LIFE UPDATE: New job!

After two months of unemployment, I am pleased to say I will shortly be starting at a new job!

This has been no easy feat, by any stretch.

I’ve been actively looking for work for almost a year now, competing against the masses of other unemployed folk and the unique obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, I’ve probably sent off around 200+ job applications, received a whopping 180 “no responses” (sometimes not even an automated acknowledgement email), an explicit 15 rejections from the outset and a total of 5 virtual interviews.

What have I learned from this experience?

1. Don’t take rejection/failure personally!

The natural instinct is to take rejections personally. For every rejection email or ghosting, you can’t help but wonder, “what am I doing wrong?”. Especially after a while of actively searching for a new role, it’s quite easy to look inwards and see your disadvantages and flaws, as opposed to your assets and strengths. However, it’s important to remember that there are many factors working against you from the moment you hit the job market. For one, there’s the sheer amount of candidates applying for the same job. Employers are absolutely inundated with applications. Some prospective employees will be selected due to relevant experience in the same field or because they have exceptional qualifications. It’s a game of chance!

In addition, recent world events have had brutal consequences for the economy. So much has been destabilised by COVID-19 and people have had to become malleable in their searches for jobs, sacrificing “career jobs” in favour of any basic employment that can help to make ends meet. It’s an especially tough time and it’s important to be kind to yourself: whatever you’re going through, you’re certainly not alone and it’s not your fault. Take the search day by day.

2. Consult a variety of sources for advice

Getting an impartial opinion on your CV, portfolio or cover letter can really help when you’ve spent hours scrutinising your own work. Fresh eyes offer feedback and insight, potentially helping you to get rid of silly mistakes.

I was signed up to Universal Credit, who admittedly offered little to no services on this occasion, but they usually provide a work coach who is equipped to answer any queries and help to point you in the right direction. I also signed up to recruitment agencies and free online CV reviewing websites. In the end, after revising my CV countless times, I ended up with a synthesised final product that was far more accessible and well-formatted than the one I’d originally started my search with.

3. Network!

Get your tentacles out far and wide! I reached out to professionals on both LinkedIn and Instagram, taking care to update my social media channels regularly so that there was more opportunity for engagement. Through connecting wisely, I found a lot of useful advice from other fellows who’d found employment as fresh graduates in a post-COVID-19 world. I also found some brilliant opportunities, in the form of seminars and workshops, that helped me to engage with experienced professionals within the publishing industry, which was relevant to my motivation to manifest a career within the editorial sector.

On a personal basis, it was also very reassuring to learn that others were in similar, often identical, situations to me. Networking provides the opportunity to develop a close community of like-minded individuals who can help you to stay motivated and focused, even as circumstances are tough and applications are unsuccessful.

4. Use your time to learn new skills

Looking for work is a full-time job in itself. That being said, there are many other ways you can equip yourself with new skills and seek to stand out against other candidates. Taking on a part-time course or LinkedIn Learning course (LinkedIn Premium offers a free trial for a month, 10/10 would recommend!) is a good way to pass the time in a productive manner, shows initiative to prospective employers and keeps you mentally stimulated on the days where you can lose hours just waiting for a potential email response to an application.

5. Open your mind to new types of experiences

I once considered internships to be unworthy as experiences because, from what I’d seen, they were short-term and often unpaid opportunities. Recent reflection has seen me change my mind on this, as, at the end of the day, experiences are experiences! Industry-specific chances are useful as another way to gain new skills, network with professionals, as well as try the shoes on as such and see if they fit. You never know, an internship could lead to a permanent position further down the line or, alternatively, it could show you that you that the role you were aspiring for isn’t what you thought it would be and might not be worth pursuing.

EVENT REVIEW: Bloomsbury Books: Careers in Publishing

On this drizzly afternoon, I’m skimming over notes from a fabulous intro to publishing event, organised by @BloomsburyInst, that I attended on 6 May. I gained invaluable insight from Emma Herdman (Publishing Director (@emduddingstone)) and Lisa Goll (Events Manager (@LisasShare)), who offered a really candid and illuminating talk about pathways into publishing.

In total, I took around 3 pages of notes. This is just a succinct summary (all paraphrased with the exception of two direct quotes I’ve cited) of the contents and the crucial things I took from the session:

What I learned:

  • As a publishing group, Bloomsbury are actively trying to eliminate unconscious bias. Their application process has been majorly revised in recent years to dissuade employers from using personal details when making decisions about prospective employees. Excitingly (she says as a Northern lass), they’re also beginning to challenge the notion of publishing jobs being exclusively centred around London (amen, hallelujah!). I look forward to seeing more remote/flexible opportunities in the future (UP THE NORTH!).
  • There are many pathways into the publishing industry and that having a publishing degree is not a prerequisite. Emma gave a really interesting insight into how a Publishing Director began her career 11 years ago and the roles/experiences that helped equip with her with the skills she needed along the way.
  • You may feel unequipped for a role that is new to you if you don’t have loads of experience within a role similar. However, the most important thing to display within your application/interview is that you can draw from examples of occasions where you’ve utilised some of the skills required in an editorial role, for instance, an astute eye for detail, an ability to prioritise and strong communication skills. Basically, you can map transferable skills from lots of other experiences, academic studies and careers onto a prospective role in publishing. Don’t be disheartened by a variety in your
  • Mental health is important. As Emma said, “advocate for yourself, look after yourself.” Striking a balance between your career and social life is imperative, especially during an unprecedented global pandemic! The lines between work and play may blur, but the expectation shouldn’t be to overwork because you’re based at home as opposed to the office. For some people, success is synonymous with back-breaking exertion and burning both ends of the candle, but Lisa Goll summarised that, “being overwhelmed- it shouldn’t be a marker for success”. It was really refreshing to hear both hosts emphasise the importance of boundaries.

Verdict:

I would 100% recommend this event, or others like it in the future, to others considering a career in publishing.

Even though it was virtual (and we all know how temperamental tech can be), the event experience was stimulating. I’ve been in many seminars and workshops where I’ve struggled against the instinct to drift off, but I can definitely say that this wasn’t one of them.

The content was highly engaging, accessible and candid. Some of these events can feel rushed, disingenuous and forced but I really felt that a lot of the points were organically raised as natural tangents of the conversation. Also, the speakers managed to incorporate responses to some of the questions coming in from viewers in real-time. It was really reassuring and encouraging, or at least that’s how I felt as a newcomer and aspiring editor looking for all the guidance they can get.

The event was informative and insightful because the discussion was grounded so much in personal experience and observation. Especially as employers who have interviewed candidates before, their tips and advice on how to stand out through your cover letter and CV were highly pertinent.

Overall, the event was a great push in the right direction. As an unemployed hopeful, I can testify that it can be very hard without a personal mentor within the industry to guide you along every step of the way. After all, the generic advice from job-centres doesn’t quite cover “how to get into the publishing industry”. Events like this really help to build knowledge, inspire confidence and encourage candidates with specific industry-related advice on how to improve their skills/experiences in preparation for applications.