Upskilling Tips for Entry-Level Roles
By Tanvi Jaiswal, Misha Manani and Georgia Stack
Do you feel like you’re lacking the relevant experience or training required to break into the publishing industry? No problem! In this issue, we’re giving you guidance on how to break into the industry via entry-level roles. We’re celebrating alumni in this anniversary issue with an interview with a former member of the team here at The Publishing Post! Isabel Hassan is the Administrative Assistant at Octopus Publishing Group and has shared with us her top tips for acquiring an entry-level role in the industry. These include her personal experiences, the key skills required for success and an insight into the diversity of roles available.
In conversation with Isabel Hassan, the Administrative Assistant at Octopus Publishing Group
Isabel completed an undergraduate degree in English and American Literature before going on to do an MA in Publishing at UAL. In her spare time, if she’s not seeing her friends, she’s either reading, binge-watching or gaming!
How did you acquire your first entry-level role in publishing? Please discuss your career journey so far and the process.
My first (very brief) publishing role was with a start-up publisher, but I was made redundant in November 2021. I applied for my current role between Christmas and New Year, had my first interview on 21 January, and by 8 February, I was in the office! I had two interviews: for my first one, I had to prepare a ten-minute presentation on an event I had organised and, my second involved generic interview questions. Prior to these, I worked in hospitality and retail.
What skills are important for your role, and what does a day-in-the-life look like?
Organisation is key. Some days I'm doing more mundane admin, but other days I can be booking hotels and travel and even helping with book fairs!
Communication skills are sought after in any role, but are especially needed in a job like mine where I regularly talk to a range of staff.
It's also very important to never take things personally; I think there can be conflict in any place of work, but on the rare occasion that it does happen, I think it just comes from a place of frustration where everyone just wants to find a solution to whatever is going on. Knowing how to navigate all this, and that I have my manager to ask for help if not, is very important.
Do you feel your identity has affected your experience in the publishing sector, and if so, in what way?
I have previously really struggled with being queer, but going into my career (whether this was in publishing or not), I wanted to find a queer community where I could make friends and have new, positive experiences with them. In that way, my identity has affected my experience because I was absolutely set on joining the Pride network at any publishing house I ended up in. The Hachette Pride network is absolutely amazing and everyone I've met has been so welcoming and inclusive (as it should be!). I feel like I am finally making friends in queer spaces and becoming more confident in my own identity as a bisexual, mixed-race woman. I am also more naturally drawn to the queer books that we publish.
What do you know about the publishing industry now that you wish you knew before you started applying for jobs?
I wish I knew about the variety of roles. It never occurred to me that there would be Admin Assistants and PAs, as well as the departments that aren't necessarily front and centre, like foreign rights. It's so true that publishing is an ever-evolving industry and I think you have to think like that too.
What tips and advice would you give to publishing hopefuls looking to break into the industry?
Be selective with your applications. Put the effort into the ones that mean the most to you.
Volunteer with places like The Publishing Post, the Society of Young Publishers (SYP), university newspapers, etc. Attending events they hold will show that you are passionate about a career in publishing, and it is a good opportunity to network!
Utilise social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. You can follow lots of publishing professionals on Twitter, and Bookstagram is a great space to keep up to date with bestsellers and popular titles.
Be yourself! I held back on a lot of job applications, and with hindsight, I think recruiters could tell. For my current role, I was passionate about my skills, and I said I was queer, mixed-race and female, and I really do think it had a positive effect on the progression and outcome of my application.
Thanks for reading Issue 50! Join us again for Issue 51, where we will be covering Upskilling Tips for Digital Production.