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Life as an OUP intern

By Jessica Harris


I know that I want to work in publishing, and I know that to get into publishing, it helps to have work experience. But when I applied for an eight-week paid internship at Oxford University Press (OUP), I certainly didn’t think I’d get it, especially as OUP is one of the industry’s biggest names. I sent off my application a couple of days before the deadline but tried not to think about it. I was sure there’d be thousands of better-qualified applicants.

OUPofficeBut I got called to an interview for a position in online marketing. The internship works on a manager-by-manager basis: I was allocated to my department because my manager wanted me, and the interview was the level of formality she chose. Some interns had tasks; others had to answer really hard questions, but mine was (thankfully) quite relaxed: we chatted about OUP’s summer sports day, I proofread a 250-word piece of marketing copy, and I listed three key skills I had that made me a good match for the job. I sent a thank-you email, waited for about ten days, and then got a call from HR saying I had the job! I was on a train platform at the time and immediately called my mum and squeaked joyfully at her. I got some odd looks.

I work in the UK Online Product Marketing team within GAB (Global Academic Business). That means that I work with the UK-based online resources such as Oxford Reference and University Press Scholarship Online. Product Marketers act as brand ambassadors, creating the ‘story’ of the product and representing them both in internal project meetings and externally to customers.

My main task has been to analyse how the six online OUP Law products compare to their competitors. This means that I created a spreadsheet detailing exactly what our sites offer compared to the other big names in the market, and then turned this information into concise, easy-to-read ‘cheat sheets’ for the Sales team that give all that information at a glance. The best thing is that this job has a real purpose: it is a comprehensive sales tool which helps Sales to respond to customers’ queries about OUP’s Law products and hopefully really highlight the value the resources can bring to their institution.

I haven’t made the tea, done the filing, or stuffed any envelopes — and no, my department definitely didn’t tell me to say that! Instead we’ve had tea parties, played Articulate at lunchtime, and gone out for drinks.

There are seventeen other interns on the placement with me, and we’re all in very different departments — from the Office of Strategy Management to Primary Literacy. We’ve had training and discussion sessions throughout the eight weeks, and even got to meet the CEO, Nigel Portwood, at the end of our third week. (We all agreed he was a great guy and we’d love to go to the pub with him sometime.) We also had to give a presentation to each other at the end of the eight weeks on our main tasks and what we’ve learnt. They’re all lovely people, though, so it wasn’t that scary.

I’d definitely say that the best thing about interning at OUP has been its atmosphere of helpfulness and sharing. I’ve tried out Primary Literacy, Rights, Trade Editorial, and several others, and every time people have been more than happy to either give up their time to let me fire silly questions at them or let me come into their office to learn about how their department works. This has given me a fantastic insight into how the industry works as a whole, and has allowed me to learn where I might fit into it.

So overall I would absolutely advise people to apply for this internship. You’re definitely not treated as a general dogsbody: rather OUP really tries to make sure you get a clear view of how the company works and help you learn where you are best suited, as well as giving you real responsibility. I mean, I got to have cake with the CEO. How many publishing interns can say that?

Jess Harris graduated from Warwick University with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics and has been working as an intern in the Online Product Marketing department in the Oxford office of OUP.

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