Working in Publishing (Or, Not Being Able To)

Be warned, what follows is a slightly ranty, extremely exasperated, discussion about working in publishing, or rather, trying to get a job in publishing.

Though I don’t actually work in publishing, I consider myself part of the community. I’ve done work experience, volunteering, attended conferences, been to London Book Fair, and regularly natter on Twitter about the industry. I see so many things about the obstacles facing us ‘bright young things’ trying to get into the industry, and trust me, there are plenty.

Yesterday I was rejected for a job because my ‘background’ didn’t match as ‘closely with [their] specific qualifications’. I have a First in a degree in English Literature and Spanish; I’ve done two lots of work experience at Penguin and Hachette; I’ve written and volunteered for the Bookseller (twice); and now I’m starting to wonder what else I can really do, aside from carving ‘I want this job’ into my arm in my own blood.

Previously I was rejected from a job because they chose a candidate with three years prior experience in the industry. How am I supposed to get three years experience if no-one gives me a shot??

I see so many candidates like me who have graduated and have plenty of great experience and then spend a year interning. That’s all well and good, if you can afford to. I’ve said it before on this blog that I come from what I call a comfortable background, but not comfortable enough to support living in London and bouncing from internship to internship.

Am I so wrong to want something a little more permanent? Or am I being ridiculous thinking I can get that straight out of uni?

How much more do graduates or entry-level candidates need to do to prove ourselves?

And is it acceptable that publishing companies can be so dismissive and expect so much from us when we are just trying to do the best we can?

I think the Spare Room Project is a fantastic initiative, but if we’re being honest that’s more suited to work experience candidates than three month internships.

Us ‘young ones’ have so much to offer and are more than often so passionate about getting into the industry. We just want a chance to show our worth, without having to cut off an arm and a leg to do so.

Also, I feel like it’s not enough these days to just have a good degree, and internships, and that ole desire and ambition. Employers are always looking for more. So on our CVs as well as our 3/4 years at uni and work/experience/work experience, we need to have our volunteering, our blog, our Instagram, our YouTube channel, our this, our that, our anything and everything to make us stand out. But if we all have a blog or an Instagram or a YouTube channel, what will we do next to make ourselves stand out? And is this starting to sound a bit ridiculous? Is it not enough that we are so incredibly passionate about publishing that we would do all these things just for the chance at a job?

I may not know everything about publishing there is to know, but I want to. I want to learn, I want more experience, I want to get involved. This is why I believe there should be more training programmes or graduate schemes offered for entry level candidates. It’s not enough to have entry level positions and then turn us down when we don’t have enough experience. Give us an opportunity for experience.

There aren’t that many universities that offer a BA in Publishing (certainly not the Redbricks), so most of us probably have an English degree, where we’ve been learning about literature not how to publish it, and then go on to do a Masters in Publishing. But I’ve been a student for 4 years, I’m ready to go out into the world of work and learn on the job… but is that enough? Do I need a Masters? Or will a Masters just put off doing a year’s worth of internships for another year?

Publishing is a tough industry. I’ve known that since I started thinking about a career in publishing. But when we’re doing everything we can to get involved, the industry should be able to show us some love back. I’m sorry if this comes off as sounding entitled, which certainly isn’t my intention. I’m just exhausted by the process of applications and rejections. My future feels very fuzzy at the moment and I’m looking for some clarity.

Does anyone out there have a success story? Share in the comments below!

One thought on “Working in Publishing (Or, Not Being Able To)

  1. Pingback: Musing Mondays – Monday 11th July | Creative Commentary

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