When she picked up the phone, the first thing Michele said was, “How are you? Where are you living now, and what are you doing?” She remembered that I began my publishing career as an intern at Scholastic and wanted to hear all about my current job. That’s one of the things I love about the publishing industry: everyone is deeply invested in the people around them. And it's never so apparent as when you talk to the people who are actually reading your applications.
When I started asking Michele the questions I had for her, it was clear just how interested Michele is in all of you! “Personalize your application,” Michele said when I asked how aspiring interns could improve their chances. “Write from the heart; give me a sense of who you are and what you can contribute to the field personally.” On top of that, she said, “show how much you want it. Tell me honestly why you’re interested, and mention that you’re willing to work hard and make all the administrative contributions—filing, sorting mail, and making copies—in order to have that experience.”
“I’ll never forget the candidate who wrote to me about how she first became a reader,” Michele said. “She told me a story about how much books meant to her when she was a child growing up in the rural Midwest. I knew as soon as I read her letter that I had to call her in for an interview.”
On the other hand, what turns Michele off to an application? “I recognize that it’s going to be difficult for out-of-state candidates to be a part of the program, so that’s always a consideration,” she says. But she also offers a way to get around that: “Think about how you’ll be able to house yourself in New York City ahead of time, and include that information in your cover letter if you’re applying from out of the state.” If you know the address at which you’d be able to stay—maybe a relative’s house in commuting distance—include it alongside your regular address in your letterhead. “Even just the sentence ‘I will be living in New York City from this date to this date…’ on your cover letter can be enough to ease our worries about that,” she suggests.
And, while publishers look for candidates with strong technical skills and a flare for social media, she cautions aspiring interns to be careful about what they put on the internet. “Make sure whatever’s in your Facebook profile or on your Twitter account reflects well on you,” she advises. “We’re a little more understanding of this in interns, but it’s just good advice in general.”
So aside from helping the company get to know you personally, what else is important in an internship application? “We look for a serious work ethic in every department. In editorial, where I specialize, we like to see that your major is related to publishing—you know, Communications, Writing, English Literature… or maybe something broad, like Education. And in our educational division, we’re always looking for teaching experience and the ability to sell.”
But if you aren’t an English major, or if you don’t have a lot of publishing background, there are other ways to show that you’ll succeed as a publishing intern. “Highlight your personal pursuits in your cover letter if they’re more relevant than your professional credits,” Michele says. That could mean your blog, your writing endeavors, past publications, your participation in a critique group, or your experience on the staff of a yearbook or school paper.
Most publishers value social responsibility, so Michele recommends including volunteer experience on your resume, even if it isn’t publishing-related. And if you’re interested in interning in children’s publishing, take advantage of whatever experience you have working with youth; “If you’ve worked at a summer camp, taught after-school programs, or even spent a lot of time babysitting, we look for that,” Michele says.
“But most of all,” Michele stresses, “let your personality come through. Tell us what your long-term goals are. Let us know what you want to do after the internship. We’ll want to hear from you afterwards.”
Scholastic’s summer internship program provides one of the best publishing experiences in the country, offering its interns a chance to make meaningful contributions and get firsthand experience, whether that means reading manuscripts or discussing revisions; fact-checking art or writing marketing and cover copy. Interns spend eight weeks working closely with mentors in their departments and networking with each other and the company’s key players—not to mention reading incredible books hot off the press!
This year’s application process closed early due to an incredible volume of applications, but you can still keep an eye out for internship opportunities during the semester by bookmarking Scholastic’s career website. Or, try some of these fabulous publishing companies in need of interns right now:
Thanks to everyone who tuned into this series on How to Get an Internship in Publishing! Don't forget to share your insights and comments. Was this series (or this post) helpful? Do you have more questions for the people who will be looking at your applications? Leave them here and you never know what might happen!