For the first post of this series, I’m very excited to share the story of a dear friend of mine who also happen to be a remarkable professional. Alba is currently working in Digital at Bonnier Books UK with an enviable portfolio of products. Alba and I met in the early stages of our career, when we were both trying to get our foot in the door. I have seen Alba’s career growing from strength to strength and always admire her passion and skills in such a new and innovative part of the publishing industry. However, what I love most about Alba’s story is her ability to persever and to think outside the box when it came to getting her first job in publishing!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!
Originally from Albania, I grew up in Athens and studied English Literature at the University of Athens. I came to London back in 2014 to start a master’s degree in Publishing at UCL and stayed put since then. In my current job I champion digital publishing through audiobooks, eBooks and apps as the Digital Product Manager for Bonnier Books UK. I’ve been fascinated by the world of digital and how we can bring stories to life in different formats and platforms.
2. When did you know you wanted to work in publishing?
I took the decision to actively pursue a job in publishing on my last year of university in Athens. It wasn’t an easy decision at all if you take into consideration that the publishing industry in Athens is fairly secluded and elitist, not to mention it was at a downward spiral due to the economic crisis. However, I had my eyes firmly set on London, knowing that English publishing on this side of the pond is clustered there. I was the only one from my class to pursue a career in book publishing, I remember having to explain to people what it was exactly that I was after.
3. How did you land your first publishing job?
It’s a cliche, but I got my first job through an internship. I was starting my dissertation at the time, when I saw this internship at a small start-up imprint being advertised. I knew how rare ads in the digital department were to come by, so I jumped on it, took a risk and it paid off. I had expressed my interest to the line manager from the moment they had come as a guest lecturer at UCL a few months back. That being said, I put everything behind my application. I created an app that hosted my CV, and tried to be as creative as possible by tailoring my application to the role and advert. They saw my enthusiasm, hard work and dedication, and decided to offer me the Digital Assistant role at the end of my internship.
4. What is the one thing you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
Tailoring my application to what they were asking for exactly. It’s so easy to stray and start highlighting your many merits, whereas the hiring manager is actually looking for specific traits that are applicable to the job. Focusing on the main skills they’re after and working on how best to showcase them goes a long way.
5. What advise would you give to someone looking for their first publishing job right now?
Don’t be shy to approach publishers, show them your interest in their books, and generally that you know the company and what they are all about. It sometimes takes a concoction of perseverance, serendipity, and time to land that first job. Look at smaller companies or departments with potential for growth, attend networking events where possible, and just talk to people. If you’re looking at a specific sector, check what skills you can acquire on your own. Every publisher out there likes to see passion and commitment— show them, don’t just tell them.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Alba!