As an English major, I’ve wanted to pursue a career in publishing since my freshman year, so I did everything I thought I was supposed to do: I honed in on my writing skills, practiced copyediting, and tried to teach myself various graphic design software programs. However, while all of those skills have been crucial, I was ultimately too close-minded without realizing it. Like many college students who want to work in publishing, I harbored a common misconception that the only publishing jobs are editorial jobs, so I was using a tunnel-vision approach as I tried to achieve my goals.
As I searched for internship opportunities, I only applied for ones with “editor” in the job description. Each semester when I signed up for classes at my school—Eastern Illinois University—I made sure my advisor knew that my career goal was to be “an editor” so she would place me in classes that would nurture my future. Everything I did gave me marketable experience, but I was telling myself that an otherwise broad industry was narrow in its skillset. My outlook would finally shift when I started my summer internship at the University of Illinois Press.
U of I Press started the Eastern Illinois University Summer Internship in 2018. Previously, Press interns were exclusively from U of I, so allowing another university to take advantage of this opportunity was innovative and exciting for me and my EIU peers. After hearing great things about the first year of the internship program from my professors, I decided to apply for the 2019 position. After all, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to gain hands-on experience in publishing at an actual academic press, and I figured it would fit perfectly into my plan to become an editor. When I got the internship and arrived on my first day, I had no idea that the experience would remove my tunnel vision on my future and replace it with a much-needed broader perspective.
On my first day, my supervisor, Julie Laut, took me on a tour of the Press. Arguably, that was the most eye-opening experience of my entire internship. As we walked through the building, I saw more departments than I ever would have imagined a press would need. That same day, Julie also gave me an infographic that detailed the process of publishing a scholarly book, and once again, I was shocked: the publishing industry consisted of much more than the generic editing positions I envisioned since my freshman year, and each component was necessary to get a book from a manuscript to a physical copy in the hands of a consumer.
Suddenly, my career path looked strikingly different. I no longer had to focus on fitting into the ultra-specific mold that I thought was required to build a career in publishing; instead, I could choose from a multitude of jobs in the publishing field, and my time at the Press would eventually help me realize how exciting, complex, and essential each position truly is.
Throughout the summer, I worked with the marketing department and the outreach coordinator to produce promotional materials, write copy, edit copy, attend outreach events, communicate with professionals, and learn about the inner workings of academic publishing as a whole. I acquired practical knowledge that wouldn’t have been attainable without working in such a collaborative, welcoming environment. I’m excited to apply everything the Press taught me to my future career—whether that ends up being an editor or one of the many other publishing jobs available.
To say that the experience was valuable is an understatement because I didn’t just gain incredible experience in publishing; I also got the chance to open my mind to several new career paths that I didn’t know about before my internship. I would say the EIU Summer Internship at the Press is a success, and I’m thankful that I got such a worthwhile opportunity.
By Tachel Brown, EIU Summer Intern, 2019