships work well or could work better?
Please let us know!
(And, if you’re interested, you can now post available internships on the SSP Job Board.)