Back in January, I had a lovely chat with then-SYP Oxford Co-Chair Emma Williams about publishing employment myths, legends and unconventional career paths. The interview was originally posted on the SYP blog.
I am reposting it here (with a few small updates).
The Five Realities of Recruitment in Publishing
Reality One: You don’t have to do a Publishing/English/Humanities degree to go into Publishing.
Although there are a variety of fantastic qualifications out there which will certainly provide a good start to a career in publishing, having a degree, MA or other academic qualification is by no means the only way in. Real world experience is very valuable, and whether you are a Scientist, Financial Analyst, or a Language specialist, there are many opportunities for people with different skillsets to find satisfying work in Publishing. Claire Louise herself has worked in various roles previous to working at Atwood Tate, and we discussed the impact of how early employment in social work, rights administration and qualifications in computing have given her skills that she can now use daily to match up employers and employees successfully. Claire Louise says:
“Along with experience, employers look for people with passion and a willingness to go above and beyond. Look closely at everything you had done up till now, and make your transferable skills obvious in your application.”
Reality Two: An interest in literature is helpful, but you’ll need to look beyond a book to get ahead.
The importance of HTML, XML and other ‘techie’ skills shouldn’t be underrated by applicants in the current publishing environment. The explosion of blogging, social media, digital and other computer based skillsets are useful and relevant skills to develop, regardless of your job role (editorial, production, publicity and many other areas within a business may use the same skills for a variety of purposes), and will help to boost your own visibility and, of course, that of your future employer. For instructions on HTML, there’s a series of helpful articles here on the blog.
Reality Three: A role in Editorial is not your only option. There’s so much more to apply for!
The move to digital, e-books, e-readers, new platforms and social media have all encouraged new types of publishing companies to launch and develop, and within them, work in areas that are perhaps less obvious or familiar. Those interested in moving into the Industry might want to consider Licensing, IT, Digital Content, Database management, Publicity, Social Media/Communications or a number of other options, as well as the more typical publishing job roles. For more information check out the PressForward live blog of the SYP conference 2013 at or on Twitter at #SYPC13. A glossary to the world of publishing can be found on the Atwood Tate website.
Reality Four: When applying for a Job, the most important thing you will do is write a specific, appropriate and interesting covering letter.
So, when you need a job, it seems logical to approach the matter by statistics- the more you apply for, the greater your chance of getting one, right? However, if you rush through the application, without taking care to review the job specifications, weigh your own interests and skills, and evaluate the chance of a good match, it could all end in … well … rejection. The cover letter is your one and only chance to put this in written form, and stand out from a crowd of applicants. When done correctly, it should clearly show that you have both the skills and interest to do the job in question to a high standard.
Therefore spending time working through the points that the company are looking for and matching them to your own experience and skills will allow you to present a strong, clear and persuasive cover letter. This should be a real priority, and should be done carefully for every single application you send out! Have a look at our guide to the perfect cover letter.
Reality Five: Make friends, don’t alienate people!
Publishing is a very social industry, and so networking and people skills are important. Self-development, career development and an awareness of the larger industry trends as a whole can be worked on through talking to contacts, friends and colleagues that you make along your journey through the industry. Attending events, working on blogs, using twitter, joining groups and getting involved with things in your local publishing community are all free/low cost ways to get experience and make friends. It’s a lot of fun, and you never know when additional learning gained in this way might be helpful in a current or future role.
For example, Claire Louise has recently co-founded a book group which has coincidentally brought together people working in all areas, companies, non-profits and other areas of publishing through their love of books, and there are many other groups, courses and events held in the UK including SYP, OPuS, BookMachine and many more.