The Publishing Post
COVID-19 Complications: Studying During a Pandemic
Lockdown has been a time of great uncertainty for many people, but especially students. Graduations have been postponed, graduate schemes and jobs are at a standstill, and those in student accommodation have essentially been locked in. September came around again and a new set of students began their university experience: lockdown edition. Today we talk to Emma Gill who, after completing a BA in Publishing, has started her MA in Publishing this term. We wanted to find out how she was finding her university experience compared to the pre-COVID-19 era.
Firstly, Emma confirms that she is really enjoying her MA course and feels
“the opportunity to be learning about one of the industries that has gone from strength to strength, despite there being a pandemic and lockdown restrictions, has been so exciting and extremely valuable.”
This year, universities had to adapt quickly to continue running effectively, meaning lectures went digital, taking some getting used to; however, Emma feels that “the quality of teaching is the same, it’s just presented differently.” Emma admits she has found finding a placement, central to one of her MA modules, difficult during COVID-19 restrictions and states
“the application process has been different to normal with Zoom interviews and companies sending out more detailed questions to see if the placement could be fulfilled remotely. However, placements are out there, it just takes more perseverance to find and secure them.”
Although the pandemic has been a hindrance and an added stress to the university experience, Emma would definitely recommend still going to university. She feels that although it's undeniable there have been significant changes, and that the experience is not the same, overall it hasn't been detrimental to the degree. Emma said that working harder on making her CV and cover letter stand out has made her “more determined and more prepared for the competitiveness of the industry.” A positive to come out of the pandemic for Emma’s course has been virtual networking opportunities. For her MA in Plymouth “guest speakers who would normally decline speaking, due to the cost and time of travelling down from London and various other places nationwide now have the time to speak via Zoom, which has been brilliant! Just make sure you have a good support network and self-motivation!”
A publishing degree, although not essential in gaining a job, can give you a well-rounded look into the industry as a whole. Emma’s favourite things so far about her degree have been
“the employability skills that are gained through interactive workshops, and the opportunities gained through networking with guest speakers from the industry, who also give amazing insight into their roles, as well as learning the terminology used within different sectors and how to use industry standard software such as Adobe InDesign and Photoshop.”
Her degree has also given her the opportunity to access major industry events such as the London Book Fair held at Olympia and this year, the virtual Frankfurt Book Fair conference, which is a dream for anyone trying to get into the publishing industry.
The publishing industry is renowned for being very competitive, with over 1,000 people applying to just one role with a Big Five publisher. As we said before, having a degree doesn’t mean you are more likely to get a job than someone who hasn’t, but a degree can give you invaluable skills that may help your employability. Emma agrees that any degree, undergraduate or postgraduate, will give you a valuable insight into the industry, as she has had the opportunity to network “with a large variety of industry professionals who have given up their time to discuss their role and what to expect.”
She admits she is hopeful that such insight will “give her an edge as she knows the true nature of the role, department/sector and industry as a whole” and “being able to demonstrate the use of industry software has helped with placement opportunities” that she “imagines would also translate into employment opportunities as well”. Similarly, Emma hopes that
“having industry professionals as lecturers for support and feedback will prove helpful in terms of competitiveness, especially in regard to portfolios, cover letters and CVs, as it has already been invaluable throughout her BA and MA Publishing degrees in terms of securing placements.”
To all publishing hopefuls reading this, Emma has said she would absolutely recommend doing a publishing degree.
“I’ll sound like a broken record but learning the theoretical side, getting insider knowledge through guest speakers and then gaining and developing the skills that will be needed within the industry are all benefits of studying a degree. If you are undecided about a specific career path/job role but know what you are passionate about and interested in, then studying a degree will allow you to explore all of the options and make an informed decision. It will also help you fully research and prepare for a career if you are set on an industry department.”
A huge thank you to Emma for speaking to us. You can find her on Twitter at @Emma_gill15