Monday, April 9, 2018

Breaking In (to the Industry)

Able to handle rejection, criticism, and coming to terms with your own weaknesses? Then you're ready to break into publishing.  ♦ 
As a college senior, I am no stranger to the job hunt. During my junior year, I sent out over sixty-five internship applications. This might sound excessive to some, but I have found it to be a relatively common experience among my peers. I ended up landing my dream job (that I didn’t even know that I wanted), but it was not without receiving my fair share of rejection.
   Like many English majors, I sought out internships and jobs in the publishing industry. I began with all the usual suspects: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Macmillan. After a particularly disastrous phone interview with Hachette where I forgot what I liked to read, I decided to broaden my horizons and apply to other industries. This is where the torture really began; I knew I did not want to do content marketing for a tire company, but I had to pretend that I did—just in case.
    One day, I noticed an internship opportunity at McGraw-Hill Education. I applied—hey, educational publishing is better than tire manufacturing, right? This time, when I received an interview request, I was prepared for anything. After my initial interview, I received a request to drive up to Columbus for a meeting with the hiring manager. I got the job about a month after I applied—and then I was free! It was truly a liberating experience removing all those rejection emails from my inbox, although I do still have them in a separate folder. Stay humble, you know?

My Time at McGraw-Hill Education 
During my summer at McGraw-Hill Education, I learned so much about the academic publishing industry, working for multiple departments, and (as cheesy as it sounds) myself and my strengths. Although I was primarily in academic design and product development for reading intervention, I did work for multiple departments—including marketing. I didn’t have any experience prior, but this ended up being an extremely rewarding experience because I gained extensive experience in content marketing. My work for the marketing department involved writing blog posts, promotional brochures, and email marketing campaigns. During my first month, my writing was even used in a division-wide newsletter!
   My summer at McGraw-Hill Education was the best I’d ever had, and although I was anxious to get back to school and see my friends, I didn’t want my time at the company to end. Midway through the summer, I decided it was time to ask my boss about continuing remotely in the fall. The first time I gathered the courage to ask, I was rejected. I accepted defeat and continued working.
   Later, as summer was winding down and my internship was coming to an end, the Lead Academic Designer (that’s McGraw-Hill speak for an editor) began talking about keeping me on the team when I returned to school. I had abandoned all hope, but she was making it happen. I was ecstatic! It turned out that after our conversation, my boss mentioned it to the Lead Academic Designer, and she decided to keep me. The weeks I spent hanging my head in shame after the initial rejection were worth it. I asked for what I wanted and got it, which ultimately led to my promotion to Associate Academic Designer.

A Reflection 
During my internship search, I experienced months of intense scrutiny, rejection, and self-reflection. I can’t tell you how many days I broke down crying; it seemed like it happened after every interview. The internship application process was one of the most vulnerable times of my life. As the rejection emails poured in, I was forced to confront the uncomfortable truth: maybe I wasn’t good enough.
   It wasn’t until I addressed every concern (Was it my refusal to partake in extra-curricular activities? Maybe it was my terrible social skills? Or maybe I just wasn’t as good of a writer as I thought?) that I realized it didn’t matter; I just had to push through all of my doubts. I know it is difficult, but owning up to your weaknesses is honestly one of the best things you can do for yourself. Worried you might not be good enough? Who cares, apply anyway! Even if you’re not good enough, or still have a lot to learn, someone is going to give you a shot. Of course it is terrifying not knowing where you will be two months from now. You can’t let the fear paralyze you, but you can let it fuel you.
   I am keeping all this in mind as I search for full-time positions after graduation. Although there may not be a place for me in my current department, I can’t let my fear of failure keep me from asking. The worst thing they can say is no! I know two things for sure: it isn’t going to be easy, but it is going to be worth it.
  • About the Author
    Jessica Gonsiewski is a senior Professional Writing major with a minor in Interactive Media Studies. She is graduating in May 2018 and hopes to continue working in the academic publishing industry. In her free time, she enjoys reading, writing, and hiking.

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