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Internship guidelines for employers

Internship guidelines for employers

The Bookseller and The Publishers Association created guidelines for employers on how to treat interns fairly, and with the best chance of success for them to learn and be part of the team.

If a publisher is serious about improving diversity, making getting into publishing easier and fairer and also hiring people in a professional and transparent manner, then following these guidelines should be easy and worthwhile. As an industry, we should show potential jobseekers that the industry is fair, inclusive and evolving away from the idea that working for free is ‘character building’ and ‘what people should do’.

Interning is a fantastic way for those who are looking to get into publishing to gain experience and a great way for employers to encourage others to join the industry. However, a bad internship not only fails to give the intern relevant experience, it is also a waste of time for the employer. Being an intern can be daunting, particularly if you don’t come from a background which has given you confidence around professional adults, and a badly-organised internship can put them off publishing as a career.


We asked @jobsinbooks followers what one thing could improve an internship. Here’s a selection of the responses:


"Wish I'd actually been introduced to the various people working there. I know that as an intern I wasn't important. Still."

"Working on live projects, and referred to by name!"

"Actual growth opportunities and project work that can help you move on from interning."

"Apart from money, the opportunity to extend yourself and learn something usefula project to own is good for this."

"Clear projects/tasks to work on, so you're not sitting around spare."

"People taking the time to teach you enough to be useful even when they are busy!"

"Having a designated seat/desk/space that is yours for the duration rather than having to ask every morning where to sit."

"We get that staff are busy with their own thing but being invited to lunch makes a huge difference."

"Maybe an actual schedule that structures what needs to be done? So you don't feel like a dead weight but part of the team."


Guidelines for Employers

1. Advertise any internships available and make public the process of applying for work experience. Application and interview experience is invaluable for those starting out in publishing and gives you a chance to check that they will get on with the team.

2. Communication is important. Send the applicant an email the week before they start with: address of the office and directors to nearest bus stops/train stations; description of the company; their start and finish times for the week, including lunch hours; the name of the person to ask for when they first arrive; the name of their line manager; a description of their main duties during placement.

3. On day one, introduce them to other members of staff by email or take them around the office.

4. Take time to chat with your intern, over lunch or in a meeting room. Give them a chance to speak face-to-face about how they are enjoying the experience, what their interests are and what kind of publishing they are interested in.

5. Make sure they have a mentor or similar who they can go to with any issues. Similarly, providing them with a desk of their own, computer logins and a phone number will help make them feel like a part of the team.

6. Give them feedback at the end fo their placement and consider asking them for feedback on the internship programme.

7. One of the most uncomfortable parts of being an intern is sitting around with nothing to do. Give them an ongoing project to complete, which they can turn to between tasks and that isn't time sensitive so it can run in the background.

8. Provide them with guidelines on office etiquette.

9. For short-term placements of 1-2 weeks, put them in touch with the Spare Room Project, which can help them secure free accommodation.

10. Remember: this may be their first time in the office! Basic office training on how to answer phones or use the printer will be appreciated.

Useful definitions

Student placements 

These are part of a course (Usually an MA) and there is a compulsory amount of placement time that needs to be completed (2-3 working weeks). This should be expenses paid and some tasks structured but also about wider learning in the organisation and shadowing.

Work Experience 

This is when a person comes to learn about working in a publisher- they are given short tasks to perform under guidance and for no longer than one week. Paid expenses are the minimum requirement, and people on work experience placements should not be expected to work independently.


This is when any person of any age takes a temporary role at a publisher that will provide a significant company benefit and requires them to work alone, along with a more general introduction to publishing as an industry, or your company in particular.  These should be paid at London Living Wage (or minimum wage) and should not replace a member of staff.

Temporary staff 

A temporary member of staff should be under contract, for a set amount of time and money (again, London Living Wage preferred). Temps will usually be brought in to complete a specific task.