Interning is a fantastic way for publishing hopefuls to gain experience and for employers to attract fresh talent. But being an intern can be daunting, and a lousy internship—one that fails to give them relevant experience and is a waste of time for the employer—can put them off publishing for life.
The Publishers Association has partnered with the Booksellers Association to develop these internship guidelines for publishing employers who are serious about improving diversity, making the industry more accessible and hiring talent in a professional and transparent manner. As an industry, we want to show potential job seekers that the publishing is fair and inclusive. These guidelines cover how to give interns the best chance of success through appropriate treatment, inclusion and mentoring.
- Internship: a temporary role for a person of any age that requires the person to work alone and will add value to the company. It will also include a more general introduction to publishing and your company. These should be paid at the Living Wage and should not replace a member of staff.
- Work experience: a person comes to learn about working in a publisher—they are given short tasks to perform under guidance and for no longer than one week. People on work experience placements should not be expected to work independently, nor should they be doing work that would usually be done by a member of paid staff. You are required to pay travel and subsistence costs for this kind of placement but you do not need to pay them.
- Student placement: in some university courses, there is a requisite amount of placement time that needs to be completed (typically 2-3 working weeks). Some tasks might be structured but it should also include broader learning and shadowing. You should offer to pay travel and subsistence costs for this kind of placement but you do not need to pay the student an hourly rate (so long as they are getting credit for the placement in their course).
- Temporary staff: a temporary employee should be under contract, for a set amount of time and money (again, Living Wage preferred). Temps will usually be brought in to complete a specific task.
Top tips from interns
We asked interns what one thing could improve an internship. Here’s what they said:
- Being introduced to other members of staff
- Being referred to by name
- Growth opportunities, such as working on live projects or owning a project
- Clear projects and tasks to work on so no time is wasted
- Having a designated desk rather than having to ask every morning where to sit
- Being taught how to do things independently
- Being invited to lunch
- A structured workday with deadlines and tasks
Checklist for employers
- Publicly advertise the role. Avoid hiring people you know. Job applications and interviews are valuable experiences for people just starting out in their career. Plus, an interview gives you a chance to see how they get on with the team.
- Prepare your intern for their first day. Send them an email at least a week before they start (earlier if they are travelling from another part of the country) with information on:
- How to get to the office;
- A quick overview of the company and your team;
- Start and finish times (including lunch hours);
- Contact details for their line manager;
- A list of their main duties during the placement;
- You might also include information on the Spare Room Project or the Book Trade Society's bursaries.
- Make them feel welcome on their first day. It is crucial to set your intern up for success by making them feel like part of the team, and ensuring they have everything they need to work efficiently:
- Set up an introductory chat with members of the team;
- Talk to them about their interests and career aspirations;
- Connect them with a mentor who can support them if they have an issue;
- Provide a dedicated workspace with log-ins and a phone number;
- Be clear about office etiquette - this might be their first time in an office and some things are not evident to a new starter.
- Make sure they are learning every day. One of the most uncomfortable moments of being an intern is sitting around with nothing to do. Make sure they always have something to work on between tasks and take the time to teach them necessary office skills, like answering calls and operating the printer.
- Ask for feedback. An internship should be valuable for the intern and the employer. You should always be looking to improve the experience and gathering feedback from your intern is a great way to do that. You might take them for coffee at the end of the placement, or ask for feedback over email.