Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Career Queries

Although it does not come up on Rose-coloured very often, I work as an editor. To do this, I got my publishing certificate. Most of the curriculum was to make us competent enough to do certain jobs in the publishing industry, which was very useful. As well, though, a sizeable chunk of time was devoted to helping us *get* those jobs. You'd think that latter part would have been interesting, and it was, but it was also very odd.

The classes on job-getting inevitably had a guest speaker who had been very successful in publishing--someone who had been at it 20 or so years and had risen to VP status or similar. They were supposed to tell us both about life in the industry and how they got their starts. The former category always a lot fascinating stuff , but the latter... Some weird kind of modesty would overtake our speakers, coupled with spotty memories, and they just could not (or would not) admit they had ever been ambitious or tried hard or even *wanted* to work in publishing. "Just fell into it," "wasn't good at anything else," "friend begged me to take the job," were a few of the things I heard.

I don't think these people meant to come across as they did, which was weirdly smug and secretive. I think the industry has genuinely changed in the last 20 years, and it used to be much easier to just "fall" into a successful and exciting career. And, well, I think some of those people *did* fear seeming like they had been ambitious and tried really hard to get promotions and earn money--that's not something the genuinely bookish are supposed to do.

Well, here's the truth about me: I have always had a strong--borderline obsessive--desire to feed and clothe myself and to sleep indoors, and I thought it would be best if I could do it working with books. This was hard to do, and continues to be, but I can (usually) manage. Sorta.

So when UofT Career Centre asked me to speak to a bunch of graduating students about my work and path to it (and ongoing), I suddenly had a wash of that bizarro reticence mentioned above--"Oh, I don't really know, it just worked out, sorta..."

Which is of course crazy--I remember exactly how I got here, and some of those wounds are still quite fresh. I think maybe offering advice feels too much like tempting the fates--"Hey, I am confident in my work; must be time to shoot me down!" And, in truth, no one is an expert except on whatever works for that person...and even then, there's a fair bit of randomness involved.

But I do think I'll be able to tell those young graduates a few useful things, and maybe it'll even be good that I'm low-level enough to remember how hard you have to try to get started. Since I suspect a lot of the Rose-coloured readers might work in publishing, or be interested in it, please feel free to post either queries or advice (or both) that I might use in my talk (May 13). I promise to post whatever notes and answers I come up with here afterwards.

I will of course also be talking about writing stories and stuff, and how I balance the two (poorly). But I have a feeling that students weeks away from summer vacation who are willing to go to a careers seminar are not in the market for a job that you would require another job to support. But...what do I know?



Amy said...

Not so much advice-worthy, but something your post made me wonder: when you meet a random person at a party or wherever and they ask you what you do, do you say "writer" or "editor"? Because, even though it took me a long time to feel confident enough to self-identify as a writer ("What if they ask what I've writer?! Which is NOTHING!") I vastly prefer telling people I am a writer--and going through all the crap that entails--than telling them I am a cashier or a telemarketer or any of the horrible jobs I have had in the past/will undoubtedly have in the future. But editor just basically sounds infinitely cooler, and non-shame-inducing at all. So I guess what I'm saying, Rebecca, is you have two very cool jobs! I think I'm just going to start telling people I'm a stuntman or something.

Amy said...

*"What if they've asked what I've WRITTEN." Sigh. Maybe I need to re-think my entire career path!