From the other side: reflections on internships

I had a checklist I needed to complete in order to graduate from college:

  • Fulfill the requisite number of courses in the English major to prove competency in American and British literature.
  • Pass, with a high enough grade to prove I can do more than count to ten, basic math.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.
  • And most important of all (at least in the eyes of a future employer), complete an internship.

Internship. The word can strike fear and bring excitement, depending on which side of the aisle a student stands on. With most employers requiring college students to have some kind of experience upon graduation, the competitiveness of these positions has risen in recent years. On the other hand, for those students without a clear-cut idea of what they want do when they graduate, choosing an internship can be a daunting task.

I knew by my junior year of college that I wanted to make a career for myself in the publishing industry. With my focus on and interest in editing, I chose to intern at Oak Knoll Press—the only antiquarian publishing house in the United States … and it just so happens to reside in my home state of Delaware.

While I value my time at Oak Knoll Press, the lessons I learned while interning there have little to do with the publishing industry. As an undergraduate intern, I focused on the small picture: earning a satisfactory grade; keeping my supervisor happy; pleasing my coworkers. I learned the everyday nuances of office life, but I failed to think ahead at how my time at Oak Knoll Press could directly impact my future.

Five years later, I once again hold the title of “intern,” but with a vastly different approach to the intended outcome. My internship is now a matter of specializing in my chosen field rather than submitting a form to a professor for a final grade. As an intern with a few years of professional experience in my hand—as well as the mentoring of my managing editor—I can utilize my time at Bling! much more efficiently and effectively than I did my first time around.

Here are five things I would tell any college student (or any career-focused individual) going into an internship:

  • Study the industry beforehand: Study as much as you possibly can about the industry in which you want to build a career. As an intern at Oak Knoll, I knew nothing about publishing; all I did know was that the company dealt with books. My ignorance  of the broader significance of publishing provided a disservice to myself because I only focused on one tiny aspect of my job—editorial—and didn’t understand the wider premise of the company’s goals. At Bling!, I now know that the job I do is just one role within a much larger team that has to work together for a positive end result. You will be a much better intern—and, in turn, benefit yourself in experience and knowledge—by uncovering as much information as possible about your chosen industry before you begin interning.
  • Go in with goals: Set goals and expectations for your time as an intern. Challenge yourself to achieve and learn as much as possible because you’re in a situation where people more experienced and knowledgeable are at your right hand to teach you about the career you want to hold upon graduation. In my first internship, I focused solely on doing my work because I needed it for college credit. I truly did not comprehend how imperative it was to gain working experience before graduating from college. Now, I open my Bling! email each afternoon after putting in my hours on the day job eager to learn from my managing editor, and I go after my assignments with gusto. I have positioned myself to learn as much as I possibly can from Bling!—while providing as much support for them—because I know I am gaining experience I would never get otherwise.
  • Keep an open mind: At Oak Knoll Press, editing was the only task I ever wanted to be assigned. But that was limiting—not good for a young adult readying herself for the world. At Bling!, I am given tasks that center on various aspects of publishing a book; these tasks include editorial, production, cover design, and administrative management. This makes for a much wider range of experience that I can apply to future jobs, and I am much more knowledgeable about the industry about which I am passionate.
  • Focus on your niche: While you should always keep an open mind about trying new tasks and learning new skills, it is also important to search for your niche—your calling, your vocation, the area in which you want to focus. Five years ago, I knew I wanted to be an editor; but I didn’t know why or how I would make that happen, thus I lost valuable time that could have been dedicated to honing my skills. When I started at Bling!, I knew I was passionate not just about editing itself, but about the entire process of publishing a book. In this internship, I am working on projects where I can utilize my skills and passions as well as gain experience in areas of work I haven’t worked in before.
  • Find your people: In internships, it is vital to form relationships with people who can be your teachers and mentors. In creating these relationships, you are securing a network that will help you grow in your career. Additionally, you will secure a network of people who can recommend your skills, personality, and person for future jobs.

I was fortunate enough to find a mentor in Sandie Bricker, my managing editor at Bling! Sandie has worked in all aspects of publishing over the last decade or so—from writing to promotions to editorial—and so she has been able to help me develop a concentrated approach to bulking up the specific skills I can take with me into a growth track for a career I once thought I could only dream about. Because she also has experience through Corporate America—or “The Other Life,” as she calls it—in creating internship programs of this kind, I am fortunate enough to be able to work alongside her as she puts one together for LPC as a whole.

If you love reading, value authors, see the beauty in Christian books—both fiction and non-fiction—and have your eye on a prize far beyond your current situation and/or day job, we would love to talk to you about the idea of interning to develop skills you can add to your future resume. There are editors and production teams within LPC that might be a good fit for you to learn the skills and experience you don’t currently have. Feel free to contact me at MarisaBlingLPC@gmail.com so we can discuss it further.

About the writer:

Marisa Deshaies can be summed up in one simple phrase: her life is a way with words. After earning a BA and MA in professional writing, she tailored her professional aspirations to fiction editing and book reviewing. Her favorite genres to read, review, and edit are contemporary and historical inspirational fiction, romance, and literature; however, she always is searching for new authors and genres because the power of a story can never be reserved to one category. In addition to serving as a publishing assistant to the managing editor of Bling!, she is an editor for WhiteFire Publishing and Castle Gate Press. Marisa is a member of the ACFW, for which she serves as a cluster leader and a judge for the First Impressions and Carol Award contests.

3 Comments

  1. We’re blessed to have your enthusiasm and willingness to learn on the Bling! team. I’m glad you’ve found a place where your passion and purpose intersect. 🙂

  2. You’re so cool, Marisa! 🙂

  3. An inspiring tale – Marisa, you do indeed have a way with words, and your advice is thoughtful and excellent for all seeking their place in the professional world.

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