Over the past few weeks I have started to receive a steady flow of unsolicited CVs from University students looking for work experience. I take each request as a compliment and a sign of Peirene’s growing status.
But I don’t often find a good fit. A surprising amount of applications fall at the first fence - the ones who didn’t bother to research my name, the “Dear Sir/Madam” – ones, because after all it really isn’t hard to find out my name, a bit of initiative, a couple of clicks on the website, that’s all what is demanded. Then there are the ones who found my name – well done them – but clearly didn’t tailor their email to Peirene Press itself and write lines such as “to gain work experience in a long-established publishing house like yours”. These don’t progress too far either.
Every now and again, however, there is a gem. “Dear Meike” or “Dear Ms Ziervogel”, either is fine with me, followed by a beautiful email expressing the applicant’s long cherished desire to gain work experience with a small, exquisite, personal company like my nymph, whose website looks so stunning, whose first book reviews are so impressive, whose editorial choices are outstanding. Nothing but sweet talk, but – I hope you are with me - well researched. And, guess what, it works. I am susceptible and click on the CV. Immaculate. I return to the email, read on. “I love reading and books are my passion. I am a creative person, who speaks three languages fluently. To make full use of my skills I ideally would like to work in your editorial department.” My heart sinks. Everyone wants to work in the “editorial department”, no one wants to work in marketing, accounts, contracts or Salon organizing (such as cooking potato salad). No one expresses passion for going to the post office, photocopying, filling out prize application forms, grand application forms, updating website and publicity sheets. Yes, I am waiting for an applicant to write: “I am highly intelligent, well-organised, motivated, I have no illusions and I love never-ending admin.”
Hasn’t happened yet. Not a single applicant has even got close to it. Am I waiting for the impossible? After all, I founded Peirene not out of an interest in contracts but from a love for books. I guess I ought to grant the students the same rights. Enthusiasm for the “editorial department” must probably be the starting point, the less glamorous stuff creeps up soon enough. And the good ones will learn. They have learned the sweet talk already.