In just a couple of weeks, I will have been working in publishing for a year. Me! This is something I thought I could only dream of when I was struggling to get myself on the career ladder. It was not easy, but sheer determination and stubbornness paid off. I have learned an unbelievable amount already, and I don’t think I will ever stop learning for as long as I’m working in the industry. But that is, perhaps, what makes this career so attractive to me.
Currently I work as a Publishing Editor at an academic publishing house called Emerald Group Publishing. To mark my one-year anniversary in my dream industry, I have put together a short list of basic skills that I feel are essential in gaining (and keeping!) that all-important first job in publishing. These may sound like buzz words that are packed into every job ad out there, but they are there for a reason. Ignore them in your applications and/or daily work and you could find yourself being overlooked for an interview or promotion.
1) An ability to deal with a large workload and manage time effectively.
There is a funny hoodie that www.sunfrog.com sells, with the slogan: “Publisher – Only because Full Time Multi Tasking Ninja is not an actual job title.” I can’t stress how true this actually is. In my roles as Editorial Assistant/Publishing Editor, I have been, and will continue to be, bombarded with a large number of tasks per day, of varying sizes and urgency. If you can’t handle workload prioritisation and management, and the idea of multi-tasking brings you out in a cold sweat, then you either need to take a time-management course or reconsider your career choices.
2) A good knowledge of the industry.
Publishing is a rapidly changing industry – fact. If you don’t try to keep up-to-date with the latest developments, you may find yourself at a disadvantage. If, like me, you work in academic publishing, then learn more about and research the academic publishing industry. But don’t stop there. Learn about the other sectors – Trade, STM, Professional, Educational – because you will find that they share a lot of the same trends and that they can help inform what you do in your own sector. Besides, you just never know where your next opportunity lies.
3) An interest and presence on social media.
Publishers are experts in the dissemination of information, so you’re missing a trick if you’re not savvy with at least a few of the main social media apps. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and many more offer you the opportunity to spread your message far and wide to vast numbers of people for free – if you learn to do it correctly. Get yourself out there, get yourself known, and start building up your network.
4) A willingness and a passion for learning from other people and departments.
This kind of work is entirely collaborative. Each publication, app or service requires teams to work together effectively. Sometimes, when you’re working in one department every day, it can be difficult to see how some tasks and processes fall into the bigger picture. It is for this reason that I urge you, once you’ve secured that all-important first publishing job, to make and take the time to find out about what other departments do and what they’re working on. How can you help? How will this, in turn, help improve what you do? Why are things done in a certain way and what can you learn from this? How can things be improved for the benefit of everyone? Shadowing people in other departments, or meeting up and having a chat about what they’re up to, can be invaluable.
5) An ability to adapt your skills to your working environment.
As I said before, the publishing industry is changing at an alarming rate. Becoming stuck in your ways will lead you to getting swept away by the tide. The digital landscape presents an amazing opportunity for publishers to grow and develop and take advantage of how customers share information. You need to be open and willing, at all times, to build upon your own skill set in order to stay valuable in a disruptive world. If you cannot, or will not, take the time to learn new skills, somebody else will. Don’t become replaceable. Adapt and evolve, and be happy to do so.
6) A personable demeanour and ability to form strong working relationships.
We work with people, end of story. They are our bread and butter. If you don’t get along easily with others, or are unwilling to make an effort in social situations in and outside of work, you won’t get very far in publishing. No matter which sector you work in, you will be dealing with authors, editors, typesetters, vendors and sales people, illustrators or designers, publishers, IT and finance professionals…the list goes on. The work can only be done effectively in a harmonious environment. This is not to say that you have to like everyone – no one in the world likes every single person they meet – but you have to be able to put differences aside and work professionally and efficiently together.
You also need be able to network effectively, which isn’t always easy. However, networking is vital in this industry and the more you practise, the better you will get. It’s a very small world out there – you want your name to be recognised, and for the right reasons. Who knows how you will be able to help each other with projects in the future?
This is only a short list, because I realise I could go on and on. Is there something you feel that should be added to the list? Add to the discussion below!