Career Development

The Cheshire Cat and A Little Black Dress

Here’s the quandry: I’m trying to begin a career in the publishing industry.  What specific job I’m seeking has yet to be seen because I’m interested in learning every facet of the industry.  I love editorial, I don’t think I would mind acquisitions, I’m interested in publicity,  and I think I might like to become an agent later down the road.  I’m insatiably curious, and so I’m eager to learn as much as I can about the different areas of the industry.  And I don’t mean going to the local bookstore and picking up Publishing for Dummies —  I want the hands-on experience, the hustle and the bustle, the challenge.  I want a job.  I want to work

When I read all of these job postings for editorial assistants and associate editors, I immediately skim past what would be required of me and go to their list of recommended/required considerations.  Half the time, all that’s listed is “Bachelor’s degree in English/Communications/Journalism” and “some office experience.”  “Dude,” I say.  “I can do that.”  Because, really, I can.  If there’s anything that my temp work has shown me is that I catch on quickly to pretty much anything, and if I don’t know something, I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit that I’m not the right person for the job.  But for this?  This I would be qualified for, and everything on my resume would seem to show that.  So, why no interest?  What’s the problem? 

There are a number of them, evidently.  Maybe my resume just isn’t good enough; maybe my cover letter isn’t catching their attention; maybe there are too many similarly qualified applicants.  Maybe it’s all of the above.  I have absolutely no idea why they bypass my application, but they do.  And because I could go on forever with the possibilities of what could be wrong with what I’m doing, I’ve narrowed it down to two blatantly glaring factors:

1) Location.  I’m not in the correct place for what I want to do, I know that.  I’m in small town USA and career opportunities for publishing are practically non-exsistent here.  If I could get a job with a small publishing company in my area, I think I would be happy — it would eliminate some of the stress of other, related situations as well as provide me with great experience.  However, there are only small niche publishing companies in the area and either they aren’t hiring or I haven’t met their expertise requirements.  Which leads me to:   

2) Experience.  I have experience — college experience, freelance experience, professional experience…For someone just starting out, I’d say I should be doing fine.  But then I start comparing myself to others and it’s all downhill from there.  Particularly when I’m comparing myself to someone who has had an internship.  Internships, it seems, is the new IT factor, the little black dress for recent grads — it’s what gets you in the door and leads to opportunities.  At least, having never had one, this seems to be the case.   

My school didn’t have a very good internship program for English majors.  In fact, I don’t think there even was one in place.  So I gained experience in the professional world by working during breaks in a bank.  Yes, yes…an English major at a bank.  I know.  I don’t regret the way this worked out because I did learn how to be professional, how to handle myself with customers, how to count manage money…I gained an appreciation for, and learned that I actually liked, the business aspect of things as it can be combined with the creative.  I actually think that this is why publishing has always appealed to me. 

So I don’t regret not having an internship, per se.  What I do think I missed out on, however, were the networking opportunities.  Because it’s becoming more and more apparent to me that who you know is more important than what you know (or can do, as the case may be).  However, as ideal as an internship would seem to be for all that it can do for you, it’s now completely out of the question.

I can barely afford to buy groceries, nevermind be able to finance a move to New York or Boston or some other city with no supplemental income whatsoever, even if it means losing the chance to make these professional connections.  There are many chances that I’m willing to take for a career, but (un?)fortunately, this is not one of them.

Which leads us to this: a link led me to this article, which is, more or less, what I’ve been shouting from the rooftops: “Today’s young graduates are often stuck in a classic Catch 22 situation: they need experience to get a job (since most international NGOs will not hire graduates without work experience), but they have no way of getting it without volunteering to work for free.”

As much as I hate to say it, I’m glad that I’m not the only one in this bind.  The Catch-22 reference applies to everything and everyone, it seems:

I can’t find a job unless I relocate, but I can’t relocate unless I find a job.

I can’t get the job unless I have experience, but I can’t get experience until I get the job.

And finally,

I don’t have the money to move for a job, but I won’t get the money unless I move for a job (and if I don’t have a job, I won’t make the money, which means I can’t move)

It’s a very exhausting cycle that, logically, has to be broken sooner or later.  If only it would happen sooner, rather than later, to get me started in some sort of direction.  Maybe if I get one thing going, the rest will fall in place behind me.

In the meantime, a little something to keep in mind:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where  you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where –” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
” – so long as I get somewhere,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if only you walk long enough.”
                                  – Lewis Carroll, “Alice In Wonderland”


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