In September, SYP London kindly hosted ‘Kick-Start Your Career: How to Succeed with your Job Search this Autumn’ for aspiring and entry level publishing candidates hoping to gain some career and work experience from established members of the industry. Speakers included our very own Associate Director Helen Speedy, who all brought their experiences and insights on how to build a successful career in publishing.
Did you miss the event? Perhaps you would like a recap! Helen Speedy shares her publishing career advice and experiences.
Explain your role and how you got there (approx. 5 mins each).
I am the Associate Director at Atwood Tate, a specialist publishing recruitment company based in Central London and Oxford. My job is to manage the Permanent team day-to day, who consist of seven consultants and an administrator, and make sure everybody is hitting their targets, having smooth relations with both clients and candidates and generally feeling happy. I am also the contact for senior publishing roles across the country, so a day can be talking through pipelines and business development with my team, or taking briefs from clients and sourcing appropriate candidates for the recruitment process.
I got my first job through talking to one of the speakers at the Oxford Brookes Careers Day towards the end of my MA, who gave me the contact details of someone looking for an Office Junior.
How do I get my first job in publishing?
There are a number of ways to get your first publishing job, and it’s worth trying a few to give yourself the best possible chance.
- MA (plus work experience and networking)
- Work experience placements that could lead to your first job
- Through an agency – temping can lead to perm or to getting that work experience you needed but being paid properly along the way (also perm)
- Networking events are a great way to build up your contacts and make a good impression before you’ve even made an application!
- Proactive volunteering/personal work are also worth considering to boost your CV and stand out from the crowd. It is a lot easier to prove your interest in children’s illustrated fiction if your social media, blogging or volunteering backs you up!
What advice would you give your younger self, when you were just starting out?
Be more confident and don’t always assume that there are people better qualified than you.
What do you regret doing in your career?
I don’t have any regrets really. That may sound a bit complacent, but I have the philosophy that you make the right decision at the time and there is no point looking back. There are various points in my career when I could have taken a different path and I have turned down jobs and also taken roles that didn’t quite turn out to be what I thought. I remind myself that I made those decisions and they felt like the right choice at the time. As long as you feel in control and you are happy with your decision at that time, you should not have any regrets. The only lasting regret I have is not calling out a bully, but I was young and in the junior position, so I forgive myself and it has given me the strength to help others confront difficult situations and not be scared to do so myself.
Associate Director Helen Speedy (second from left) after speaking on the panel
What’s the best career advice you’ve heard?
- In terms of CV advice, make sure it shows the difference you made and the impact you’ve had, not just a list of your duties
- If you’ve got lots of voluntary experience, internships and temp roles, try categorising rather than listing chronologically – tell a story and make sure the facts support the narrative.
How do you know if you should go for a role or not?
- Can you tick 70-80% of the boxes (usually nobody has it all!)
- Is it located in a sensible place for you to commute to?
- Does picturing yourself in the role make you feel excited?
- Do you think it would give you opportunities to learn?
- What do you know about the company culture and how that would suit you?
- If you’re not sure, try to have a conversation (with recruiter or name on advert)
Is it off-putting for employers if you apply for lots of different positions at the same company?
It depends on the size of company. It can be off-putting if it looks you are applying for anything and there is no real effort on any of the applications. HR will begin to wonder how can you be truly that interested in so many different roles with different skillsets! If there are different roles that catch your eye, find out if they will refer you if their role isn’t suitable. In a small company,you may get referred internally (I did for my first job and ended up with a better job than the one I applied for!)
Want to hear more about the SYP?
The Society of Young Publishers is a membership body for aspiring publishers and current candidates in the first ten years of their career. With branches in London, Oxford, South-West, North, Ireland and Scotland; the SYP is the biggest membership organisation in the publishing industry. For more details and to sign up, go to https://thesyp.org.uk/membership-signup.