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Monday, July 7, 2014

Create Your Own Internship!

If you're in college, everyone and their mother has been telling you to get a summer internship. It's crucial. Vital. Without one you'll be asking "Would you like fries with that" for the rest of your adult life. (Not really, but that's how they make it sound.) In truth, internships are very important in today's job market, and therefore the competition for them is very high and it might be hard to find one in the field you want in the city where you are. A couple of very sharp young women have impressed me recently by being proactive and not settling for simply applying to the few opportunities which might not be applicable; instead they went out the created their own internships.

V. emailed me just over a year ago, asking if I knew of any internships in publishing in North Carolina, if I had any ins with those companies, or if I ever had thought about offering an internship myself. I scoffed at the third idea right away, and sadly replied no I didn't know of anything in this area and wishes her luck. And then I thought about it. Sure, I'd only had my business for a couple of years, and I certainly couldn't keep an intern busy full-time, but what if I shared an intern with my colleague Betsy? What if the intern was part-time? I jotted down a few ideas of tasks an intern could do for me. I'd recently heard a few reports on NPR about the rules for having an unpaid intern and I thought I could manage them. And most of all, I really, really liked how gutsy she'd been in asking if I ever had interns myself. Very few people take that extra step. Most of them only look at open spots and... that's it. So Betsy and I met with V. and we really liked her. She gave the impression of being eager, enthusiastic, and having a lot of gumption. We liked her and offered her the internship. That's right--and internship that hadn't even existed before she emailed.

That fall a freshman, E., emailed me to ask if I knew of any publishing internships back in her home state of Arkansas that she could look into. Nope, I sure didn't. I mentioned V. and that E. might want to contact some independent editors (we're everywhere) and see if she could arrange something like V. did. But E. went in a different direction. Over fall break, she went to her local independent bookstore and asked about jobs. They didn't have any for occasional part-timers, and so she asked about internships. They didn't normally do that but they'd think about it. When she got back to school, E. emailed me and we brainstormed ideas for what she could do for a bookstore in an internship. Social media was the logical angle, and right now E. is interning at that bookstore, doing a variety of things but mostly social media. She's created a Pinterest page for them, linked it up to their Twitter and Facebook pages, created a Hootsuite page for them to manage it, and she's posted a ton of content. Their website now has a dozen ways to link to posts including quite a few I've never heard of (IceRocket anyone? Propeller? What are these sites?) She's also going to be shelving, helping customers, all the usual things, but because she asked and got this internship, she'll be getting a lot more experience and skills than she would if she'd been hired as a bookseller.

Internships are a topic I cover in my new book, The Insider's Guide to a Career in Book Publishing, but I don't talk about how to make your own. But I think it's a great option for students who aren't in a major city, and I particularly like how it shows a lot of moxie. That's a trait often overlooked in the business world, but one I think can have a big influence on future success, and I know it impressed me.

You can buy The Insider's Guide to a Career in Book Publishing through all book retailers, and if you click through, there are links to the major ones. Internships are just one way to get skills and get your foot in the door.

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