Publishing Professionals Provide Career Advice at Virtual Career Fairs

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On April 1-2 and April 7-8, approximately 15 publishing professionals volunteered their time throughout the days to provide council and support, as well as advertise open jobs at their publishing houses, to the 100+ students who entered the Children’s Book Council chat room. At one point, 17 students clamored to ask their questions to the three publishing professionals assigned to the chat room.

Over the four days, it became clear that the students–mostly undergraduates attending schools in the Midwest or Southeast–were in one of two categories. They either knew they wanted to go into publishing and wanted answers on job openings and how to stand out amongst the crowd or they had never previously thought of publishing but were intrigued by the prospect and yearned for information on how their current interests would transfer into the industry.

The wise publishing professionals from various CBC Member publishing houses were more than happy to shed light on the application process, give chin-up advice, and relay their own tales of how they broke into the industry. The departments represented included sales, marketing, editorial, publicity, and human resources. Even though not every department in publishing was represented by a chat leader, many of the participants had held positions in various departments during their publishing tenure and others were able to discuss how they interacted with other departments to create the finished book.

The publishing chat leaders also pointed participants to many sources of information for further research.

Where to find publishing jobs, besides directly on the publishers’ websites:

  • cbcbooks.org/cbc-career-categories/job-openings
  • bookjobs.com
  • publishersmarketplace.com/jobs
  • publishersweekly.com/pw/jobzone
  • mediabistro.com/joblistings

Where to find information about how people got their start in publishing:

Where to find information about what jobs are best for your major and where to look for summer internship information:

  • Useful Information to Break into the Book Business

At the end of each chat session, students showed their appreciation:

I just wanted to say that this has been the most informative chat I have been a part of today! Thank you for all of your help!

Thanks for your time and excellent advice!

I just wanted to let you know how helpful you and your coworkers were and I really appreciate all the advice you all have given me. Thank you.

Thank you all for your input. I have found this to be the most informative chat session for the career fair. I appreciate your sharing your career background and different sites/resources to explore.

This is a fascinating conversation and I plan to do some research with the links after this is over to explore what the publishing industry has to offer!

Thanks for answering my questions! You’ve given me some new things to consider - and helped me broaden my search!

With that amazing feedback, we thought it might be even more helpful to list a few of the most commonly asked questions with the real answers from the publishing professionals.

I’m wondering if you have any tips for my application (resume/cover letter)?

My best advice for any job application would be to be honest, highlight your skills, experience, and interest, and paint a clear picture of how you can fit into that specific role at that specific publishing house.

Research the company you’re applying to and highlight your knowledge of the industry. We want to hire people who are fans of the kinds of books we publish!

The cover letter should express why you would be the best fit for the job. That means it should contain:

  1. Why you have a passion for whatever that department is producing
  2. How your skills mesh with the internship’s requirements
  3. What you would gain from the experience but most importantly what the company would gain from hiring you

Many editorial internship positions I’m looking at list “strong analytical reading and writings skills” and “detail-oriented and organized” under their qualifications. How can I communicate that I do have these skills?

Detail-oriented can come across initially in your resume and cover letter by making sure there are no typos or errors. Mostly, though, these skills are tested at the second round of interviewing. For editorial assistants we give them a test–manuscript to read and write a readers report on it as well as flap copy. That’s when candidates have an opportunity to highlight these talents.

I would love some tips about how to look relevant and score that interview.

I highly suggest networking as much as possible and leveraging your contacts so they can send your resume directly to HR. We receive about 350-400 applicants via the online system, which is why it’s beneficial to have someone send your information directly.

What I love to see in lieu of previous publishing experience is bookstore or library experience, or really any customer service oriented job. And most importantly, anything that emphasizes your communication skills.

Make sure to discuss the specific imprint you are applying to and talk about the books you’ve read by them, recent news, etc. It shows you’ve done your research and that you really want to work for them.

To highlight your application, I suggest adding any relevant experience such as volunteering at a writing center, blogging, or working at a school newspaper. Also, don’t limit yourself to only a few jobs. Cast a wide net when applying in the industry.

Do you have any advice on how you like to be approached for an informational interview?

I’ve had people reach out to me through my alumni network who I’ve never met before. That’s a really great tip for meeting people in the industry if you don’t know anyone currently.

I like when someone reaches out through a mutual contact. It helps build credibility. I do a few informational interviews a week so if someone is willing to put themselves out there and request one, I usually agree to it.

It’s nice to have a contact that puts a prospective candidate in touch with me, but I understand that some people may not know anyone in publishing that knows me. A short, to the point, e-mail letting me know how they found me, what they’d like to learn, and what they think that I can provide them (through researching what I do) will usually land them at least a 15 minute phone call.

People feel fairly particular about LinkedIn. Some are fine with random people approaching them, some want you to be a connection first. I’d say that researching on LinkedIn is a great way to see if you can find their e-mail so that you can send them a direct, professional message to their work (as LinkedIn is usually connect to personal e-mail) with specific information about why you are contacting, how you found them, etc.

When would you suggest I start applying for jobs within the industry?

You should start applying when you’re ready to leave your job or finished with school. Positions are usually posted because they need to be filled as soon as possible. Once a position is posted, it is usually filled in just a few short weeks.

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If you are in the industry, what questions have you often been asked and what advice do you provide those publishing job seekers?

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