In celebration of my recent full-time job acquisition, and in farewell to this internship, I share with you the best elements, in my experience, of holding an internship in a literary related field.
Over my college years (and just slightly beyond), I held 3 unpaid internships, a paid job-like internship, and a paid internship. Because all five provided me with valuable skills, challenging tasks, and amusing memories with which to guide my journey into legitimate employment, I count all five as internships.
The internships that shaped my views were:
- Fashion Magazine: Views of Central Park, expensive shoes, daily drama.
- Literary Agency: Teeny office space, towering shelves of books, hundreds of rejection emails.
- Writing Center Tutoring: exam week appointments booked back-to-back, a never ending supply of chocolate bribes on the tutor tables, red pens.
- Public Relations Firm: reporters’ answering machines, highlighters, excel spreadsheets.
- Editing Company: SEOs, dogs, rewriting new clients on the easel .
English internships each take their own path, some demanding, some requiring more writing, some focused more on Starbuck’s runs as the primary task of the day, some not focused at all. But this post is entirely focused on what made them great, and why I was so thrilled to spend my time in small offices, or library-quiet environments, typing away to prove that I too could one day join the ever elusive world outside my classrooms, the Working World.
Number 1: Excellent Banter
Literary internships tend to draw the best kind of crowd—other writers and innovators who have half a mind for business and the other half for Harry Potter or half a dozen new projects. The best part of this best kind of crowd is the banter. My fellow interns were a joy to get to know, each on his or her own path to a career, and often times much different from my own. My bosses were funny, busy, intelligent people. All around, we created much banter on topics ranging from next month’s issue on new diet trends and the best strains of South American coffee beans, to reporters who would appear to vanish from the face of the earth as soon as you got vaguely close to them via an answering machine and Rebecca Black’s “Gotta get down on Friday,” the remix.
Number 2: Creative Spaces
I spent time huddled around a kitchen table, surrounded by a dead lawyer’s files, sitting in a white closet, hiding behind a plant, and looking out over a rooftop onto which we would pour the last of yesterday’s coffee from the pot. Each of the spaces held their own charm, and each provided a chair to sit in, a surface to write on, and new ways to think about how to decorate with books, from towering shelves, to color coding, to bookends shaped like eagles and windmills.
Number 3: Things to Write
I wrote blog posts (like this one!). I wrote many to-do lists. I wrote emails signed by me and emails signed by other people. I wrote articles, and pamphlets, and schedules, and many, many notes about what a thesis is, and yes, you do need one in your English 100 essay, my friend. The scope for writing seemed endless, and each internship asked for a slightly different tone, or vocabulary, or style. It was always a pleasure to tackle a new writing project and figure out how to employ the skills I learned in school, achieve the task before me, and happily toss out the worry that what you write won’t make the grade, because no one was actually grading.
Number 4: Dogs & Other Fun Things
More than one internship involved dogs—a service dog, two fluffy pets that would sit on my feet, and a tea-cup dog that came in for visits and ate many dog cookies. There was a guinea pig, one of my favorites. There were Valentine’s Day proposals, alarm clocks that could leap around the floor to make you get out of bed in the morning, free candy at all times because my boss thought students would be tempted to make an appointment, and in reality, the tutors ate 96% of it. There were snacks at them all, a lot of Facebook stalking for a variety of professional reasons (I promise!), and the beauty of a corporate credit card. Personally, I just liked the dogs best.
Number 5: Coffees
Yes, it was sometimes a drag to run out to Starbuck’s in January or spill your fresh brew on a student’s paper brought in for editing, but for the most part, coffees were an ever present joy at every internship. I learned how to order a venti soy latte extra hot and then carry five of them in a tray built for four, and how to beg the baristas to let that quarter slide—I would pay them back next time I came in. Because we all knew I would be back, and soon. I learned about the delicate subtleties of manipulating a breaking Keurig, or how, in a pinch, a thick paper napkin would serve as a coffee filter just fine, even the brown paper ones commonly found in industrial bathroom dispensers. Ultimately, I leaned that if someone else offers to buy, you always say yes. For someday soon, I’ll send my intern out on a coffee run and put all the drinks on my tab.