Before applying to graduate school, I didn’t have much interest in pursuing internships. Honestly, it never even crossed my mind to try. This was probably due in large part to the fact that I majored in philosophy, but I think it applies to a fair handful of other disciplines as well, especially those in the liberal arts. What was I going to do with an internship, anyway? In philosophy, you either teach or try to convince employers that your abstract critical-thinking skills and ability to understand complex metaphysical theories qualify you for a job. I did hear a rumor once about a wealthy businessman who employed a personal philosopher while he traveled the world—but in general those things don’t happen, and I don’t like traveling in the first place. As such, when I left undergrad, I happily switched disciplines.
One of the great things about Ooligan Press, arguably its top selling point when compared to similar programs, is the hands-on experience you get by working at an actual press while studying for your degree. But that’s not all they offer in terms of real-world work experience—Ooligan has established connections with numerous local publications and publishing houses, and for students, they’ve compiled an extensive database of places to get in touch with if you’re itching to fill out your resume and gain some extracurricular industry experience. Students are also regularly alerted to many available internship opportunities via email—getting involved in publishing outside of Ooligan is very strongly encouraged by faculty, and they do everything they can to help you.
My first internship was with Portland Book Review. It was an editorial position, completed during my second term, and it served as my introduction to WordPress, review editing, and, once I’d finished, a position as a book reviewer (paid in books!). My second internship took place during my third term, and it was with Hawthorne Books. As a publicity position, it was a sizable step outside my comfort zone, but in a good way—even if I don’t end up working in publicity in the long term, the experience taught me to really appreciate everything that goes into getting a book out there, including research, spreadsheets, pitches, mailings, and phone calls. In general, I felt like I gained a much greater understanding of what book publishing looks like for indie presses, and I hope to complete at least one more internship before I graduate in the spring.
The application processes for the three I’ve applied to so far have been very similar: I found their websites, looked up their internship application instructions, and sent in a cover letter and resume (and writing samples for editorial positions). I took the first one for school credit, so once I was offered the position, I did the relevant paperwork with the program director and registered for the newly created course once it became available in PSU’s system. If you want to intern somewhere that doesn’t regularly take interns on, it never hurts to ask—many places would be more than happy to provide experience in exchange for some free help.
I will add this disclaimer for those just starting out in the grad program at Ooligan: I don’t recommend overloading yourself with internships right away. It’s important to give yourself space and time to get acclimated, especially during your first few (often very difficult) weeks. But once you’re ready, they can be a very beneficial part of building your professional network and repertoire of skills and experience.