Over the summer of 2017, MA Publishing student Sarah Kendle applied for, secured and carried out an internship with top educational publishing house Cambridge University Press. We caught up with her to find out how it went.
What did you learn?
I learnt about the inner workings of a branch of publishing that I had never considered before. When I considered my future career in publishing I thought I would begin in trade or academic, I never considered ELT (English Language Teaching) to be so huge an industry and how much of a potential profit an organisation can make for this market.
I also learnt how digital is shaping the whole of the industry, from online protection, data storage and even virtual reality is breaking into the once print-dominated industry. Digital is the future, but it’s not just going to be e-books. There are certainly going to be some surprises in the publishing industry in the next few years.
What additional skills do you feel you have learnt?
During my six week internship I learnt both soft and hard skills, some of which I was not expecting.
Editing (both copy and content) – I was given a variety of products in varying stages of the publishing process which required different levels of critical detail. Importantly, I learnt to develop a filter. All publishers have a set of rules and guidelines that their products must adhere to. I learnt how to use this filter in order to create products ready for print.
Digital Publishing – although I knew I would be working in a digital team I was still surprised with how hands on I would be with some of the digital aspects. I worked predominately with a programme called Avallain (which I misspelled as Avallion for the first three days of my internship). This programme creates online content for students to learn from, for example I have created multiple online, educational activities.
Time Management – I always found this skill an odd thing to include on a CV but I now fully respect it. During my internship (and now in my job) I have multiple projects I am responsible for which I must follow to a schedule, as well as staff meetings. I recall on my first week I had around fifteen meetings with three deadlines for the end of the week. It was a skill I improved on very quickly.
Do you feel doing a placement will/has helped you to get a job after university?
Yes! It allowed me to put my foot in the door and squeeze in.
I had been applying for publishing jobs since before I started my MA and I must have applied to around a hundred different roles and came close to getting the jobs; but I would always get the same response: ‘You don’t have enough experience'. This internship has given me a chance to gain that experience.
If you could give students thinking about doing a placement one bit of advice, what would it be?
Consider your strengths and weaknesses - you may find that your weakness could be a hidden strength.
Almost the majority of the editorial team for ELT have worked previously as teachers and because of this they all have the same perspective. I, however, have never worked as an English teacher which I believed was my weakness when applying for the internship. During my interview I was asked about this and I argued that I bring a different perspective – that of the student because I am around the same age as the target readership.
What the interview process was like?
The interview was over Skype and it was with two people. They were very nice, and eager to understand my thinking during the task. They also explained how the digital tasks would be incorporated and what my responsibilities would be. I would say the first half of the interview (which lasted just over an hour) focused on my task, the second half was where I was asked on my previous experience – they were particularly interested in my MA Publishing (which I felt was my biggest asset) and my experience working at a museum.
I asked on my last day of the internship why they chose me. I felt at the time that I was the weakest candidate, the job description requested students to have experience teaching English as a foreign language (which I have never done). However, I was told by my Line Manager that I was their favourite from when they first saw my CV and covering letter as they thought it was clear and well written. My Line Manager also said that they were impressed with my performance in the task and interview.
Sarah is due to graduate from our MA Publishing course in Summer 2018.