A Steep Learning Curve

Nov 10, 2010

I’ve just had my first meeting with Adela and she has lots of challenges ahead.

We had quite a long discussion about her ideal job, salary requirements, how long she can cope financially, what office experience she has already and how much she knows about the publishing industry, as well as why she chose publishing as a career.

Her ideal job is (surprise, surprise) Editorial Assistant in Fiction for a Trade Publisher.  I then explained how few jobs there are like this in publishing, (30? 50?), and that aside from Fiction being the most sought after area, the majority of Editorial jobs would involve non-fiction too.
On the salary issue, she was quite pleased with the entry level figure from the bookcareers.com 2008 Salary Survey.  However, there may be a problem as she moves up the ladder as (and I quote) she believes “If you’re good at your work you’ll get a pay rise”. 

Now to the preparation of getting her ready for a job.  The biggest disappointment I have is that of her computer skills.  One would assume that this generation of graduates, (and the generations that follow) would have some of the broadest range of computer knowledge (many different components of Microsoft Office or Adobe software) but it appears this is not the case.  Adela describes herself as having an intermediate level of Word and Powerpoint but limited Excel usage.  Until she can raise her level of software packages, she will struggle to get any entry level role, even temping, as publishers no longer feel they have to train those in the basics.

I would actively encourage anyone still at University or studying to get as much training and usage out of a wide variety of software packages whilst they have the time and the inclination to learn.  It will make you instantly employable.

Then we come to her knowledge of publishing, which as you may have guessed from the salary question, is extremely limited.  The first task I have set Adela is that of reading the best book on the business of publishing – Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark and Angus Phillips. 

In case you haven’t come across this book before, it is used as a textbook on a number of the MA courses, and it is highly recommended. We’ve also discussed the ways in which Adela can improve her software skills in the minimum amount of time, the cheapest ways are to join your local library and see what training packages you can borrow, or to visit the website of the software concerned and work your way through the tutorials, or try the 30 day free download.

We discussed her CV, which social networks to join (facebook, twitter, linked in) and have made an initial list of which publishers to approach for work experience. Ideally, she’d like to be in her first placement on the 22nd November, so we are going to have to act quickly on this. I do hope she likes hard work…