Upskilling - How can you invest in yourself to progress?

With the jobs market picking up so quickly, it’s harder than ever to make yourself stand out from the other applicants competing for the roles you’ll be going for - so what’s the best way to do this? The Society of Young Publishers put on a panel at the end of June this year to offer up some great advice on this and, on reflection, we thought it’d be a great idea to revisit this with a thriving jobs market in mind! On the panel was one of Inspired Selection’s Associate Director Verity Hawson, who was joined by Archna Sharma (responsible for relaunching Neem Tree Press after working in investments banking and studying medicine), Federica Fiorillo (who has just made an exciting career switch in publishing from Marketing to Rights), and Sam Missingham (a marketing and publishing professional who moved into consultancy after working in the industry). 

At entry level, it’s difficult to know how to stand out from all the other applicants. One thing the panel commonly agreed on was that a publishing degree is not necessary, but can be very helpful to learn about the foundations of this industry. However, it’s probably more beneficial to immerse yourself in the industry with work experiences and internships, as well as building up a network of industry professionals by attending events and speaking to people about publishing. It’s important to highlight the skills you have built up already through customer service or administrative roles - they’re all transferable to publishing! Skills such as collaboration, or organisation & communication are excellent attributes, and you might already have them from working outside of publishing. In terms of more hard skills to add to your arsenal, it’s helpful to learn about social media and analytics, as well as online communication tools like Zoom and MS Teams, as these have become commonplace in a range of roles. You could pick up freelance work in editorial to build up this skillset, or try working with PPC, CMS and email campaign tools to become a fantastic candidate for marketing roles, for example.

For those looking to move up the ladder, the biggest snippet of advice was to arm yourself with confidence by asking as many questions as possible; find out as much as you can about the business, and be strategic about where you’re moving to and why. People also underestimate the value of a mentor; it’s worth utilising the network around you, internally in the office as well as externally in the wider publishing community. It’s also worth looking at the role you’ve been doing - have you been performing above your level, or would you like to? Ask about taking on more responsibilities in meetings with your line manager, keeping an open line of honest communication. Similar advice applies to those looking to move departments: it’s all about educating yourself, so ask questions! Utilise that network and find out exactly what skills are needed in the department you’re aspiring to move into, and make sure you understand the role thoroughly, so you can know where you’re able to add value from your experience. 

Many people who are moving into publishing from another industry often ask us for advice; for example we see teachers moving into educational publishing, or legal professionals moving into sales and rights, or legal publishing - any career that helps build relationships and focuses on communication is a good match for the industry. You should carefully consider what's driving you to make the decision to move, and think about the practicalities like “Will it make you enough money?”, “Do you really love the area you're considering that much?”. Once you figure all of this out, you can concentrate on the skills you already have that you can bring to the industry, and think about how to represent yourself in the best way possible to make the transition.

Generally speaking, the panel had some fantastic insight for candidates going for most roles across all levels:

  • Always be prepared - know everything you can! Especially if you’re moving departments. Have a solid attitude. Be passionate, and be sure that your move will make you happy.
  • Demonstrate enthusiasm in everything you do.
  • Research what you need to do - get certified in editorial, set up a platform for self-marketing and really demonstrate your skills.
  • Never stop being curious and ask questions to understand more.
  • Don’t wait for things to happen - be your own best supporter and be proactive. Big career changes are out of your comfort zone - feel comfortable being uncomfortable.
  • Understand what skills you don’t have - use your initiative to combat these. Capitalise on the skills you do have, and highlight them with extra volunteering work and certified courses.

The consultants at Inspired Selection are always happy to offer advice to anyone looking to get into publishing, or move up in the industry across all of the sectors. Check out our bios here to see who's best for you to be in touch with and reach out, or have a look at our job vacancies and let us know if you're interested in anything - now's the time to make the change!