First things first – it’s hard. It has been said before, and will be said again and again and again and again until we are all frankly rather bored. But it is true – it is very hard to get into publishing.
So what can you do to maximise your chances?
1) Work Experience
Get some experience working in an office. You thought I’d say get an internship as point 1, didn’t you? I will get to them, but first, it is well worth your time (and bank balance, because office jobs actually pay, unlike most internships) getting experience in the real world. Learn the mysteries of a photocopier, filing, how to answer the phone politely, correct language to use in emails (no emoticons!), and how pivot tables REALLY work in Excel. All this is going to help you immesurably in your first publishing job which will, invariably, involve wrangling a recalcitrant photocopier, answering phones, filing, writing emails, and showing your boss how to use Microsoft Office.
Temporary positions in publishing houses can be a really good way of getting both office experience, and publishing related experience. The team here at Atwood Tate handles temporary roles like this, so get in touch.
2) Work Experience (part 2)
OK, yes, getting an internship does help your chances. There are ones where you don’t get paid, and ones where you do, and there is no right or wrong answer about which to take. You do an internship to learn something about the sector you think you want to work in. Make the most of it. If it is a general internship, work in as many departments as possible to get a flavour of what each does. This helps with the next point…
3) Find your Passion
There are many different aspects to publishing. Editorial, Marketing, Production, Rights, Sales, Design, IT… As I said, lots. It’s no good saying “I want to work in publishing” and expecting someone to hire you. I want to walk on the moon, but no one in their right mind is going to hire me as an astronaut. Essentially, you need to know what you want to do – are you all about Editorial, or does Sales get you excitied? Marketing, or Publicity (yes, they are different). If Sales is for you, do you want field sales, or export? This is where research and internships can help. Talk to people who are already in a role you are intrigued by. (Network!) You don’t want the person interviewing you to think that you are only taking this marketing job because you think it will help you get into editorial further down the line. Firstly, no interviewer is going to hire someone who blatantly wants to leave after six months/a year. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to recruit and train a person. Secondly, not all experience is going to help with all careers. Just because you are a first class rights assistant, it doesn’t mean you’ve got what it takes to be in editorial. I’m not saying you need all the answers, but at least try and focus your efforts.
Publishing is a very small world, so get known in it. Go to events like SYP and Bookmachine. Get active on Twitter. Sam’s already covered this here
5) Cover letters matter
Make sure you target your cover letter to the job you are applying for. It is worth the effort. A bland “I am applying for this job, see my CV, thank you” is not going to make you stand out from the pile of 100 other cover letters a manager has to read. A letter that clearly lays out how you have the skills they are looking for, shows that you have taken the time with the application, and injects a little personalitity, works wonders. I often know by the time I’ve read a cover letter if I want to see a person or not, before I’ve even looked at the CV. Which is not to say your CV isn’t just as important.
6) Be organised!
You will lose track of all the jobs you have applied for, so keep a good filing system. Save the job advert (a lot of online portals hide the advert once the deadline has passed). There is nothing worse than being in an interview for a job you can’t quite remember the details of! And don’t put the company name or job title in the file name when you save your CV and cover letter to send. I can guarantee you WILL forget to change it on one application (and it is ALWAYS the one that you most want). You really don’t want to send a file called “Bloomsbury-CV.doc” off for that dream job at Penguin… Just your name (not initials) and CV or Cover Letter is fine.
But once you’ve done all that, and you still haven’t got your dream job, it is very easy to start losing faith in yourself. At which point, it is worth remembering this…
7) Throw all the rules out of the window
I got my first job in publishing with no previous experience or internships. So do a lot of people. It isn’t all doom and gloom either – clearly there are lots of people working in publishing and plenty of jobs up for grabs. There is no set way of doing things, or else we would all be living the dream, and you wouldn’t be reading this blog. It is a matter of luck, having a blindingly good interview, and persistence. Oh, did I mention luck? Having an agency such as Atwood Tate on your side certainly helps a lot because it is our job to get you to the top of that CV pile, but you do have to help yourself as well.
If you have any questions, or other tips, please leave a comment below – CLK