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10 Steps to Jump-Start Your Publishing Career
to make a leap into publishing?
booklet, you will find ten steps to get you going in the right direction.
The industry landscape is changing, and so must your strategies.
Preparation is key, and the things you do before you contact prospective
employers can make all the difference in how you’re received when you
finally meet them.
for good things to happen!
Evaluate what you want in a job.
Whether you are in mid-career or just starting out, you’ve probably had a job before. Maybe more than one. Some good. Some not so good. It’s much easier to find “the job of your dreams” if you know what you’re looking for. Assess your professional likes and dislikes as objectively as possible. What are your “must haves” in a new job? What are the “knockouts”—the things that will make you turn down an opportunity no matter how good it sounds otherwise?
· What are you good at?
· What are your interests?
· Do you prefer to work alone or in teams?
· Is talking on the phone torture?
· Do you enjoy meeting new people?
· Do you prefer structure or a flexible schedule?
· Is travel out of the office acceptable?
· How far will you commute? Would you relocate?
Write down your answers. Don’t skip this step; sometimes it’s important to see things in black and white. If you’re an outgoing vegetarian who loves to interview people, it wouldn’t take you long to hate your job if you had to work alone in a cubicle editing a meat-processing journal—no matter what you were paid.
Buff up your skills.
Once you’ve determined what you want, analyze what you have to offer—and what skills you can improve.
Learning is a continuous process. And there’s nothing like learning something new to give you a new perspective or to sharpen your focus. Aim to have at least one new skill or education/training item to add to your résumé. It will impress a prospective employer and make you feel good about yourself.
Try one of these:
· Tighten up your editing skills with a grammar refresher.
· Spark those right brain cells with a creative writing class.
· Get up to speed with the latest graphics software.
· Become well versed in e-publishing.
· Polish your public speaking skills with Toastmasters.
· Learn to read a financial report in an evening accounting class.
· Improve your foreign language proficiency in an adult education class.
· Develop your organizational skills while working with a not-for-profit.
Don't ever discount charity work when considering skills you’ve developed or as a means to attain skills you're not learning on the job. Many people have used the pro bono arena to successfully transition to a new career.
Try something new. Try something fun. Use this opportunity to fill in the gaps you think may be holding you back.
Pull together your promotional packaging.
Publishing is communication. Employers want an employee to be able to use the right word in the correct manner to convey an idea as elegantly as possible.
The first thing that you are conveying to a potential employer is yourself. And, for the record, everything counts.
Résumé: Ask others in your field what their résumés look like. If you don’t know where to begin, check a book out of the library. There are literally hundreds of books about résumés. Here are some things to keep in mind:
· Keep information relevant. If you are considering two different types of jobs, have two different résumés. Don’t try to be all things to all people.
· Keep it short. The ideal résumé is one page long. Cover previous experience, education and training, professional awards and associations, publications, tools with which you have expertise. Keep it concise and keep it focused on the skills you’re selling.
· Keep it clean. Don’t get creative with design, fonts, paper, or graphics. Your name should be displayed prominently at the top; limit the text to two font selections; select white or cream paper. If you’re a freelancer, include your business logo, if appropriate.
Cover Memo: Develop a template to use with the accompanying résumé. Same rules apply. The cover memo should be the same format, fonts, and paper used for the résumé. If you will be applying for more than one type of job, have multiple cover memos as well. Don’t rely on your memory to make adjustments to just one version. When you’re responding to several positions at the same time, something will slip by.
Portfolio: Carefully scrutinize every piece you add to your portfolio. This is the essence of the body of your work—both scope and quality. If you’re just starting off, include school projects and samples of work created specifically for the portfolio. You can be more creative here, but again, remember to focus on what skills you’re selling. You can have as many versions of your portfolio as you need.
Line up a reference or two.
We live in a litigious society. For that reason, as much as anything else, many companies have ceased the practice of seeking references on job candidates. They’re not particularly helpful, as the reference may not feel comfortable speaking freely. That doesn’t mean that a prospective employer won’t ask. So, it’s a good idea to line up a reference or two in case the subject arises. Of course, select people with something positive to say about you.
Do not include the names of your references on your résumé. It is not even necessary to include the “References available upon request” line. Do not include them in any initial contact with an employer. Wait until they are asked for. Have the name, position, and contact information for your references typed on a separate sheet of paper.
Some potential references:
· Current or former teachers/instructors
· Current or former colleagues
· People you’ve worked with on a charity committee or business organization event
· Current or former supervisors
· Outside consultants you’ve worked with
Consider a person with whom you have worked that does not do the same work as you. For instance, if you are an editor, perhaps you have worked on several successful projects with the same graphic artist. This person makes an excellent reference. He or she can speak to your work ethic, your ability to maintain project schedules, and your teambuilding skills but is not qualified to remark on your editorial expertise. That is up to the employer to determine by interviewing you and reviewing your portfolio.
Research your market.
Who’s buying the skills you’re selling? Since you already know what you want in a new job, the next step is to focus on where you can get it. There’s a huge universe of people buying writing, editing, and publishing talent. The key is to find out who they are and decide which of them interests you.
Some prospects include:
· Ad agencies
· Area corporations
· Book publishers
· Commercial magazine publishers
· Consulting companies
· Journal publishers
· Literary agents
· Public relations companies
· Trade publishers
Once you’ve focused on one or two markets, research them to learn who’s who. Need information about area corporations? Try Crain’s Chicago Business. Newspapers? Read all the local papers—both paid subscription and free. Trade publishers? Try Literary Market Place.
Get to know who the players are in your market. Be familiar with names. Follow recent mergers and acquisitions. Analyze whether the market is a good fit for you or if you should look elsewhere.
Research jobs and salary ranges.
The next step is to determine what jobs are available in your market. Not only the positions that are currently hiring—all available jobs. You want to know as much as you can about your target market, whom they’re hiring, and what they’re paying.
· What are the current job titles and what duties do those jobs entail?
· What is the highest publishing-related job in the organization?
· What is the career path to get to that job?
· Are there multiple paths? Technical v. nontechnical? Editorial v. sales?
· Are there gender biases? Age biases?
· What is the turnover? Do jobs open frequently or will you have to stay in the same position for long periods of time?
· What are the salary ranges?
· Where does this organization fit in the market?
Do your research both online and off. Study the organization’s Web site. Peruse the trade press. Check out the financial news. Search area newspapers’ archives. Read their old press releases.
This information is vital to
jump-starting your career. However, it’s data. Facts. News. Statistics.
Third-party intelligence. Now it’s time to start getting connected.
a professional association.
One of the best ways to get involved with your target market is through professional associations. A number of associations may serve members in your target market. Select those that complement your skills. Start with one or two. You want to have enough time to get personally involved.
· Business writing
· Medical writing
· Public relations and publicity
· Independent/freelance writing
· Layout/design/graphic arts
· Training and development
· Web technology
Once you have joined, contact the president and ask to get involved. Join a committee. Write for the newsletter. Attend board meetings. Meet people and get involved in ways that can help them. Agree to do only as much as you can accomplish successfully. Have fun.
Professional associations are the best way to get insider information about your market. Most of them have members-only job postings. They tend to list the achievements of their members in their newsletters (one person’s promotion may be a job opportunity for you). Membership directories are excellent sources of people to talk to about their jobs or companies. (Don’t, however, call someone you don’t know and ask for a job! That’s professional suicide.) Once you get to know people, they will talk openly about their organizations and others they’ve worked for.
By now, you’re well prepared to begin your campaign. You know your market, you know your targets, and you know to what jobs your skills are matched. You know the job titles and you know the prerequisites. You know the experience needed and the salary paid.
Now you can begin searching for open positions. Even though your search is very focused, there are a number of ways to go:
· Contact an executive recruiter. Many work with people who have as little as 3+ years of experience and up.
· Use professional membership job postings.
· Search the Internet. There are literally millions of jobs on the Internet. Use this medium as research. Find out where the jobs are and follow up with a paper cover letter and résumé. If you apply electronically, be very sure that your skills match perfectly to the requirements or your résumé will be automatically eliminated.
· Discretely ask friends and colleagues for referrals.
· Read the want ads in the Sunday newspapers. An old standby still works.
Since you are launching a focused campaign, you can also send out résumés to your target companies who are not currently advertising for openings. You know what they want since you’ve done your research on them. They may not be aware they want you until they see your credentials.
Continue to do good work on your current job.
Professional recruiter lore indicates that finding a new position requires approximately one month per $10,000 in salary. Want to make $60,000? Expect the search to take at least six months. During that time, you may be working at a job you no longer want, no longer like, or have long outgrown. Grit your teeth and do your very best.
Continue to maintain a high level of professionalism. Many times, people emotionally disengage from their current positions when they begin a job search. Performance falls and quality decreases. Everything they do begins to be affected—including the crucial job search.
Don’t let this in-between time catch you at your worst. Tell yourself that you can tolerate anything now that you know there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Strive to perform at your current job the way you want to perform at your new one.
Develop a professional mantra of how you want to be perceived in your career. Select from the keywords below, or choose some of your own.
Repeat your mantra to yourself as often as needed to get you through the day-to-day work to your new opportunity. “Keep up the good work” is not just an empty catch phrase for you now, it should be a way of life.
Keep a positive attitude.
Just as your 9—5 work ethic rubs off on all parts of your life, so does your attitude. You might be coming from a bad experience—a “Night of the Living Dead” kind of bad experience, but a prospective employer doesn’t want to know about it. If fact, he probably doesn’t want any scent of it anywhere near his organization. It’s vitally important that you always express a positive attitude during interviews.
The best way to have a good interview attitude is to keep a positive attitude all the time. It’s tough. It is sometimes hard to keep a good attitude all the time even in the best circumstances. However, this is something you need to consciously work on as a part of the job-search process.
Some ideas that may help:
Select whatever suits you best or try something new each week. Stop yourself in your tracks every time you realize you’re getting negative. Take a deep breath and smile.
Ready, set, jump! You’re ahead of the game, because you know that good things happen to those who go after them!
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