So what is an internship and why should you do one? An internship is a structured work experience programme offered by employers across a range of sectors including academic institutions. It gives students and graduates an opportunity to gain work experience in an area related to their course of study and can last anytime from 4 weeks up to a year. An internship very often involves the completion of a written project/report which has then to be submitted for assessment. Trinity students often undertake summer internships but a number of Schools/Departments now include a 6 month internship in industry as part of their degree programme. In Ireland and the UK the term internship is often used interchangeably with the term work placement particularly when the employer is referring to a longer term opportunity. Internships/Work placements can be paid or voluntary so before you start one it’s important to establish what is on offer.
Graduates and internships
Graduates too participate on internships and it is worth noting that a recent report on the government internship programme, Jobbridge, suggested that 3 out of every 5 people who participated on an internship programme are now in paid employment. Jobbridge was developed as a response to the high unemployment rate in Ireland but graduates in sectors such as the creative arts have always worked as interns before getting more permanent positions. In the USA it is quite common for graduates to do a yearlong internship before taking up a graduate position.
Why do an internship/work placement
So why do an internship and why wait until you have completed your degree to get this experience? The Careers Service staff is in regular contact with employers and we have noticed that in this competitive environment relevant work experience is now becoming a significant factor for employers when selecting students/graduates for those much sought after graduate programmes/vacancies. Research would indicate that in the UK up to 80% of graduates in UK companies have completed internships and similar statistics are beginning to emerge for the larger companies in Ireland. An internship will give you an insight into the work environment of your chosen sector and an opportunity to put into practice what you have learned at college. You will develop a range of transferable skills such as team work, communications and presentation skills and you will be able to assess whether you need to develop additional skills in your final year in college. An internship gives you the opportunity to decide if this is the sector in which you wish to work or if there are other careers to which you might be more suited. It should be noted that not all Irish employers can offer a structured work experience programme but any relevant work experience is valuable and looks good on your CV when making applications for graduate positions.
How to get internships/work placements
Internships and other types of work experience are advertised on the vacancy section of the Careers website www.tcd.ie/Careers/vacancies/ and on the Civic Engagement website www.tcd.ie/Community/ which offers volunteer opportunities. See below for other sources of internship opportunities.
Academics in Schools and Departments can be a useful source of information as they are in contact with companies regarding research etc.
In Ireland networking with friends and family is often an effective way of getting work experience especially during the summer months.
Making the most of your internship/work placement
- Keep a diary: Keep a list of new skills, training, challenging situations, teamwork, tangible contributions, and personal achievements.
- Look the part: Avoid denim, sportswear and tee shirts. If in doubt err on the side of formality.
- Be professional: Get stuck in, even if you are asked to do the photocopying. Behave as professionally as you can, they may be testing you out for a longer term position.
- Request feedback: Ask for a reference for future employers. It is useful to ask about your strengths and weaknesses too, for the future.
- Ask questions: Observe the person doing the job that is of most interest to you. Who does what, how, why, when. How did they get the job? What did they learn on the way?
- Follow up: So that you can follow up during your final year or after you graduate, make contacts, enquire about their graduate opportunities.
- Talk up your part time work! Depending on the type of job, you may have notched up customer-facing experience, problem-solving skills, team working ability, event management experience or strong communication capability.
- CAS Use your Vacations: http://www.tcd.ie/Careers/resources/use_your_vacations.php
- CAS Work Experience: http://www.tcd.ie/Careers/students/advice/work_experience.php
- Gradireland: http://gradireland.com/
- Prospects: http://www.prospects.ac.uk/work_experience.htm
- Target: http://targetjobs.co.uk/work-experience/work-experience-and-internships-advice
Mary O’Donnell, Careers Adviser
Cliona Hillery, Careers Adviser
By Claire Doran
The areas of foreign language teaching, English language teaching, translating, and interpreting continue to attract Languages graduates but these are not the only options. A wide and growing range of opportunities for graduates with a high level of foreign language competence, is welcome news to counteract some of the doom and gloom. Susan Moran, Global Director, Customer Interaction Center at SAP has advice for students: “Use every opportunity to develop your skills. In Ireland there is an increasing demand for proficiency in a second language, so if you have an opportunity to improve your competence or learn a new language I would strongly encourage you to do so”.
Languages are in demand
Languages skills were very much in demand in Customer Service, technical support, and sales and marketing roles[i] . Active recruiters include multinational companies such as Google, Yahoo!, PayPal, Facebook, and eBay, who have established their European headquarters in Ireland. German is particularly sought after, and there is also significant demand for French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Nordic languages. Although some jobs require native-level linguistic competence, many companies place significant value on native English speakers who have spent time abroad, immersed in a foreign language environment.
Transfer those skills!
While linguistic competence is a major learning outcome of studying languages, learning a language also allows students to develop a myriad of transferable skills – effective communication (verbal and written), cross-cultural and intercultural awareness, analytical, critical and problem-solving skills, presentation skills, the ability to work both independently and as part of a team, flexibility and openness to change, ICT skills, research skills, etc. These skills are highly desirable in the workplace, and can help Languages graduates move into more senior managerial roles in many sectors.
Languages give the competitive edge
There are also many areas in which language skills give graduates a competitive edge. Foreign languages have been identified as a key skill in Accounting and Business Services, Banking and Financial Services, Computer Technology and Gaming, Digital Media, Engineering, Healthcare, Law, Programming and Software Development, Publishing, Sports and Leisure, and Travel and Tourism. Yet companies in the above-mentioned sectors in Ireland have reported difficulties in filling vacancies.
More advice from Susan Moran at SAP: “Successful leaders must also have an open and collaborative communication style, be innovative and possess integrity. The ability to adapt quickly and embrace change is crucial, particularly in the IT industry as technology is moving at an incredible pace. Finally, there is a huge gap for fluent language skills in Ireland, and many experts have to be hired from abroad, so language skills are a definite bonus”.
We live in a globalised world where English is widely spoken. That does not mean, however, that all employees feel comfortable doing business through English. Irish-based companies that cannot deal with current and potential customers in languages other than English risk missing out on significant business opportunities. This is not just an Irish problem, however. The European Commission has reported that a lack of language skills across Europe is costing businesses serious amounts of money, with 11% of respondents in a 2005 survey[ii] attributing the loss of business contracts to a lack of language skills.
Get working & studying to improve your proficiency
So how can you take advantage of the current buoyancy in the languages jobs market? Students on modern languages programmes could consider study abroad and work placement opportunities. Not only will this provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself totally in the language, you will also gain valuable insights into the cultural, political, and business practices in the country. When it comes to job-searching, some jobs are available at graduate entry level, but others may require postgraduate training.
For links to jobs abroad use:
Adding a qualification in one of the sought-after areas mentioned above can open up additional job opportunities. Students in other disciplines may not always have the opportunity to study languages as part of their formal university programme, but extracurricular language classes, exchange programmes, and work placement opportunities can give you that competitive linguistic edge.
For studying some useful links:
“You will be expected to participate in a case interview as part of the selection process…” These are words which can fill many an applicant with dread at the prospect of a real world business challenge. This blog aims to demystify the process and give some advice and tips for success.
The business case interview is usually an oral exercise, but can be written, and is used by many of the well-known consulting firms (e.g. Bain; Boston Consulting Group; Deloitte, McKinsey) as part of the selection process. The classic case interview consists of an in-depth discussion with the interviewer focusing on a typical business problem or scenario. Within the available time, you are given a brief overview of the context, ending with a question that defines the problem. Candidates are expected to analyse the issue, query any points that are unclear, perform any required calculations and make sound recommendations. It is worth noting that there is usually no one correct answer; the company is interested in how you approach the case and your process of coming to a conclusion.
Does that sound achievable? Great! Let’s discuss your strategy for success:
In order to maximise your performance on the day, you should know what the interviewer is looking for. If you think about it, there are many skills which may be required. The list could include an analytical approach; deductive reasoning; creative problem-solving; working with unfamiliar information; clarity and organisation of thought; attention to detail; clear communication; the ability to work under pressure, numerical ability and the ability to defend an argument. It may help to perform a quick audit of where your strengths lie and where you may need to improve.
Some pointers to consider during the interview itself:
- Listen to and understand the business problem. Write down any important information as you hear the problem being presented to you.
- Make no assumptions. Remember to ask questions to deepen your understanding.
- Before going into detail, describe your overall approach and rationale to the interviewer. What issues will you prioritise and why?
- Break down each issue and explain your rationale clearly. Answer the interviewer’s questions as they come (taking time if you need it) and incorporate any new information into your consideration of the case.
- Perform analyses if required. Decide which calculations need to be done to help you make your conclusions.
- The interviewer is on your side. If you have made an error and the validity of your conclusion is questioned, take the hint and try another approach. On the other hand, at times you may need to hold your own and defend your suggestions.
- Summarise your thoughts and give final recommendations. What are the next steps and which are most important?
- Pay attention to your body language: maintain eye contact and a confident demeanor. Try to look enthusiastic and energetic.
If the above sounds like a tall order, remember that practice makes perfect! Consider your approach to common case topics such as identifying the reasons for a company’s drop in profits; entering a new geographic market; introducing a new product/service range; mergers and acquisitions and responding to competitor activity/regulatory change. Try the sample case studies available on company websites and utilise your experience e.g. if you have worked for a College paper, practice a question on identifying ways to increase advertising revenue. It will also help to become aware of basic business concepts such as opportunity cost, cost-benefit and SWOT analysis.
Finally, it goes without saying that you should aim to remain calm, focused and enjoy the experience. After all, the business case interview is a real life example of what it is like to be a Consultant!
Sample Company websites with information and practice case interviews:
Fiona Hayes, Careers Adviser
On Saturday, 10th November, I attended the National Media Conference held in Trinity Arts Building. This conference was co-organized between representatives of the student journalism sphere of Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Times; this was the first conference of its kind in Ireland.
I tweeted excitedly that morning on my way to the conference, as did many other conference delegates under the hash tag #NMC12. There was an almost electric atmosphere, with a hubbub of rushed conversation and a frenzy of fingertips finely tapping upon touch screen devices, eagerly awaiting their submission’s appearance on the live Twitter feed that was projected in front of us.
The first speaker, Kevin O’Sullivan – Editor of the Irish Times, soon quelled the buzzing conversation, but only served to increase the frantic tapping, as delegates attempted to disseminate his ideas rapidly to their followers across the twittersphere. O’Sullivan proved to be a very capable and inspiring speaker, and had a lot of advice and wisdom to offer with regard to both the future of journalism, and a future in journalism. His main focus was arguably the shift from print media to online media, and the far-reaching implications that this stood to have on national broadsheet newspapers, like the Irish Times. Time and time again he hammered home the need for good quality journalism, which explored the ‘Why’, in terms of analysis, critique, opinion pieces, investigative journalism and insight. He recognized the reality that anyone anywhere could get the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, from a myriad of sources in a rapidly emerging digital world, and he further indicated the challenges that this would implicate in terms of print media.
‘The old hierarchical model of we will tell you the news is over…(in this) age of upheaval fuelled by technology and exacerbated by recession.”
In spite of the pessimistic forecast for print journalism, O’Sullivan described himself as a ‘digital optimist’ and went on to describe the way in which irishtimes.com, would again move to coordinate its content with the daily broadsheet editions, and especially with the weekend review, again in terms of the ‘Why’. O’Sullivan also expresses his view that as the internet continued to mature, consumers would be willing to pay for sophisticated online content through a subscription based service, as offered by the Economist and the New York Times.
In terms of a future in Journalism, O’Sullivan has this to say on the theme of blogging, and getting your name out there in terms of student journalism,
‘Whatever way you are communicating, if you are good, you will get into journalism.’
An inspiring nod in the direction of, keep practicing, keep writing, and keep improving because in this competitive industry, you need to be the best.
Next up was Storyful’s Claire Wardle, to discuss the merits of social journalism and problems of verification, digital Darwinism, and Twitter. Storyful is a relatively new news organization founded by Mark Little which describes itself as, ‘the first news agency for the social media age.’ According to their website, Storyful also works on the propagation of the ‘Why’ rather than the what, and their website cites its influence through partnerships with some of the biggest news brands in the world, including ABC News, Reuters and the New York Times, and social platforms such as YouTube.
Claire Wardle, in her speech, addressed many of the issues that arise when positioning oneself at the forefront of social journalism, in terms of verification, and debunking false leads. Wardle also remarked upon the logistical constraints of navigating one’s way through the 72 hours of YouTube footage uploaded every minute, in order to glean useful user generated content. This is perhaps something significant to consider, in terms of new skills required for these new areas of online journalism.
Wardle referred to Digital Darwinism in the course of her speech, the idea that things are shifting so quickly in this information age, that those who fall behind will inevitably find themselves left behind, she cites companies Nokia, and Chartbusters, as pertinent examples of this phenomenon.
Wardle subsequently discussed the merits of Twitter lists, which enabled the user to create specific, and reliable streams of content around a specific issue, a valuable tool for the budding journalist. Wardle tells us that, ‘journalism is as strong as it has ever been,’ and personally I am inclined to believe her. Overall the message is clear, the focus of journalism has changed, we must change and adapt with it, or we too will become obsolete.’
Tom Lowe, former editor of the University Times, and current Marketing Director at NewsWhip media also imparted a great deal of advice to students, advising all those involved in student media to create their own websites using a format like WordPress as a way to get noticed and gain traffic online. Lowe spoke of the benefits of Google Analytic plug-ins to monitor traffic, audience sources and age demographics. He also recommended Twitter and Facebook plug-ins to allow users to share content on their site via social media. Lowe too, spoke about the advantages of harnessing the power of the Internet to advance your career.
Niall Harbison, of Dublin-based social media marketing agency, Simply Zesty also implored delegates to consider the possibilities of developing their online presence, he cited entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, who had started from scratch, young and inexperienced in the middle of a deep recession with their designs for Apple and Microsoft, and who had become billionaires. He urged delegates to learn code, like HTML, through free online code academies, such as codeacademy.com, which he said could be learned in a weekend or two, and would majorly aid career prospects in digital media. In conclusion, he reminded delegates that he himself had started with just a laptop and €10,000, sleeping in a friend’s spare bedroom in Sandymount and he expressed his view that with determination and hard work, a thriving career in digital media would be very achievable.
In terms of following a career in journalism, the writing really does seem to be on the wall, in terms of the direction in which media is heading. One message, which I think resonates strongly from each speaker, is the idea that journalism as a profession is not in decline, but it is adapting and transforming rapidly in response to changes in the way that we communicate and in the way that we consume news. It is our responsibility to change and adapt alongside this, and to develop new Internet based skills, like coding, like verification, like web design and like social media skills. If we can adapt and up-skill, then there is every reason to believe that these emerging media forms will continue to provide a wide range of career opportunities, if we cannot however, we condemn ourselves to a form of journalistic inertia, and we will inevitably find ourselves left out in the cold.
SS European Studies 2012
A few months ago I went to London to visit the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. The purpose of the visit was to find out more about the recruitment processes at the firm. Freshfields is a very large, global firm recruiting about 100 trainees annually at its London office. On the face of it, the application process seems remarkably easy. To quote their brochure – “To apply for either a place on a vacation scheme or a training contract visit our website and complete our application form: just some details about you and your exams, and something about yourself”. That doesn’t sound too difficult, does it?
Well it must be more difficult than it sounds because there were 1200 disappointed applicants last year (1500 applied but only 300 were called for interview. At least if you get to the interview stage you have a one in three chance of getting an offer). The application process is actually a two stage process. Applicants fill in an online form and once that is submitted they are sent an e-mail inviting them to take a 20 minute online verbal reasoning test. While online verbal reasoning tests can be a bit intimidating, it is an innocent section towards the end of the application form that causes applicants the most concern. The instruction is “Please write about yourself in no more than 850 words. You may wish to mention any positions of responsibility held at school or subsequently, any regular employment or other work experience, any sporting or other achievements and any particular interests and personal qualities which are relevant. Please also state briefly why you are making this application.”
Written communication is a critical part of any lawyer’s job and this short statement – both in the way it is put together and its content can make the difference between an interview and a polite rejection letter. Here are some tips for success:
- Be attentive to the writing style. You have to think and write like a lawyer. The writing style has to be concise. There should be paragraphs and a logical connection between the main points that you are making in the statement.
- Think carefully about the content. Why are you choosing to work as a commercial lawyer? Why Freshfields (amazingly, some statements don’t even mention Freshfields!) as opposed to other London or Dublin based firms? The recruiters are looking for a real understanding of the firm and not just simply parroting the website. If you’ve had an opportunity to participate in a vacation scheme (even if it has been at another firm) how did that experience confirm your interest in commercial law? What was it about particular deals that you might have observed that really interested you? Use this statement to show off your commercial thinking. Work experience isn’t the only source of commercial experience. Budgeting for a student event you are helping to organise can help you to understand what loses money and what makes money. Provide evidence of how you overcame problems or challenges associated either with your course or with other parts of your experience.
- Use the statement to show off other personal attributes such as curiosity or resilience. Law firms of this size and global reach take on high profile, complex and cutting edge legal work. Writing about a project that mentally challenged and excited you helps to show your appetite for complexity. Similarly trainee solicitors work long hours and are given significant responsibility. Use your experience (part-time work, hobbies etc) to demonstrate your resilience.
Rushed applications do no one any favours. Interestingly at Freshfields, even when candidates do poorly at the verbal reasoning test, their online application is still read and evaluated. Don’t underestimate those 850 words!
Sean Gannon, Director / Careers Adviser
“The pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Winston Churchill
Have you a glass half full or half empty approach when it comes to your job search and your career? When it comes to seeking out job opportunities, networking, filling out applications and performing well at interview, your mindset can have an impact. Despite the challenges presented in the current economic climate, being positive can have significant benefits, many of which could aid our career.
The field of positive psychology examines how developing resilience and thriving from life’s challenges, focusing on our strengths and values, helping others, and engaging in rewarding activities may act as “buffers” against everyday trials and tribulations in our personal lives (e.g. Cook, 2004; Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi, 2000). Applying this approach to career would suggest that having an optimistic and flexible attitude, identifying and promoting our strengths, finding work tasks we enjoy, engaging in voluntary work, developing good networking skills, reflecting on our failures and seeking feedback to improve are all important strategies that may aid us in fulfilling our goals.
There are a number of stages to the job search process, and ways in which a positive mindset may help us along the way. For example:
In your job search, a positive approach to finding a job could be characterised by networking at events, organising informational meetings, seeking feedback from any setbacks and remaining flexible and open to where current opportunities may lead. You can find lots of networking resources at the CAS website: http://www.tcd.ie/Careers/resources/networking.php
When completing application forms and CVs, it may help to brainstorm your skills and provide evidence to support these. What are your strengths and how can you best demonstrate them? A personal or skills profile can be one way to represent your skill-set and achievements to prospective employers. Think about the wording used to represent tasks performed in your work positions, e.g. ‘worked at the till’ does not explicitly demonstrate skills developed. Incorporating the skills using action words such as ‘developed’, ‘led’, ‘researched’ or ‘initiated’ may have a more powerful impact. Taking our previous statement, ‘developed communication skills through serving customers at the till’ may be a more positive representation of that task. To find out more, see http://www.tcd.ie/Careers/students/jobsearch/apply/write_your_cv.php.
When preparing for interviews, think carefully about the language you use in these situations. Sometimes our general attitude can slip into answers at interview. For example, using statements such as ‘I only got X grade in the exam’ or ‘it was just a part-time job in retail’ may dilute the effectiveness of your answer. Interview answers tend to be stronger if they reflect the most accurate positive image of you. It is also common to be asked a negative question, such as about a time when your performance in a particular task was not as good as expected . In these situations, it can help to describe the situation and then add what you might do differently next time, thus bringing the answer back into the positive. Similarly, when asked about a weakness, it can help to focus on what steps you are taking to address the issue, if it is still current. It is also worth seeking feedback if you are unsuccessful at interview, so that you may reflect and use the learnings for next time. For more information please see http://www.tcd.ie/Careers/students/jobsearch/prepare/prepare_for_interview.php
A final word of advice: be disciplined but kind to yourself in pursuit of your career goals, and try to keep positive company along the way. Remember, success comes in cans and not cant’s!
Fiona Hayes, Careers Adviser
Cook, E. (2004). Positive Psychology: Making the most of our lives. http://aphroweb.net/papers/positive-psych.htm (accessed 30th April 2012).
Seligman, M. & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000) Positive psychology: An introduction. American Psychologist, 55(1): 5-14.
Job opportunities a plenty! Music to my ears as I am one of the careers advisers who works with students in the School of Computer Science! Despite all the doom and gloom in Ireland the ICT sector is booming and there are lots of opportunities for computer scientists but also for those who have an aptitude for computing and who are interested in moving into this sector. The employer body, ICTIreland, tells us that 9 of the 10 top ICT companies in the world are located in Ireland and 5 of our top exporting companies are from the sector. Many of these companies are household names, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter but Irish owned companies are also thriving in this exciting environment.
There are over 3,500 vacancies in the sector and the Gaming sector which has also expanded at a rapid pace is expected to double its employee numbers from 2000 to 4500 by 2014. Remember not everyone who works in computing is a programmer so it’s worth noting that many companies also recruit staff into areas such as marketing, finance, human resources, legal etc Graduates with languages are also much in demand so brush up on those leaving cert languages or better still think about learning a new language. Dell for example has 60 different nationalities on its campus in Loughlinstown.
So what’s happening to make sure graduates can take advantage of these opportunities? Well a major joint industry and Irish Government action plan was announced recently with the aim of bridging the skills gap by launching a one-year, full-time, level 8 HDip conversion programme in core computing and programme skills. Cloud Computing which has become a bit of a buzz word at present is one of the many areas on offer. 768 places are available across the country in different universities, ITs and private colleges. There are seventeen programmes on offer for job seekers with “cognate/numerical skills and an underlying aptitude for programming.” The good news is that the Higher Education Authority and Department of Education and Skills are supporting all courses, and unemployed participants won’t have to pay fees. The programmes have close industry involvement and include industry-relevant projects and placements, aiming to leave graduates ready to work in the industry upon graduation. You can find out about these courses at http://www.bluebrick.ie/ictskills/ Of course you can also do one year postgraduate conversion diploma programmes which are available in a range of colleges, for example Maynooth and DCU.
If you think you might be suited to working in this area but are unsure of what the work involves why not have a look at the description of the sector and the variety of jobs on the websites below or make an appointment to meet with your careers adviser to have a chat about your options.
Mary O’Donnell, Careers Adviser
In a highly competitive jobs market, the ability to sell yourself is essential. Therefore, perhaps, before you start the quest for a job, it might be a good idea to think about your strengths as an international student from a potential employer’s perspective. You need to communicate your value to employers emphasizing skills which you have gained from the international student experience. So, how exactly do market your status as an international student during your job search? Well, reflecting on the wealth of your experience is very important. As an international student, you have experience of living in more than one society and culture. This is highly desirable for employers and business in the global market place. Other attributes which you may want to highlight to prospective employers in relation to your international student experience could be:
- Communication skills, e.g. fluency in a second language
- Budgeting skills, e.g. managing to pay International student fees
- Gaining an international perspective e.g. knowledge of foreign markets
- Self confidence – e.g. gained from living and studying abroad
- Cultural awareness e.g. an awareness of foreign practices
- Adaptability e.g. the ability to adapt to a new environment.
An employer case study in ‘A guide for employers recruiting International Students and Graduates’ states:
We find overseas students bring interesting insights and experiences – they have benefited from travel, and they have different ways of looking at things which we like. And we have benefited from the different skills they have brought.”
Managing Director, Audata Ltd, Kent
As an international student, you have the opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates in the jobs market. The skills you have learned during your time away from home should be highlighted and may help you to differentiate yourself from your competition. Informative examples and new skills could help you get that all important interview. When writing your CV or an application form, give evidence of your skills and strengths. It is also important to reflect on your time abroad and what you have learned from your experience. It could be time very well spent.
Ciara Grimes, Careers Support for International Students
 A guide for employers recruiting International Students and Graduates IN British council publication
Written Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:36 PM
by Elizabeth Hudson, The Little Red Pen Publishing Services.
It is a truth not really universally acknowledged that time spent behind a lectern passes twice as quickly as time in front of the same lectern, and the speaker sometimes finds herself getting to the useful stuff as her audience is hitting the snooze button and the chair is making the wrap-it-up gesture.
As promised, here is the more interesting and useful half of my talk. It was probably for the best, as this way, through the wonder of HTML, you can click through to my recommendations and links rather than wondering what I might have said as I babbled against the diminishing sands. Note that the following is no comprehensive list, just some suggestions about places to start your research. I recognise that I have a bias towards the UK industry because that is where my experience lies and because, being so enormous in comparison with Ireland, it is a good place to find opportunity.
Training and Courses
If you can afford it, a BA or a postgraduate MA in publishing studies will give you a great advantage in the job market. I did a postgraduate diploma in printing and publishing at what was then the London College of Printing, because I knew this would provide a route into a job in publishing that the word-of-mouth approach was simply not delivering. My advice on courses would be to be wary and get your training from a reputed source. Speak to graduates of the courses, ask where they are working now. Not every course would have strong industry links.
Short (usually day) courses: I highly recommend these. The UK Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) has a full schedule of courses run in various locations (London, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow) throughout the year, including ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ and ‘Introduction to Copyediting’. The Publishing Training Centre also has a comprehensive list of short courses and runs an excellent distance-learning proofreading training course which is very highly regarded. I’ve just spotted their online training programme which I’ll have to check out.
I’ve also done courses via the Irish Association for Editors and Proofreaders (AFEPI) and an InDesign course organised by Publishing Ireland here in Ireland. So continuing professional development is really important and also very accessible. It can be expensive but is tax deductible if you are self-employed. Work out the cost benefit, and you might find the travel and a couple of nights’ accommodation are worthwhile.
A word of advice: watch out for proofreading courses advertised in the back of Sunday newspapers (‘Did You Spot the Obivous Errers? You Too Can Be a Proofreader!) Some of these are not considered worthwhile within the industry.
Conditions of work
Unfortunately publishing is simply not a well-paid industry and never was. The reason at entry level is the competition for jobs (and be assured that the calibre of candidate is extremely strong). Two well-established recruitment agents in London this week told me that starting salaries are between £16K and £18K and £18K and £20K. The rewards of working in a job you enjoy and are passionate about are many, I don’t need to tell you. But do question yourself hard about whether a low salary will be enough to cover your living expenses before you commit yourself to a career in publishing.
Don’t say you want to work ‘in publishing’ because you ‘like books’, without knowing about the industry. (This is exactly what I did for years before I got serious about finding a job and I am blushing as I type it.) Find out about the industry. Some will quickly realise that it is not what they thought it was, and that it is not for them. Others will get the bug. Inside Book Publishing by Giles Clark, now in its fourth edition, gives a good overview of the industry and different departments. The UK National Occupational Standards for Publishing (currently being revised) are free for download on the Publishing Training Centre’s website. You can get a good idea of expectations within different departments through these standards of excellence.
My view was always that it was more efficient to go to where the vacancies were than to write speculative letters to publishing houses, but there are many different paths to the same goal so do what you feel comfortable with. In terms of UK recruitment, the women to speak to are Theresa Duncan at Redwood Publishing Recruitment (who has 26 years’ experience; find her on LinkedIn) and Ros Kindersley at JFL Recruit. (Thank you Theresa and Ros for helping out.) There are many other agencies as well, and different agencies will specialise in entry-level or middle-management positions.
The advice from the agents to those wanting to make a start in the industry:
Look outside the trade publishers. Whenever information is disseminated to the public, that is publishing. Major corporates, banks, learned societies, etc., all have communications and publications departments. If words are what interest you, you might find a rewarding career in one of these.
Don’t fuss about which department you go in on: marketing, sales, production, rights. It’s all valuable experience. There tends to be blinkers on with everyone wanting to work in ‘Editorial’, and often they are not terribly clear about what ‘Editorial’ is. Get in, get your first year’s experience under your belt, and then you can start thinking about your career path.
Any work experience, paid or unpaid, will give you an edge over the straight graduates. On CVs, take off ‘life experiences’ such as travelling in Asia and picking grapes. Gain practical office experience. It doesn’t matter what industry it’s in, but if it happens to be in publishing that is a massive bonus. Good IT skills, telephone manner, fast and accurate typing, being organised and proactive: all these show that you’ll be a useful person to have around, and you can hit the ground running when you arrive into an office. (It’s unlikely that anyone will have time or desire to hold your hand and train you.) If you’re wise you will immediately make yourself useful. (If you’re clever, you will make yourself indispensable.)
It can be very hard to get an internship in a publishing house, but consider the industry at large and the contacts you will build up through volunteering at or simply just attending literary festivals, literary circles, book fairs, book groups – all of which are abundant in Ireland. Maybe set something up yourself and write a blog. Get to know the new writers and voices on the scene, review them and interview them. You might be the person with the inside track and the contacts folder that a publisher would want to have on board. Certainly you will have demonstrated your passion for the industry.
Don’t rule out bookshop experience either; the publishing industry is reliant on the people who sell books and this will also look much better on your CV than nothing at all.
Regarding internships, please be wary of exploitative situations. Have a clear idea in mind of what you would like to get out of the experience, make the agreement and hold them to it or leave.
Key sources of information
Many publishers have Twitter feeds and Facebook pages. Take your pick and start listening in and participating in the industry. I follow publishers such as Bloomsbury, Routledge, Penguin, etc., but given my copyediting work I also like the nuggets of wisdom and sighs of exasperation from CopyCurmudgeon, Grammar Monkeys, Angry Subeditor, etc.
The Publishing Ireland website often has news about industry conferences, literary festivals, book launches, etc. Books Ireland is a gorgeously produced monthly magazine and reviews all books published in Ireland. It’s light on industry news, but you can get an idea of which publishers are active in Ireland and the sort of books they publish from the ads as well as the listings.
The Bookseller has an excellent website and email newsletter, and also information on jobs. They have various levels of subscription, but the free newsletter is a good place to start.
The Guardian’s media section is also a good place to apply three fingers and count for a minute, and their jobs section will prove very useful to you. All online, you don’t even have to wait for Thursday.
SfEP (Society for Editors and Proofreaders): Excellent resource on editing and proofreading and what they involve.
Publishing Training Centre (training courses)
Bookseller (industry news, jobs)
Book2Book (industry news)
Society of Young Publishers (networking, training, jobs)
Book Careers (not a bad place to start, especially here)
Most of these organisations have very active Facebook feeds as well.
These are some of my favourite and most-thumbed reference books. If you start leafing through them, find yourself completely absorbed and half an hour passes without your realising, you might well be desk-editor material.
The Chicago Manual of Style
Bill Bryson’s Troublesome Words
The Penguin Guide to Punctuation
The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors
My talk was never going to fit inside eight minutes, was it?!
If you do decide that publishing is the career for you, go for it: there are jobs out there. In my experience it is a very supportive and collaborative industry and truly I enjoy getting down to work every day. The very best of luck to you.
Welcome to CAS’s first blog.
Please let us know topics you’d like addressed and we’ll do our best to respond in forthcoming blogs.