Top 5 Things I Wish I’d Known 4 Years Ago

You already know I’m trying my darndest to get a job in the publishing business, but what you might not know is that I have a bunch of friends in college who are eyeing the same career path. Since I have this secret fantasy of someday starting my own  literary agency with them, I’m writing this to hopefully give them an edge when their time comes to run the job search gauntlet.

So if your calling is publishing, here is my advice:

1. Go to college in New York City

Oh, are you one of my Westmont friends? Ummm, yeah, I guess it’s too late for you on this one unless you’re planning on transferring. If not, then, read on!

This is coming from someone who can wax poetic about her alma mater for hours and never wants to return to the cold and cloudy weather of New York. But here’s the bottom line: If your top priority is to use college as a jumping point for a career in publishing, get thee to NYC!   There are a few publishing houses and literary agents in San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, Boston, etc. but it’s a tiny slice of the pie (at a guess, I’d say around %15).

Living in New York City is expensive, but college takes care of the housing for four years. You’ll be set up pretty well to get a job after graduation, even if it isn’t immediately in publishing. The key is to already be in the city for future interviews with publishing companies.

And in a world where it’s all about WHO you know, you’re likely to get some pretty good connections in those four years. There is even a great community called Young To Publishing specifically for this purpose, but all their networking events take place in the city.

If this idea makes you cringe, you are not alone! In high school, I pictured NYC schools as full of crazy wild liberal college kids. Westmont is a top-notch private Christian school that should get more respect in the career world. I wish I had at least visited an NYC school since I used to live in Syracuse and it would have only been a five-hour drive.

Alternatively, if you have money, there are some nice summer publishing programs in NYC, but it’s pretty expensive, so maybe try to get your parents excited about it.

2. Don’t just be an English major

If you’re an English major, try to double major or minor in something practical. At Westmont, English is the smallest major unit-wise and many times English majors can graduate a year or a semester early if they plan it right. If you choose to do all four years in college, I would strongly advice you NOT to minor in something like history, philosophy, art, or music unless you know how this directly fits into your publishing career goals (example: if you minor in art because you want to do book design, not editorial).

The truth is that studying literature and creative writing doesn’t prepare you to work “in the field.” If you want to get into the publishing business, take some business classes. Computer/web design classes are also invaluable. There are still a lot of adults out there who are hopeless with the internet and need someone who can run their company’s web presence. You want to be able to seize any opportunity presented to you. I’m planning on taking my own advice and learning HTML this fall.

3. Work on the school newspaper or yearbook

Ah, this is what everyone says, right? Well, I’ll tack on an addendum. Do not just write for the school newspaper. That might help you if you plan on doing freelance journalism someday, but if you want to get into being an editor or literary agent, you need more than good writing skills.

I was our newspaper’s copy editor, which was great, but I wish I’d gone a step further and become a page editor. Believe it or not, the software our school newspaper uses (InDesign I believe)  is the same program many magazines and publishing companies put in the “Requirements” section of their job applications.

For Westmont kids, you might want to ask your friends on the Horizon or Citadel what it’s like to work there just so you’re prepared for the insane hours. It was 7 pm-midnight on Mondays when I worked there, so plan accordingly.

4. Work at a library or bookstore

I applied for my job at the library because I liked books. Little did I know it would help me get an internship interview. I had applied for an editorial internship with Pearson, but they called me about possibly doing a Production internship because I had experience working in a library. Who knew, right? The same applies to working in a bookstore. Working at Barnes and Nobles actually gives you more cred that you might think. Even if you don’t actually read all those books, you become familiar with their titles and trends.

5.  Don’t just read the classics

This is something that lots of advice columns tell writers and it’s true for job seekers as well. If you’re an English major, you probably love Dickens, Austen, and Chaucer, and a familiarity with these legendary authors is important. However, a job in publishing works usually involves working with contemporary books and you have a better chance of getting hired by an editor if you can gush over a novel their house recently published.

If you find reading for fun difficult in college, might I suggest audiobooks? Your library probably has a better selection than you think (especially if you like mysteries or thrillers). I even have an account, which is a guilty pleasure of mine. Some girls get manicures, I get a monthly audiobook credit 🙂

So don't just read this...

Read THIS as well!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: