The Intern Diaries: Goodbye Flightless Bird & Intern Advice

Last week officially marked the completion of my time at the Viking imprint of Penguin Random House. It was my fifth (what!!!) internship, and without a doubt the fastest internship I have ever had. I don't think time ever flew as fast as it did while I was there; time really flies when you are having fun. But, as it came to a close and I said my goodbyes, I started reflecting on all that I have learned throughout all my internships.

I'm not talking about legit tasks, but the overarching importance of things that can span any internship. And instead of lamenting about how much I will miss the trendsetting department I spent the past ~3 months interning for, I want to share these insights with others.

More posts about what I learned about publishing at Viking to come. But now, intern advice!

1. Take Notes.
I have at least one pad of notes from all 4 companies I have interned for. A lot of them are lists of crossed out tasks that have long been completed, but many have notes from meetings, from advice a boss or colleague may have given me, general observations, etc. You never know when remembering that small grain of wisdom mentioned to you at the water cooler can rock your world in a future interview, or even put things into perspective. Interning is great, but it's a near-constant workload and it can be hard to remember things sometimes. Write everything down and come back to it later. You don't want to forget anything about this experience that you have earned.

2. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Every time I was doing a mailing and someone would stop by to help or give me new instruction, I would immediately start picking their brain. Why publishing? Why publicity specifically? What is your end goal? What do you think about my path? What is this mailing for? Why am I sending out finished copies and not galleys? Did you study abroad in college because I am and I want advice?! Odds are if the question is appropriate and has ever crossed your mind, I have asked it of one of my bosses. I am a naturally inquisitive person, and my department tends to learn that my very first day. A department accepts an intern expecting them to be curious and to have questions. If you don't take advantage of this, you'll be kicking yourself later. What better opportunity to truly learn about your industry?

3. Get to know everyone individually, even if it is awkward.
I am an awkward person and I am totally aware of that, but I present an extroverted and loud personality to get past it. Make a concerted effort to get to know everyone in your department because odds are they were once in your shoes. The lower level employees experienced what you're doing more recently, so they're ready and willing with advice. The higher ups have been in the industry for years and have acted as a hiring manager at one point in their life, so they know what signs to look for in amazing employees. Pick their brains. Connect with them. Leave a lasting impression. BECOME FRIENDS. You want to be on goodbye hugging level with all your fellow huggers when it is time to leave. And if they're not a fellow hugger that's cool. But my point is you want to be professional friends at the end of your time there.

4. Dress to impress and always have a smile on your face.
I know that a lot of internships have relaxed policies, but it is important to still look professional and not frumpy. Every company I have ever worked at is okay with jeans on Fridays and whatnot, so I wear my jeans for casual Friday, but I am still in a more professional outfit instead of a t-shirt. Even if you see people around you wearing t-shirts, it is always better to dress to impress instead of dressing down. You never know the hidden opinions people are forming about you.

5. Just roll with it and your experience will be so much better.
As an intern, you are going to get assigned tasks you may not always like. A lot of the beginner's tasks are time consuming things that full-time employees just don't have the time or patience for. Take every task with a smile and roll with it instead of fighting it. In the beginning of interning, I hated doing mailings. Now I love them because I think they're super therapeutic and it's nice to have a calm task inbetween the craziness of my regular workload. Does that mean I was happy I had an entire day where I sent out more than 1,000 books for 8 hours while at Viking? No. But that day led to me being assigned more projects that weren't packing related because all the packing got done. Just roll with everything because most tasks are a necessary evil to get to the more interesting, complex, "fun" ones.

6. Go in with no expectations but to learn.
I think the worst thing that could happen is going into an internship with expectations about 100% everything you are going to do. Odds are you'll be surprised with what you learn and many of the tasks you are assigned. Going into an internship with expectations that aren't met can dampen the experience for you and actually make you dislike a position that may have been absolutely rad for someone else. Even though I had prior industry knowledge from my four other internships, I walked into Viking as a blank slate with no expectations other than the fact that it is going to be unlike any other internship I have had since every position differs. And you want to know what? It was awesome and totally different and I learned a lot. I was drawing a lot of comparison between it and Bloomsbury in my head while working because Bloomsbury was all I knew, but I did not go in expecting it to be Bloomsbury because it's a different company, of course it wouldn't be.

I have spoken to interns who have gone in expecting their internship to be something and then being sorely disappointed when it wasn't. The purpose of an internship is to learn if this is or isn't where you belong. Not going in with crazy expectations can help you keep a clear mind and it makes it easier to focus on the tasks in front of you.

7. Stay in touch with your department after you leave.
I always make it a point to see all my past bosses, especially those I connected with on a personal level. I can now call many of these people dear friends. These people are my champions, rooting for me and my future and the future of this industry. They want me to succeed and it is such an uplifting feeling, and upon graduation they will assist me with actually succeeding since I am unable to job hunt just yet. It is important to maintain your relationships with these people. I am not talking seeing them every month because realistically they are beyond busy, but every couple of months it's always great to drop them an email to catch up. Past bosses know more about you than they think you do, and forging friendships is always amazing. Not talking to someone for three years and then calling them up asking for a reference and assistance with the job hunt will only end badly because it is a blatant example of using someone for their connections instead of respecting their publishing prowess and seeking to learn from them. Again, presentation matters in an example like this.

This advice can span any internship, not just the publishing industry. Do you have any questions about the intern experience or thoughts to share in regards to your own experiences? Share them below! As always, every comment is appreciated. <3


  1. Ok I realize your title is talking about a penguin, but my first thought was that you were referring to the song 'Flightless Bird, American Mouth' from the Twilight soundtrack and I was about to compliment you on the A+++ reference.