How to make the most of your internship

How to make the most of your internship

As part of The Bookseller's How to Rise in Your Career series of features, 2020 Rising Star Michela Pea shares insights from her own experience of going from interning for children's publisher Nosy Crow to being named its senior rights manager within a couple of years⁠.

Can you outline your career trajectory to date and how you ended up in your current role?

I approached the world of publishing thinking that I would become a literary translator. I had studied Chinese, English and Spanish at university in my home country, Italy, and I believed that becoming a translator was the only way to combine my passion for books with my interest in other languages and cultures. 

I found my first publishing internship with Rizzoli, in Milan, in 2013 and I worked with their editorial team on foreign fiction for a year, while also translating children's books on the side. I soon realised that a job in house was more suited to my personality, as I find working in teams way more rewarding and fun than being stuck at my desk on my own every day.

In 2015 I moved to London for a Publishing MA at UCL, where I discovered aspects of book publishing that I had no idea existed. I also found out that there is another department in publishing that gives you the opportunity to travel, use languages and dig deep into other cultures. And that’s Foreign Rights. 

How did you hear about Nosy Crow and can you share any insight into the application process?

I first heard of Nosy Crow during my MA, when someone from the team came to speak about digital publishing. I then decided to contact them, as well as other small independent publishers, to find a work experience as stand assistant at the 2016 Bologna Book Fair. It was not your standard application process – they could do with the help and I was eager to gain as much experience as I could. You could say that I was in the right place at the right time.

What did you learn from your internship?

My internship with Nosy Crow was very full-on. I spent three days with the whole team on an incredibly busy stand where I got to listen in on dozens of rights selling meetings while whirling up and down the stand to tidy up shelves, get coffees and point each customer to the right table. During those intense three days, I learned to multitask, prioritise and stay calm and focused in the most stressful of contexts. I learned that making yourself useful – indispensable even – is the way to get noticed and, eventually, get offered a real job.

What is your opinion of internships generally as an entry route into a publishing career?

Internships are the most useful thing you can do to get into publishing, and it's even better if it's with a small independent publisher. Big corporate names may look nice on a CV, but it’s working with a small and growing team that allows you to get hand-on experience and show what you can really do.

Making yourself useful is the way to get noticed and, eventually, get offered a job.

Can you talk about the transition from being an intern to getting the job? Were there any challenges along the way?

I think it’s very easy, in any entry level job, to end up doubting yourself. For me, the transition from intern to rights assistant happened at a very busy time just after Bologna, so I often felt overwhelmed by the amount of books to pack up and emails to send out. However, having met and shared food with most of the senior team as well as Nosy Crow’s publisher at the fair, and having proven myself in what can be an extremely chaotic setting, I started the job with a confidence that not all newbies have.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to turn their internship into a permanent job?

  • Find a small, growing company where you can really make yourself indispensable.
  • Show that you care about what you are doing, even if the tasks you are given are not always the most exciting.
  • Show up on time, and offer to stay late if it’s a busy time and the people in your team are still at their desk when you are ready to leave.
  • Speak to people, even those you don’t work with directly. A vacancy might pop up in another department, so you want whoever is recruiting for that job to know who you are.
  • Offer to help.
  • Ask questions, it means that you are interested.