Thursday, 29 May 2014

Greatful Moaning

Last week I attended an event put on by SYP. 'How to make the most of your internships'.  One thing that continuously comes up when people discuss internships is that, in this industry, only a small percentage of graduates are able to gain the relevant work experience by working for free. There are a couple of reasons for this:

Location and £££ MONEY £££

Most publishing houses are in London, there are a few others dotted around but the fact remains if your parents live in London or a commutable distance away, you have the means to intern. This is one reason that if you happen to be a student, it definitely pays to take internships while you have the accommodation. it is one of the biggest regrets I have about my 3 years at Uni. 

I wouldn't accept an internship if they didn't contribute to your expenses. At least that way while you are living with mum and dad or sofa surfing, you can almost keep your spending at a steady zero. But if you can't afford the travel and you have rent to pay, it is really tough to intern. possible. but so hard.

Unfortunately there isn't really much that publishing houses can really do to widen the percentage of people able to do internships. I've tried to brainstorm, but I cant see how to solve it.

I moan a lot about my situation, I want a job. I want the right job, and I have to face new rejection every single day. My commute takes ages, I don't get a wage, I'm miles away from my friends, boyfriend, and I can't afford the time or the money to come to London on the weekends. 

BUT I am extremely grateful for the support I've had from my friends and from my family in particular, who have all encouraged me to keep at the grind. I know how lucky I am and I am so grateful and I wanted to say THANK YOU for making my internships possible. Thinking about how much harder it would be if I didn't have that support, has made me realise how lucky I am.

Despite the hard work, my career has started really positively.  

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Everyone's a critic

This is the interpretation of a few things that interns hear all the time:

"So . . . is there a job at the end of this one?" - The person who says this has probably seen 'Pursuit of Happiness' or 'The Internship'. In these movies there is a job opening and a group of people have a competitive incentive to be the best. The winner - gets the job. In the US. My catch phrase at the moment is 'right place, right time'.  That's pretty much how internships in the UK works. There might be a job that comes up while you are interning at one company or another, but it is not guaranteed.  And even if a job does come up and you apply for it, you are only marginally ahead of the other applicants. Still, you have the experience and the name for your CV.


"You'll definitely get a job. You have loads of experience" - Well . . . that's half right. Collecting internships and company names is fantastic for the CV but a good name does not a good internship make.  Some companies have it right, they figure out how interns will help them, and they have specific tasks for the interns to do and it works well for everyone. We are a step closer to a job because (hopefully) we learnt something. But some companies, really don't want or need interns, and we end up wasting our time and wasting the company's time. This has only come up twice for me personally, and it means my CV is nice and full, but there are two big holes of time where I experienced very little. At best you learn about the company, you get to handle some real projects, and you love making the tea every day.  But at worst, you sit at a desk being invisible, while the workings of the office are jealously guarded, and no one has the time to spend ten minutes explaining how to do something that might actually make their lives easier. 'Quality not quantity'.

"How is your Volunteer work going?" - Wooosaaaah.  It is true, from a tax point of view, you are volunteering. But saying this to an intern makes it sound like we arn't trying.  This person has probably forgotten what it is like to come out of uni, be back at your parents house, and it is time to get a job.  But the right job.  One where you get to cash in on your newly purchased education. Sometimes, you just have to work for free. Try to stay calm when people don't understand what you are trying to do. And for those of you who know an intern: don't call it volunteering, it hurts our feelings. :)

"How long have you been an intern?" - This goes back to quality verses quantity.  I know interns who have been working for YEARS, through college, through uni, through various gap years and between jobs. Eventually though, something's got to give. Option 1) You get a job, congratulations! The paycheck doesn't come till after your first month of work so be careful not to loosen the belt quite yet. Option 2) You try something new, obviously this interning thing isn't making you stand out. You shell out money on publishing courses and you network your way around literary events snooping out the editors to hob nob your way in. Option 3) Give up, this industry isn't for you and it is starting to look bad that you haven't got a job yet.

I felt like giving up this month.  But I got two great pieces of advice:

Look back at your life forty years from now, if you give up and take any old job. Would you be proud that you gave up now? That once you had aspirations to be in publishing? The intern behind you who stuck it out for one more month got your dream job. How does that feel?

Now more than ever is the time to persevere. Look how far you have come. Use hindsight to make your decisions now.

I have two copies of my CV on the wall. The first one I wrote out of Uni and the one I take to interviews. I love to see how far I have come.

Everyone will have an opinion on what you are doing, some don't understand, some won't understand, but most think it's admirable and will try help and support you.

But that is a whole other blog . . .

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Why I'm Not a Writer

There is an essay in the Writers and Artists Yearbook 2012 (Bloomsbury) by Alison Baverstock called Is There a Book in You? It is a very thought provoking essay:

I graduated from Bath Spa University, where the English and Creative Writing staff are some of the best in the country. Spa's MA writing course has a reputation for producing a long list of published authors alumni.  So - budding writers flock to the West Country.  My classes were filled with very talented people, amazing writers with potential basically oozing out of them.

I went to a uni acclaimed for producing authors, I did a creative writing course, and I'm not an author. Why?

I went to university with my GREAT NOVEL unwritten.  I had no big idea to give, really. I already knew that that feeling I saw in my classmates, the great work that just needed to come out of them wasn't in me. I loved my Literature modules, carrying on where I left off A levels with MORE reading, and taught by some fantastic tutors. Creative Writing was my fun. My cathartic 6 hours off from reading (and everything else) to write.

Lecture 1 of my second year I had one of the most simultaneously depressing and inspiring lectures of my uni career. Talking to this tutor was like being hit over the head with your favourite book. You love it, but it hurts! He told us to basically forget the dream of making a living out of writing. That raised some hackles, I can tell you! He probably pushed one or two of the people in the room to really focus on their goals and prove him wrong. But I never wanted to be a writer, and what he did over the next two years was give us some excellent examples of alternative routes that would still keep us in contact with books. I now realise that that is all I've ever really wanted. 

That tutor and many others drilled a sense of hard work and the importance of reading into me.  I have never met a more well read man in my life. He ended up lending me three pivotal books as source material for my dissertation, that he just happened to have! He used to make us read our work out loud to the class so that we could hear how the writer intended it to sound. And he made us comment on people's work, out loud and to their faces.  If I didn't know it before, I knew it after every one of my creative writing seminars.

I'm not a writer because I am an editor.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

A Start In Books


This is where I blog about the experience of being an English graduate trying to get a job, the internship journey, and the books I'm reading along the way.  I might also use it to review films, discuss media stories, or anything else I'm interested in. 

I am playing a tough numbers game.  I've worked as an intern in a few different departments and I know that being in the editorial department of a publishing company is where I really want to be. But my main criteria for a job would be to keep me focused and busy and to have books that I want to read at my fingertips. So really as long as I am at a trade publishers, I'll get exposure to that. 

In order to get that dream job, you need experience. Unfortunately earnest desperation doesn't work in publishing and sometimes internships don't work either. I've learnt that you have to be at the right place at the right time, which means choosing the right internships. 

This is the route I've chosen into publishing.  When I started out I asked around my family and my friends and my university to see if anyone could really give me the contact I needed for a job. But almost all my internships have come from my own perseverance and determination.  

I'll go into more detail as the blog develops, there is so much to talk about and I can't wait. I want to show what I am reading and doing and working on and to create a scrapbook of my bookish quarter-life crisis. 

This is me. I'm a publishing intern. And I'm just getting started.