June 23, 2020

Week Three at the NYU Summer Publishing Institute: Can’t Believe It’s Over

By Cameron Rivas, NYU Summer Publishing Institute 2020 student

On the first day of the first ever virtual Summer Publishing Institute (SPI), Andrea Chambers, executive director of the program, spoke about the unique three weeks ahead of us. “It’s great to be open-minded and try new things, and by being here [virtually], you are showing your willingness to do that.” After two weeks of enthusiastic keynote speakers, helpful panelists, and interactive workshops, our open-mindedness was definitely elevated. We were ready to learn how to get a job in the wide variety of positions we had explored.

Passion, Passion, Passion

Not only had COVID-19 made SPI transition to online, it had caused a hiring freeze for the industry. All of us were asking speakers how we can stand out and survive in this time. The number one answer was: passion!

We had the privilege of speaking with HR representatives from key publishing companies in the industry such as the Hachette Book Group, Hearst Magazines, and HarperCollins. They reassured us that a passionate heart and open mindset would shine the brightest in interviews and cover letters.

Being on Zoom, we were able to show our passions through creative virtual backgrounds and sharing our libraries at home. Our pets wandered in and out and added distinct personality to the sessions, too. Our dedication to diversity and inclusion brought up many important conversations on how we see the publishing industry growing in the future.

Molly Templeton, publicity manager for Tin House in Portland, Oregon, said, “Publishing is a personality based industry.” This virtual experience has taught us how to be present while separated, so that we can share our personalities across the country.

Cover Letter = Writing Sample

When it comes to applying for jobs, there are no wrong answers. Every company and hiring manager has their own opinion on résumés and cover letters. SPI gave us the invaluable experience of speaking with employees directly at places we aspired to work. Ashley Orlando, human resources manager for Hachette Book Group, taught us to think of cover letters as writing samples. A cover letter does not need to restate your résumé! Use the writing opportunity to explain why you want to work for the company, keep it conversational, and convey your passion.

Another great lesson came from Catie L’ Heureux, content strategist for the Facebook Journalism Project. We had already been advised to seek as many informational interviews as we could, and L’Heureux presented great email strategies for outreach.

Step One: Flatter them! Do your research and find something to get the conversation going. The initial email should not be more than a paragraph, but it’s great to be prepared with small talk once you land the call. Step Two: Ask. Get to the point and let the person know what you want to hear about. Granted, this shouldn’t consist of “Give me a job.” Step Three: Let the person know what position you would like to have in the future. This way the conversation stays relevant to what you want. Your new connections will appreciate your being efficient with their time.

Whether it’s an informational interview or an actual job interview, don’t worry if things don’t go exactly as planned. Amy Helmus, HR director for Hearst, says, “If something weird happens, call it out. It’s okay to say ‘Sorry, I’m nervous. Can I start over’?”

Are You LinkedIn?

Andrea Davis Pinkney, vice president and executive editor of Scholastic, and an acclaimed author of children’s books, noted on our last day at SPI, that working at home has given publishing people a little more leeway to connect. “We all want something to do!” Sending emails is a great way to network and gain important informational interviews. In our last week, we learned how to present ourselves on LinkedIn as another networking source.

Sue McNeilly, senior assistant director at NYU SPS Wasserman Center for Career Development, lead us through all the sections on LinkedIn that would help us convey to employers who we are. We were thrilled to learn there is no page limit when it comes to LinkedIn. Add all your experience, and take the opportunity to expand on those experiences: what were your accomplishments in those positions?

It’s not only what your network can do for you, but what you can do for your network. Take the time to endorse your colleagues on their skills. LinkedIn will automatically promote them to endorse you back. McNeilly said to rest assured, “nobody’s looking at your profile saying what’s missing, they’re seeing what’s there.”

What Do You Want to Be Known For?

This question was brought to our attention by Stacey Staaterman in her talk about presenting oneself. She reiterated the importance of networking. Many of us were worried about making connections with our fellow classmates without being able to see each other in person. Fellow student Samantha Marks took the initiative to create our own GroupMe chat to get to know each other better. As typical book loving introverts, we found it easier to be open over chat. Many of us stated throughout the late-night surge of messages, “It’s great you guys get to know the real me.”

These bonds are immensely important. My new friends may be my future colleagues in the industry. I know our friendships will continue to thrive wherever we end up.

Cameron Rivas is a December 2019 graduate of the University of Tampa, where she completed her Bachelor of Arts in writing with a minor in accounting. She loves children’s and YA books, and writes to 2000s R&B music.

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