SYP Kickstart Your Career in Publishing: How to Succeed in Your Job Search Panel

Senior Consultant Helen Harradine was on the SYP Panel talking about how to kickstart your career in the industry. This was aimed primarily at those looking for guidance and advice on how to stand out from the many other people applying for entry and junior level roles.


As well as Helen who has a strong background in publishing, having worked in houses like Titan and Penguin Random House, the panel included Steven Cooper who worked his way up the Waterstones ladder to Events Manager and now organises and coordinates events across many stores and festivals to connect audiences with authors and reading communities; Helen Speedy the Associate Director of Atwood Tate; and finally, Niriksha Bharadia who is the Marketing Executive at Faber & Faber taking care of the social media community which she built up from being an intern in the marketing department. The SYP’s Hilary Bell chaired the panel and offered some great insight into her events work with The Bookseller to go hand in hand with Steven’s events experience.

The first question she posed to the panel was what advice would you give to your younger self? Professionally speaking, Steven decided that his younger self was too indecisive and afraid to put himself out there; he would have told himself to open up to more jobs and not to pigeon-hole stereotypes. Helen Harradine said to focus on what you enjoy and thrive doing and to be flexible with your goals; exploring a broad range of avenues served her well and led her to where she is now and she recommends that those looking to break into the industry do the same! Don’t rule out sales just because you have a negative perception of what those roles involve – these people get to talk about books day in-day out, why would you not want to do that?

The next question was more for those who are looking for the next step up: what do you do next? It was interesting to hear from the panel that being lateral isn’t always a bad thing; if you can’t move up, move across, but don’t undervalue yourself. Look for roles in other fields which could be similar. The route to your dream role won’t necessarily be a straight path. Niriksha added that, should you decide to move laterally, ask the right questions to ensure that you’ll be getting what you need out of your next role. Hand-in-hand with this, Helen Harradine shared some advice which she had heard on a previous panel: don’t compare yourself to those around you – people’s trajectories will progress in different directions and at different rates. It’s all about thinking about what really motivates you. Later, the importance of networking and being seen by all the right people was highlighted by the panel; if you’re ‘extra’ (in a good way!) you’ll be talked about. Publishing is a small and friendly community.

Hilary then asked the big question on everyone’s lips: How can you negotiate a salary? A really current topic in the industry, salary is always a tricky subject to approach with employers. At Inspired, we ensure that every candidate knows the salary before applying for any jobs which we advertise. If it isn’t in the job description, ask what their budget is and then place yourself where you deserve to be. So, what about any regrets? Personally, I think people should be more like Helen Harradine, who doesn’t see her failures or mistakes as regrets; she sees it in an ever-positive light. Learn from your failures, prepare for the eventuality, and you’ll go far. If you struggle with this, she highly recommends reading J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination and Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art Speech. Remember to steer clear of the destructive path that is ‘what if…?’ because the decision you made at the time was the right decision for you in that moment. Niriksha’s biggest regret is popping a Champagne cork into someone’s head… but moving on from that, she wished she had realised that her opinion matters and being more assertive about voicing her opinions is definitely something she wished she had done from early on.

Questions from the audience included whether or not MAs in Publishing are useful – the panel were open and talked positively about the courses but didn’t think they were for everyone – and top tips for cover letters. Helen Harradine definitely thinks it’s all in the research; look-up who you’re applying to on LinkedIn, research the publisher and the imprint and look into what they’re currently involved in. Why am I right for the job? Why do I want this job? Why do I want to work with this company? Niriksha works in a more creative area of publishing so she loves to see this reflected in CVs and cover letters being sent to her because they are a showcase of what you can do and can make you stand out from the crowd.

Overall, a lot of brilliant advice was given out to the packed out room full of future publishers. It’s hard to put all of this into one blog post, so if any of you want to talk more about breaking into the industry, Inspired are here to give you a helping hand.

Shalini Bhatt is the Junior Consultant at Inspired Selection working entry-level roles in the industry and you can email your CV to or call 020 3 762 2113.