Stepping into my Intern shoes: Week 1

This week, I started my internship at a small publishing company in Sheffield. I was a little apprehensive in case I found the experience to be nothing like I’d already imagined it would be in my head. But I also had that flutter of excitement deep in my stomach when you get the feeling something could be really amazing – the first step towards more great things happening. Starting anything new always puts a little spring in my step, and this has been no different.

First, the shoes in the photo are the shoes I wore to meet the Managing Director in for coffee, three weeks ago. The shoes that gave me really bad blisters because they were new and I hadn’t broken them in yet. These are also the shoes I decided, stupidly, to wear on my first day, thinking that maybe I’d imagined them to be worse than what they actually were. Well, no. The blisters were worse than I remembered them being the first time around. So here is a photo to capture them in all their glory while I’m standing absolutely still, because I will not be wearing them again.

Day one was nice and relaxed. I met the team. I quickly became accustomed with the layout of the office. I was assigned my own little desk with a computer and a paper tray and a seriously comfy leather swivel chair. Someone made me a cup of tea. I met the lady I’d be working closely with, and she was very nice. She gave me the computer login details, and I got to work just like that. No muss, no fuss. I loved it. They didn’t make me feel like a kid who was just there to do some work experience. They didn’t shove me in a corner with some pre-arranged tasks to complete in silence. (And believe me. I’ve had that before). No, the nice lady talked me through what she wanted me to do, gave me an example as a kind of guideline to follow, and left me to work at my own speed. And it just seemed a given from the start that whatever I was doing would be used. It wasn’t just to pass the time – my work was actually going to be used. So I guess that only gave me more incentive to produce my best work.

I spent most of day one writing a press release for their next imminent release. To be honest, I was pretty nervous about it because I haven’t had much experience writing press releases. I think in all, I’ve only ever written one, but I was surprised to find that once I got the tone right, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Plus, the PR lady gave me one of hers to refer to as an example. She also sent me a spreadsheet containing all the book’s contributors so that I could email a few of them to get quotes for the press release. I have to admit, this really made me feel like an editorial assistant. I mean, day one and they’re allowing me to communicate with the people who are in the book? ?b$fj!$!? IT JUST FELT SO COOL.

After I finished the press release and emailed it back to the PR lady, she asked me to try and transcribe an author interview that she’d conducted in preparation for one of the chef’s Forewords. She was really apologetic for giving me such a tedious task, but I actually really enjoyed it. The chef is French but lives in Amsterdam, so I had to use my detective skills (and a bit of Google Translate) to transcribe his answers. It took quite a bit of time, but it felt good to be doing something that would be really useful to the team.

On day two, I met more of the team, since some of them only work a couple of days a week. They’re all refreshingly friendly and not at all condescending about me being an intern. If anything, they seem truly grateful for the extra help. I spent most of my morning finishing the transcription for the author interview and the press release, and then I got to compose a blurb for the book. The PR lady said she would send me the edits in a couple of days, and then I’d be able to see how my work measured up. This was also the first day I got to see the Managing Director again since our first meeting three weeks before. I was pretty nervous this time around, very conscious that now I actually had to start proving my ability and not doing anything overtly dumb in front of him (which is pretty difficult for me). I don’t think I embarrassed myself, though, and he was just as nice as I remembered. He asked how I was getting on and if the team were keeping me busy. He also promised to let me get stuck into some proofing toward the end of the week in preparation for the book going to print.

Day three involved transcribing a recipe from the same chef, and arranging it into the proper format using the company’s preferred house style. It was the PR lady’s day off, but she left me plenty of tasks to keep me busy, and I quite enjoyed having to manage my own time. Then I got to compose a profile which will eventually form the beginning of the chapter for the chef’s recipe. By far, this has been my favourite task of the week. I really enjoyed getting stuck in and having to do a little bit of research to find out more about his cafe. I wanted to really do the piece justice, so I trawled the internet for feedback from customers, I went back through his interview for little tit-bits to include, and I even scoured his website for photos of the cafe’s most popular dishes. The result was a very happy intern.

On day four, I received my edits from the profile and recipe piece, and was glad (and more than a little relieved) to hear that the PR lady had liked most of what I had written. She sat and talked me through the changes, but said she’d had to change very little, and had just felt it necessary to shorten the piece, more than anything, to make sure it would fit in the book. I was happy with the finished result, and moved on to begin proofing the first draft of the cook book.

Yesterday, on the final day of my first week, I started compiling a press database for the cook book, using the internet to find a list of magazines, newspapers, blogs, social media accounts, and other sources that might prove useful when it comes to advertising and promoting the book. I didn’t get very far with this, though, because the book has to go off to print soon, so I spent a good hour or more doing further proofreading. Then I was asked to conduct an interview over the phone with one of their French authors. I tried both numbers he’d supplied at least six times, secretly terrified to be calling another country and to be carrying out such an important task. When he eventually picked up, we had to reschedule because he was too busy prepping for the restaurant to open, and he really wanted to give me a lot of good material for his profile instead of rushing the interview. So we’ve arranged to try again on Tuesday around the same time. Hopefully it works out. Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself.

I think it’s fairly safe to say that my first week has been a good one. I feel like a real intern; I feel like I’ve been there forever. And it may sound silly, but it’s nice just to be using my brain again. When you fold jeans for four hours a day, your brain goes onto auto-pilot, and you kind of slip into this monotonous routine without even realising it. I love learning and challenging myself and being terrified, and this internship seems to be giving me all of that and, if possible, more. These people aren’t just giving me valuable experience, they’re pushing me out of my comfort zone without probably even realising it. No two days are the same in this kind of work, and for me that’s exactly what I need.

I’ve found exactly what I want to do, and that makes it a lot easier to go to work in the afternoons, let me tell you. So stay tuned, because I can’t wait to see what the next twelve weeks bring!

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