I’m always on the lookout, like a ravenous vulture, for work experience placements that I can worm my way into. After a three-hour long lecture on publishing during one of my modules and watching the spritely 70-year-old man flash his vintage Rolex around the room, I set about locating some kind of publishing or proofreading based vocation. To my annoyance, after emailing about ten organisations involved with English or books in general, I only received one reply. I will not name the company that responded to me (for obvious reasons) but I was, to tell the truth, completely ecstatic. Jesus, this is it! I’m gonna be a star! A publishing- house star! The James Bond of blurbs! I couldn’t wait to go in and speak to them, to learn more about what I would be doing. A week later, I was discussing my first workload that I was going to be completing for these people: proofreading school books. After having it described to me for about twenty minutes, I was utterly convinced that it would be my destiny to complete this task to the best of my ability. It’s only reading a few books and marking the odd missed full- stop, right?
Wrongo. Firstly, the book they gave me at the beginning was my most dreaded nemesis: Mathematics. ‘Are you good at Maths?’ They had asked, beaming at me. ‘Oh, God yeah. I love it, live it. It’s great.’ I passed my Maths GCSE when I was eighteen. I do not like it, nor can I do it. Still, I persisted and, with the help of a calculator, completed my first book and emailed it back to them. Within the hour, I had another 200-page strong beast emailed my way with the caption ‘need this done for tomorrow, please’ as I gaped at the screen in utter horror. I was excited to be involved with actual work, but I had also informed them of the fact that I was doing a degree and wouldn’t be able to accept a ridiculous workload. However, wanting to impress them, I completed it; science, this time. When I had finished, sure enough, another one was fired back. This process continued for weeks until I finally had the gonads to say something.
‘I kind of feel like I’m doing work you guys don’t want to do but for no money.’ It was risky, I knew it, but I honestly felt that I was being taken advantage of.
‘I will happily continue doing work for you, but only if there is more time between each booklet.’ This time, a positive response. But there was a catch. This time, I was sent only one publication a week, but it was massive. It seemed to be three or four books combined. However, I wanted to look like I had drive, and a passion for this kind of thing, so I persisted in the naïve hope that it would turn into something more worthwhile. For nearly a year, I endlessly proofread school book after school book: science, English, Maths, History. Blood, sweat and tears pouring our of me every night as I slumped over my desk in front of Dinner Date (for moral support), clutching a Diet Coke in one hand and a packet of Pro- Plus in the other. It never ended but I needed to look dedicated. Who knew what it could lead to!? Unfortunately, when it came to the summer and I was back to my job as a waitress, I decided that enough was simply enough. I emailed them being as frosty as it was socially acceptable to be, stating that I was withdrawing my assets and wanted a reference for my CV. They understood, promising me a gleaming masterpiece to show to future employers.
I ended my experience about five months ago, and have still received nothing. Despite asking countless times and being promised something new each time, I have never received a reference. After nearly a year of genuinely FREE WORK, they cannot even bring themselves to write a few sentences about me being ‘fairly dedicated to the cause’. But I will not back down. I will rise from the ashes after every lie- fuelled email and simply annoy them until they crack. Brutal, but this proofreading slave needs justice.
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