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Breaking In and Standing Out

September 25th, 2011 | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Breaking In and Standing Out
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Suzanne Kavanagh of Skillset

A report on career advice from Suzanne Kavanagh, Visiting Speaker Semester 1, 2011-12, by Rachel Chase

Though Suzanne Kavanagh announced that her intention was to “scare” the publishing students at the University of Stirling on Thursday, September 22nd, she cleverly presented her material in a way that was more optimistic than frightening.

Suzanne works for a not-for-profit organization called Skillset. At Skillset, she supports individuals and businesses in the creative industries by offering them skills and training. She has been involved in the publishing industry for 16 years (specifically marketing) and she was kind enough to share her vast knowledge with us about making a career in publishing.

Though her presentation was not “scary” overall, it did have some frightening elements. Take, for example, the fact that sixty-seven per cent of the workforce in the publishing industry is over thirty-five-years-old (which is downright discouraging for anyone in their twenties who is trying to break in). In addition, the number of freelance editors has dropped and the number of people working in publishing has dropped significantly since 2007, due, in part, to the digitalization of books. In short, there are fewer jobs and more people trying to get in.

What does all of this mean for post-graduate students studying publishing at the University of Stirling? It means that things are tough, but not impossible. Suzanne emphasized that there is a shortage of sales and marketing skills among those who are trying to get into publishing. Editorial is not the only way to go, and, in fact, Suzanne suggested that getting into publishing through another door—say, marketing—is a good idea to break in.

Her lecture was very informative and I came away with specific areas in which I can improve my resume. Among the most important aspects for making yourself stand out are work experience (thirty-five per cent of the publishing workforce have done unpaid work), computer skills, specific software skills, and even math skills (though this fills many book-reading editor-bent students with horror—numbers matter!). The bottom line is that publishing is a business and unless a publishing house makes money, they cannot continue to publish the wonderful books that we love to read.

Thanks Suzanne for a great beginning to the list of fantastic visiting speakers lined up for this semester! If you want to learn more about Skillset, visit their website.