Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have An Editor From Hell? 5 Ways To Cope

Hey there, fellow Edsters!

June quickly came to a close, and it’s hard to believe that I’m approaching the one-month mark at my internship. I’ve really settled into my position and routine now, and it’s been smooth sailing!

I’ve also started to get to know some of the other interns too, which has been wonderful. What’s really cool about NYC internships versus those in D.C. or other cities is that your colleagues are from all over the country rather than primarily based locally. It’s great to hear their different perspectives, from the West Coast to East and everywhere in between. Everyone has a unique story.

But perhaps what’s most interesting is hearing about others’ past internships. And while there are definite highs, there are some pretty big lows too, which quickly turn into internship horror stories.

I’ve been lucky — through all my internships, I’ve worked with wonderful, relaxed editors. I’ve worked in offices where there is a supportive environment that promotes asking questions. But that’s not the case for everyone, and one area that can get really tense is working hours.

As interns, the last thing we want to do is step on our editors’ toes or cause problems — and while this mentality is the right one to have, some editors may use it a little too much to their advantage, even going so far as to break office policy.

For example, imagine your office is intense. Your hours may formally be listed as x time to y time, but you end up staying in the office until z time and beyond. Everyone else does, and your editor expects it. So when something comes up one evening, can you expect to leave on time or even early if no one else does? You’re afraid protesting it — that’ll hurt your already fragile relationship with your editor. What’s an intern to do?

When your relationship with your editor is a little frosty, it’s all about taking a careful, measured approach. You may not often question your supervisor, but it’s important to have a strategy and not be afraid during the times you should.

So what should you do? The following is my strategy.

Know your internship coordinators. These people are in charge of making sure the office is a good environment for you. Let them know when you’re troubled — they should be discreet if you specifically reach out to them. They’re your go-to sources, and it’s their job to make things better. You should feel comfortable going to them and should know who they are.

Choose your battles carefully. Because your relationship with your editor is particularly tense, it’s important to choose the times you’re going to rock the boat carefully. If it’s to contest a small assignment that seems a little absurd, hold back. But if it’s a greater issue — your leaving consistently late, for example, when it’s against company policy or if it seems like your editor is harassing you or targeting you purposely — don’t be afraid to take it up.

Seek the advice of others when things are particularly tense. Parents, mentors, your fellow interns... Be sure to get a couple of opinions on approaches to take when things are less than great. Often, they can help you filter out when something is or isn’t professional and give you the best idea on what to do and how to act.

Approach your editor carefully with inquiries. Don’t be snippy and stay professional at all times. Try your best to keep a polite, measured tone and justify the reason for your request. And above all, stay composed. It can be extremely hard at times, but it’s important to detach yourself and know that it’s not personal. Always keep yourself emotionally uninvolved.

Know not every office is like this. For every horror story, there are three times as many good stories of amazing internships and wonderful people. So when the going gets tough, keep the end goal in sight. This summer, you may not have been so lucky, but don’t give up. Stick this through. If you can deal with the worst, you’ll flourish in the best. Good luck!

So what do you think, Edsters? How would you deal with a not-so pretty situation? And what’s the worst horror story you’ve heard and how did the person get through it?

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