Leanna Florez // Blog Writer
Internships can be a daunting subject. Between the applications, interviews, and introduction to work life, they can cause anxiety just from thinking about them; Undergraduate Students for Publishing understands that this does not need to be the case. This past weekend, the club hosted an internship panel featuring Sofia Utz, Hadera McKay, Kaitlyn Shokes, and Sophie Sheumaker where they discussed everything from popular interview questions to diversity in the workplace to TikTok authors. Each panelist was able to offer helpful advice on all things internship from their personal experiences as marketing, editorial, publicity, and literary interns at a range of companies such as Includas publishing, Candlewick press, MIT press, and more!
Where can you find internship opportunities?
Everything you need to find internships is at your fingertips. Handshake, Bookjobs.com, and Publisher’s Archive are all websites that constantly post new internships. You can also look on publisher’s or agent’s websites, where they often post if they are looking for interns and list the qualifications necessary to apply. If there’s a publishing house that you are particularly interested in, sign up on their website to receive emails about when they’re looking for interns! And don’t doubt the power of the Emerson Mafia Facebook group—Emersonians love to stick together, even after graduating!
Networking, both online and in person, can also be helpful for finding internships or even jobs. Sofia Utz, a WLP major, found an internship at a technology company by talking to her father’s coworkers. It seems unlikely that a WLP major would intern at a technology company, but she found her niche when the company expressed a need for someone to help with storytelling through software. Networking can also be done through websites such as LinkedIn. Kaitlyn Shokes, a WLP major who helps to hire interns, emphasized the importance of reaching out on LinkedIn. Though it may be nerve-wracking, they said that connecting with people on LinkedIn and asking about internships can show determination and interest, which they will remember if they interview you for a position.
Speaking of interviews…
Each panelist talked about interviews in length, describing the nerves that can be associated with them. They each have some tips about how to handle a friendly phone interview or what feels like an interrogation that they were happy to share!
1. If you can go in person, do it!
Our world is increasingly virtual, so the chances for this are not as common, but they all recommended in-person interviews. The interviewer can read body language, which often helps them garner your true interest for the job.
2. Do your research before the interview.
Research was possibly the most repeated word the whole night. Research the company you are interviewing for—what their goals are, their mission statement, their competitors, know a few books published within the last three years. Research the job you are interviewing for and what the expectations are, know details about the job itself and how your qualifications align with
what the company wants. Research the interviewer to find what you have in common with them and know some of their past work. This can all help you to be more likable, something that is very important.
3. Take notes during the interview.
You don’t look disrespectful, you look interested! Bring a small notebook to write down logistical information that they share with you so that if you do get hired, you don’t have to make them repeat themselves excessively.
4. Ask the interviewer questions.
It is a known fact that people like to talk about themselves, so asking the interviewer a few questions at the end of the interview is always helpful. You can ask about their experience in the culture of the company, what is typically expected of you, how the company is shifting to accompany changes in the publishing industry, or personal questions that are tailored to the interviewer’s experience at the company. A question you should always ask is, “When should I expect to hear from you?” so that you know when to send a follow-up if you don’t hear from them. A question you should not ask is “What is your favorite book?” because they have definitely heard it before, even if they ask you that question.
5. Send a thank you note.
This one is self-explantory. Manners are always something respectable, so make sure to reach out to the interviewer after the interview and thank them for their time. It is also important to thank them whether or not they hire you, so make sure to always respond, even if they send you a rejection. Don’t burn bridges, because you never know where you may end up working.
On resumes and cover letters
Cover letters are almost as dreaded as interviews, but they are necessary. At many internships, they won’t even look at your resume if you don’t have a cover letter. A tip from the panelists was if you’re struggling with what to write in the cover letter, look on the company’s website. You want your language to reflect what they want in a candidate. Even if they ask for something that you don’t know
much about, say you do, because there are hundreds of YouTube tutorials to teach you if you get the job.
Other things you should have in a cover letter or resume are your ability to use Mailchimp, Adobe, Canva, WordPress, Excel, and other Microsoft or Google programs. Again, even if you aren’t able to use these programs, there’s YouTube! You should definitely put in relevant coursework; Emersonians have the benefit that many of our classes are very major focused, so we have a lot of experience just from our classes alone. If you haven’t already, take the copyediting class, it looks amazing on your resume! Experience is important, even if it does not seem completely relevant to the job. Hadera McKay is interning at a children’s publishing company, and she said that the interviewers seemed to latch on to her ability to edit poetry, even though her job was not to edit poetry. They thought that her experience would help because children’s literature often has a rhyme scheme and is short form, something she already had experience with.
Things you should not put on your resume are photos, graduation date, or birth year unless they specifically ask for it. These can cause unintentional bias to arise in the interviewer through racism or ageism. You should also not put your highschool experience unless you are a freshman, it seems juvenile to have no experience outside of high school if you have been in college for over a year. Lastly, be careful how many extracurricular activities you list, because some jobs will see a large number of them and think you are too busy to take on a position. If you have a lot of relevant extracurriculars however, mention soon after that you have very good time management skills to offset their concern.
You got the job! What does your day to day look like?
We asked the panelists what their typical day looks like, and they spoke about their respective internships.
Sofia Utz- Marketing Intern at Includas Publishing
She reads manuscripts and submissions, then writes structured feedback sheets for the authors. To her, reading fast has been a valuable skill because of the amount of submissions she is expected to read. Something she reads specifically for is to see if the books could be made into movies, as well as coming up with marketing plans for the books. One thing she enjoyed about her internship was that she had a task list and was left to her own devices to complete the tasks. She also had time to work on a passion project, but she had to balance with meetings she described as tedious.
Hadera McKay- Editorial Intern and Candlewick Press
She reads manuscripts as well, writing rejections if they aren’t accepted. She also helps to draft hardcopies and choose the parts of the story that will be illustrated on the cover. Her office is hybrid, but she recommends going in person to network and collaborate with coworkers. She spent a lot of time in meetings, and said that something to acquire is an endurance for other people speaking.
Kaitlyn Shokes- Publicity Intern at MIT Press
They check over author websites and find contacts for these authors to speak to about their books. They also pull excerpts and quotes from the books to be presented at the newsletters and press events they help to coordinate. Much of their focus is on how their organization is represented in news and other media, so they have to conduct research. They also answer emails, and suggest that if you have customer service experience, to put it on your resume because much of customer service is used in publicity when answering emails.
Sophie Sheumaker- Literary Assistant at Bookends Literary Agency
She stays updated on editors in the business and reads manuscripts. Through this job, she has garnered a lot of knowledge about which editors are at which publishing houses and what they are looking for in a book. She writes pitches for the editors that often require her to video call with them. As well as working with editors, she represents illustrators and makes lookbooks for them on Canva, an application she recommends you become familiar with.
What does Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion look like in the workplace?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is important, especially in the workplace. Without it, there can be a lack of opportunities and a silencing of voices. As WLP or Creative Writing majors, we often want to help share the stories of those who are underrepresented, and it is important to make sure your workplace reflects this. We asked each of the panelists to describe what Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion look like in their workplace, and how we as creators can help improve where it is lacking.
They discussed the success they have seen within the publishing industry as more diverse authors are having a chance to tell their stories. Includas, for example, is a publishing company that focuses on uplifting the stories of the disabled community. Despite this, the panelists agreed that there is a long way to go.
Many publishing houses can be performative in their attempts to increase diversity. There is a focus on diversity in terms of ethnicity, but rarely in other factors such as gender, sexuality, class, or disability. Even those that focus on ethnicity fail to represent multiple perspectives within a minority. They claim to portray “the black experience” but often only have one black author, forcing one person to speak for an entire community. While they say they want, for example “transgender voices,” they
ignore the intersectionality that often occurs in minority communities and gives the author a label as a “transgender voice,” again promoting the idea that there is only one type of story to be shared. They may not always have malintent, but these microaggressions should be corrected before they enforce harmful stereotypes.
Some companies, however, can be downright racist. One panelist shared the story of a company working with a book from a Mexican-American author and assuming that this person was not an American citizen, so therefore, their work could not be submitted.
It is extremely disheartening that such events can still exist in today’s world, but there is hope in the younger voices at these companies. Due to the fact that much of the publishing world is run by older, cisgender, heterosexual, white women and men, younger interns have been attempting to make the older generations understand the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. They have the
opportunity to talk about inclusion and accessibility in everything from cover design to in-person book releases, and luckily, older generations are mostly willing to listen. All people can promote diversity, and the younger generation has a responsibility to educate those around them. Reading diverse authors and promoting them within the company can be very helpful, and Kaitlyn Shokes said, “All diverse experience is valid experience.”
At the conclusion of the panel, the floor was open to the audience to ask the panelists questions. Here are some of the last bits of advice that were pulled from the answers!
– Reach out to alumni and stroke their egos
– Don’t reject an internship unless it will be very bad for your mental health
– Write notes in shorthand
– Don’t take notes on a separate screen, especially over zoom or you’ll look distracted
– A red flag in an agent is when they ask for money, it’s often a scam for the authors
– You can learn from a bad experience, but you can’t escape a bad reputation
Hopefully, this recap can be a page you can visit when you are getting ready to apply for an internship! Remember that you are always learning, so it’s okay to make mistakes and ask questions, even if the professional world is scary. Take care of your mental health first, and know that you are capable of anything you set your mind to! The right opportunities will always present themself to you when you are ready… most likely in the Emerson Mafia Facebook group.