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Work experience and internships

Work experience and internships can be excellent ways to find out if publishing is the right career for you and if so to get your foot on the publishing career ladder.

Pay for interns

All work experience or internships you are offered should be paid – except those taken as part of a course of study (eg school pupils or Edinburgh Napier University or University of Stirling publishing courses). See the official guidance on the UK Government website

Difference between work experience/placement and internships

Many employers and others use the term interchangeably. However, work experience tends to be used for shorter periods in the workplace (one or two weeks) undertaken by school or university students to get a taste of a certain job or industry or as part of a university course. Internships are generally undertaken by graduates or others in the job market, can be more structured, involve more hands-on work and can last for a longer period (up to several months).

Some bigger publishers (especially in London) have structured work experience or internship programmes: see eg Faber & FaberHarperCollins and Penguin Random House. This is not common in Scotland where the publishers are small and medium-sized and interns are likely to be asked to help out on whatever needs done at the time they are there.

Where to find publishing work experience/internship in Scotland

Publishing Scotland’s members rarely advertise for interns as they get so many unsolicited requests. However, when they do advertise, we will post them on our website so check regularly or follow us on Twitter @PublishScotland. There’s a list of publishers on our website and many have contact names. They all have links to the publishers’ websites where you will find out more information about them.

How to apply for work experience/internship

Treat your application like a job application. Do your research about the company, find out who to contact and send them a covering letter (no more than one page) and your CV. Your letter and CV should be clearly laid out and word perfect. You will be competing with lots of other people so it’s important to make a good impression.

What to expect from work experience/internship

Work experience may involve shadowing and/or assisting one or more members of the staff. Internships can range from general assistance on a wide variety of tasks in different areas of publishing to working on specific tasks or projects in one department. The helpful Book Careers website has some Golden Rules for Work Experience to help you get the most out of it. 

Is it worth doing work experience/internship?

By doing work experience or an internship you get the opportunity to learn about how a publisher or publishing department works. As well as developing and practising your publishing skills, you get to meet and talk to people working in the industry, get advice and make contacts. All this will enable you to make more informed career choices. If you already know that you want to work in publishing it may help you to get your first job but there’s no guarantee.

Work experience and internships in other areas can also be very useful for getting a start in publishing eg general office experience (including administration, answering phone calls) and all book industry experience is useful especially book retail.