Today, our special guest blogger is Elena F., a former Redleaf Press intern. We liked her so much that we kept on board as an editorial assistant and then asked her to write a blog post, which she was kind enough to take on. Elena decided to tackle the topic of interning — she shares what she learned during her time at Redleaf Press and gives some great advice to anyone beginning an internship of his or her own (at Redleaf Press or anywhere, really). She also provides a glimpse of the day-to-day happenings at Redleaf Press. Take it away, Elena!
I was an Acquisitions Editorial intern for Redleaf Press last summer (2012), which means I joined the editorial process of evaluating and accepting new authors and their work; the production editorial internship focuses on the process involved after a book is well on its way.
The relationship between intern and company is a careful blend of each bringing something to the table. On one hand, a company hiring interns is, ideally, providing a job experience to students who are not qualified to do that job—yet. On the other hand, that student is providing work to a company (in the publishing industry, often for free) that the company might not otherwise get accomplished. In the best possible scenario, a company provides a steep learning curve opportunity in exchange for excellent work from a new team member—someone who’s not on their team, but can contribute in unique ways. If you’re thinking about interning at Redleaf Press, I’d encourage you to apply—my experience was the best of these two worlds. I had the opportunity to learn far more on-the-job than I could have learned reading, in-classroom, or even shadowing. And I was given the chance to prove myself in a real job, which, though unpaid, was definitely worth the experience and confidence it gave me for future work.
Why intern at Redleaf Press? Well, here are five reasons:
1. Learn by observing. As an intern, I got to sit in on several high-level meetings and was able to absorb a lot about the publishing process and ways of getting books made. My previous experience with the corporate world included one manager and no weekly meetings. Learning the structure of this business and observing the way the many people work together to make a book was extremely valuable. And that just takes time and observation, which the folks at Redleaf Press are willing to give you (and give you internship hours for).
2. An education on-the-job. People who host internships, by and large, understand that it’s a two-way street—you want to learn while you work for them. I found the team at Redleaf Press is eager to help their interns learn all they can about publishing. While it won’t be a classroom experience—the publishing industry is busy; it probably has the largest piles-on-desk per capita—if you’re ready to work hard and can find strategic times to ask questions, they’ll be more than happy to help you, and direct you to lots more you can read, listen to, and research.
3. Join a great team. The Redleaf Press team is pretty awesome. They’re very inclusive and supportive of their interns (see above re: sitting in on meetings you have no right to be at). They’re also very driven to constantly improve their own practices and processes of publishing. They care about quality, and the work of an intern is an integral part of that process. Yes, occasionally that work includes stapling copies. But it also includes proofreading manuscripts or evaluating submissions with editors. Cool stuff.
4. Do work you’re not qualified to do. Yet. An internship at a publishing house offers you the chance to learn how to do what you’re doing, as you’re doing it. While publishers often can’t afford to start from square one, they’re willing to help people on the road to get a little further along that road. Redleaf Press editors were very helpful to me, in teaching me things I didn’t know—and then I turned around and was able to do those things.
5. Read more books. Part of the fun of working with books is the sheer amount of information that can pass through your desk. I wasn’t an early childhood education major in college, but at Redleaf Press, I learned more about early childhood theories and how kids develop than, well, than I ever thought I would. It’s a fascinating world, as is anything that’s worthy of writing books about. And it’s fun to work with information you know is significant.
Finally, as an intern, I have some advice for other interns out there. I found these to be really beneficial to my experience. After all, it’s not just what you get from it, but what you give to it that will make such a difference. Here are five things to do when you get an internship, at Redleaf Press or anywhere else:
1. Ask questions whenever you can. If your supervisor is someone who welcomes questions, take advantage of it! Don’t try to pretend you know more than you do—this is your chance to learn from people who really know.
2. Be faithful in small things. Don’t be afraid of big things. Making copies for the group is less glamorous than proofreading an actual manuscript. That doesn’t mean it’s less important. If you do what you’re given well, efficiently, cheerfully, you’re more likely to be given bigger tasks with confidence. When those bigger tasks come, be prepared to work just as hard on them, knowing you’ve earned it and are continuing to earn it as you work.
3. Be prepared. For me, this meant bringing something to write with everywhere. Absolutely everywhere. Sometimes even to lunch. My memory is too short to do anything else. And it paid off, not only because I looked prepared, but also because I actually was.
4. Practice being professional, emphasis on practice. This is your chance to experience a little bit of corporate culture—because it is a culture—and learn how to act like the natives. Learn how to talk and act in a professional way. Dress for the job you want. I will be the first to admit that I have a lack of convincing fashion sense, but in the internship (and professional) world, it’s something you have to think about. All of this isn’t something to be overwhelmed by—just a chance to hone your skills as you go.
5. Be humble and enthusiastic. Work your tail off. Communicate with your supervisor. (That was three things.) And you can probably never go wrong with all of them. Not only is an internship a chance to gain experience, but a good performance on your part can give you resume boosts, good recommendations, and a lot of self-confidence. Just something to think about.
Thanks again, Elena! Do you have a question for Redleaf Press staff? Post your question here, and we’ll give you an answer.