Have you ever found yourself so absorbed in a task that the hours flew by without you even noticing it?
I was readying myself for work one morning when I suddenly realized I was beginning the seventh week of my internship. Somehow, I was already halfway through my three-month position at University of Toronto Press, and I felt like I had both accomplished and experienced so many new and fascinating things while still just barely scratching the surface of all I had yet to discover.
Some people say that eating a bowl of rice can ironically make you hungrier, and in the best way possible, I feel like that embodies what it’s been like for me to intern at UTP. With every day that passes, my appetite is whetted; I constantly find myself craving to learn and do more. There are challenges, of course, and not everything goes to plan, but I am slowly becoming more comfortable and assured in the things I do. And above all, there is no greater satisfaction than wrapping up an unfamiliar task for the first time, knowing that you started with nothing but now have something to show for all your initial blunders, fumbling, and experimentation.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the patient and encouraging mentorship I received from the members of the sales and marketing team. These past few weeks, they have guided me through so many different facets of what working at a university press entails, answering my copious questions and introducing me to countless new concepts. With the way my internship is structured, I spend each new week getting to explore a completely new aspect of the sales and marketing process; I’ve met with employees from all over the department to talk about their jobs, watch what they do, and learn how each of their unique roles contribute to the functioning of the entire Publishing division. And I am able to do more than just take notes – I get the chance to actually contribute real work in each new role I try. I’ve written press releases and sent campaign emails; created graphics for social media and solicited reviews from scholarly journals; and I attended a book launch for a UTP publication, Building Justice, where I met the author Shauna Van Praagh and the subject of her book, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci. I even sold some books to a man in a suit who I later learned was actually the former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada – just one of those funny incidents that end up happening when you work at a university press.
Out of all the roles I’ve dabbled in, I’ve found myself enjoying the writing and graphic design-related tasks the most. Writing copy for social media posts is a fun challenge, especially when you need to condense your material to a small character limit while still making it engaging. Press releases, too, are satisfying to write. I collaborated with a fellow coworker, also a newcomer to UTP, in writing a media advisory for a book-signing event, and not only was it an enjoyable and enlightening process to work together and exchange ideas, but the knowledge that our advisory was successful in attracting media attention to the event in question was an immensely rewarding feeling.
And that’s really, I think, one of the most fulfilling parts of this whole experience – the knowledge that I am doing work that has an actual, tangible impact. In school, you can find yourself pouring months or years of effort into your work for the sake of a single grade – a number on your transcript that will hardly matter once you leave coursework behind and enter the “real world”. As a student, you might spend so much time memorizing theory and agonizing over hypotheticals that you start to feel a bit like a hypothetical yourself – more of an abstract concept than a person, and one who – once the structure of school is taken away – finds themselves scrambling for meaning, for a purpose, for proof that they exist. At least, that’s how I felt in the months leading up to graduation. I’d spent so long defending my choice of major that I felt like I couldn’t admit to my fears – that I was unsure of my future and of my ability to find a vocation for myself that wouldn’t require me to sacrifice my happiness.
But now, having been offered this opportunity to intern at UTP, I feel extremely fortunate that I can actually look forward to the work I do, and have the opportunity to exercise my creativity in meaningful and constructive ways. I am kept undeniably busy, and at this point am probably working on no less than five tasks at once, but I can’t help but find this sheer variety of experiences exciting, and it certainly ensures that I am never bored. I’ve accumulated thousands of words of notes and questions, learned to use programs like Adobe Express and WordPress and digital asset management databases, and even sending emails has become something I enjoy, knowing that I can talk to authors and editors and help get their books out into the world.
My current project is creating a landing page on the UTP website, and it’s honestly thrilling to have the opportunity to work on a larger task like this. I still have many things to figure out for a rapidly approaching deadline – graphics to make, WordPress formatting to wrestle with, and brainstorming creative methods for presenting the content as always – but I know I have the support of my mentors, a whole world of possibilities to explore, and still so many things to learn and try as I enter the second half of my internship.
At times like these, I wish I could visit my past self and tell them, “Don’t worry so much. This is only the beginning. You’ll get the chance to experience so many interesting things.”