Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Intern Adventures Finale: Farewell from Intern Michael

Today marks my last day as an intern at Overlook -- I hope you've all enjoyed the wild ride as much as I have. After three months on Wooster St. I think I have enough experience under my belt to be qualified as an "expert intern." A few days ago Kate posted up an article on our twitter feed called Six Myths About Publishing, a post that debunked rumors and popular misnomers about agents, editors, and book sales. As my way of saying goodbye to Overlook and all of our blog readers I thought I'd share my version of the same article, "Four Myths About Interning."

1. Myth: Interning is for college students
Truth: Interning is for the unemployed and the pre-employed (or the plain desperate)

I think there might have been a time when internships were more or less restricted to the summer months and positions were reserved for aspiring professionals of college or recent post-graduate age. If such a time ever actually existed it is certainly a far-cry from today's internship pool. Nowadays interns run the gamut from the traditional care free summer undergrad to ambitious high school students seeking a leg up on their university admissions applications to degree-wielding post-grads unable to find paying work. These days no internship is too big or small, no applicant too qualified for work.

2. Myth: Interns are slaves
Truth: While some interns do certainly toil on pointless errands and latte runs, there is substantial work to be found in most offices

I can't speak on behalf of all interns because I'm sure there are positions out there that do resemble the dreaded "gofer" (as in, "go for some coffee") job, but in my experience most employers are looking for interns who can actually assist them in their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately this material work might mean some data entry or mass-mailing projects, but along with these boring tasks is usually an opportunity to learn something useful. An intern can pick up a lot of experience just by observing and asking the right questions.

3. Myth: Internships are unpaid
Truth: Most internships are unpaid (especially in publishing), but even unpaid experience can be valuable in the long run

I guess this doesn't really apply to those in dire need of a paycheck, because yes, most publishing internships are unpaid. For those who can afford it, an unpaid internship is a worthy long-term investment. At Overlook, for example, an internship is a great entry to a salaried career. At least three current employees are former interns and those interns who graduate and don't get hired often move on to other jobs in publishing.

4. Myth: Once they've left, interns are easily forgotten
Truth: Interns may come and go seasonally but their legacies leave a lasting impression

This last one might be more optimism than myth-busting, but I like to imagine that the other staffers at Overlook won't forget about me once I've left (see: Summer Intern Already Forgotten).

Leave a comment if you think I've missed any major intern related fallacies or want to share a story of intern(hard)ship. That's it for this summer, see you next year when I'll hopefully be returning as "Editorial-Assistant Michael."

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