This week I started applying for jobs and grad schemes in the publishing industry. And so begins my path to publishing, and this series which will document it!
I am due to graduate in July, meaning it’s about time I confront my future head-on. For a while, I was certain I’d just get straight into a job. Then I thought about an MA. Then I considered a year off. Then I thought about a combination of some of these things: take a few months to travel and intern, and then try and settle down. But with many of my peers already lining jobs up for after graduation, the panic began to rise.
I went to see my university careers advisor, who had previously been a publicist, and was a great help in calming down. She assured me that only 50% of my peers would have jobs sorted by graduation day, and that although careers in the Arts are notoriously different to any other sector as they lack graduate schemes (in comparison to say banking or consultancy) and so a lot of applications are for actual jobs which you can’t apply for over a month in advance, this is also a gift. It means you can take your time to think about where you want to work, and why, and it also takes the pressure of at this very stressful time of year, when finals and dissertations are all-consuming!
And so, with this newfound reassurance, I was inspired to start researching, and ended up being pleasantly surprised and excited by the range of opportunities on offer when I really started looking at my options. I began by scouring publishing house websites and the university careers listings for the positions that spoke to me, and the places I’d love to work. I decided to steer clear of the generic sites like monster or indeed, knowing that these are rarely comprehensive, and preferring instead to go straight to the source. I made a list of the companies who’d published the books on my shelves, the ones I love and re-read often, and found there was a lot of crossover, meaning that I had a conclusive and short list by the end. Twitter, also, I found to be a really useful resource – with lots of publishers highly active on it, and advertising both vacancies and schemes. Harper Collins really caught my eye: their graduate scheme is something to behold in its breadth and depth, and willingness to pay fairly and educate fully, and I’m so happy that publishers are taking steps towards encouraging and enabling the next generation of wanna-be publishers. I also really admired Penguin Random House’s grad scheme, which I think they’ve put a lot of thought into. I found that looking at past interns’ reviews of these placements was a great help in deciding if I would apply for these (many were glowing!)
However, because these aren’t just normal jobs, but serious and committed grad schemes, fierce with competition, the application process was inevitably going to be different to the routine CV and covering letter. Whilst daunting, this was also kind of exciting. And even though I put off a video interview for a while, out of fear that I’d blunder, I eventually bit the bullet and took the plunge, and do you know what? It was kind of fun! And so I felt prepared to forge on with the process.
I then spent a few hours on the CV that’s been a forgotten computer file for a few months, and began applying for summer placements. This felt like a good idea, and one that would be valuable, because I’d like to spend the summer gaining some more experience, and a feel for the different aspects of the industry. I think at this point, for anyone certain that they want to work in publishing but not sure which role, this is advantageous, because you can try out everything. I, however, have always felt the editorial calling, and so I had to be more selective, but I think it remains important to be open to new things – you never know what you might end up really enjoying!
Now begin the long weeks of waiting to hear back, but the relief of getting those initial applications out there, and the progress I feel I’ve made is so worth it. Writing a CV and researching different publishing companies has been so interesting, and in itself has educated me more in the industry. You’d be surprised what a ‘simple’ job application can teach you!
And so I’ll conclude with a few tips I’ve learned from my process:
- If you’re at uni, PLEASE visit your Careers Service. Seriously, they are the best. Their job is literally to help you get a job. Take advantage of this. If you’re not at uni, there’s so many helpful websites for publishing advice, and make the best use of Twitter.
- Tailor your application and CV for each place you apply to. It’s respectful and shows you’re genuinely interested in the company for who they are, not just because they have a job vacancy.
- Also take time, in vacations, or weekends, to pad out the CV. This isn’t just for future employers, but for you: dipping your toe in the industry will help you navigate in the future, and hopefully give you an idea in what specifically interests you.
- Be choosy. Don’t apply randomly, or for everything in sight. It’s better to really try for a few positions you’re really enthusiastic about, and see them through properly, than to halfheartedly apply for loads.
- But also be flexible: don’t confine yourself to one idea, or you might end up with nothing. In an industry like publishing, being open and lateral thinking is key, and will be appreciated.
- Research who you’re applying for. Not only will this impress the employer, but it will be beneficial to you: you might learn something about the industry, or the role, or the company that you otherwise wouldn’t have known. I particularly liked looking at the ‘Ethics’ and ‘Environmental Policies’ pages on publishers’ sites, because those aspects of the work place are important to me.
- Just do it. You have nothing to lose! Even if it doesn’t work out, you might get some really valuable feedback, and at least you’ve gained some experience in applications. If it’s meant to be, it will be!
Here are some websites I’ve found useful in the last few years:
- https://pubinterns.wordpress.com/ – regular updated listings of UK publishing vacancies and internships
- https://thesyp.org.uk/ – great for finding events
- https://www.facebook.com/penguinrandomhouseworkexperience/?fref=ts – Penguin runs great, and frequent, work experience placements. One not to miss.
Good luck to all you fellow-aspiring publishers! Hopefully, I’ll see you around the offices some time next year!