By Mika Elkerton, Kayley Stanbridge and Kelly Hides
Given the difficulty of finding work experience both in a pandemic and in publishing generally, many have resorted to finding alternative routes into the industry. We spoke to Cat about her recent placement and how the skills she gained from it are relevant to publishing.
After signing up to Universal Credit in October due to a lack of success in job searching, Cat secured a six-month work placement at a local business accelerator in Somerset as an Admin and Social Media Assistant. She explains how her Universal Credit mentor told her about “the Government’s Kick-Start Scheme, though neither of [them] thought much would come out of it as the jobs weren’t very arts/publishing-focused.” Despite this, Cat applied for the assistant role, thinking admin and social media experience would be useful for future editorial role applications.
At this role, Cat has spent time “getting up to speed with the industry and learning about their business model” and has found it a “pretty steep learning curve” in terms of learning to “promote the business through social media, and deciding which platforms are best for reaching their desired audience.” Cat also tells us she will “get to do some proofreading and copy-editing for their blog and website”, which she’s excited about. So far, Cat has felt that she “doesn’t see working remotely becoming a problem in terms of learning new skills”, as she has found using Microsoft Office, Canva, social media and their website easy to do at home. However, she anticipates that “learning how to communicate with current or prospective clients” as her role progresses may be more difficult, but she is hopeful that, as restrictions ease, “there will be more opportunity to learn directly from employers.”
Working in a small team virtually has allowed Cat to “establish good working relationships”, as she doesn’t feel “overwhelmed by meeting team members.” Cat has also found that “Zoom and Teams have worked well for what we have needed to do so far (checking in with each other, giving team updates, etc.), but one of the directors has said things might get more complicated when working on bigger projects.” To remedy this, they may “keep a Zoom call open while we’re working, so that if something comes up, we can jump right into a conversation rather than waiting for an email response or for someone to pick up the phone.”
Cat has found working remotely “a great adjustment period”, having graduated only last year. She explains that “spending a year back at home without seeing anyone besides family has made entering the working world a little less daunting”, as she has “home comforts for when things get stressful.” However, on the flip side, Cat says that her dog is “very loud”, which could affect longer calls with her employers and clients. Slow internet has also proven to be an issue, alongside not being able to meet her employers in person, which she considers to be “the main con.”
When asked whether she feels she has gained the same quality of experience working at home rather than in the office, Cat admits that she found this question hard to answer, given she has nothing to compare her experience to. Despite the digital side of her work not being compromised, she thinks that “the interpersonal communication suffers because I feel it’s something you pick up better from an office environment rather than through someone explaining it to you over a Zoom call.” She has also missed simple work pleasures, such as “chats over a coffee during a break”, that are the “small things, but I think they really add to your enjoyment of a job and to how you build friendships with your co-workers.”
For future hopefuls looking to obtain work experience, Cat advises to always “think outside the box!” Although her placement isn’t in publishing, “the job specification matched the skills needed to be able to apply to publishing roles more confidently when the time comes.” Cat suggested to “look at the roles you want to go into, and if you can see there’s a skill they want that you don’t have enough experience with, find a job that will boost that part of your CV. It still feels like you’re working towards your career, but you’re just taking a path less trodden.” What a good way to remain hopeful and productive when work experience is limited!