How I Got into Publishing – Interview with Farhana Irshad, Work in Publishing Week!

It is an absolute honour to share a little bit of Farhana’s journey with all of you today at the start of Work in Publishing week. I had the pleasure of working alongside this inspirational woman in my previous position and I have learnt so much from her grit and work ethic. Farhana’s story isn’t all about publishing. It’s about breaking the glass ceiling, going after what you want and believing in yourself. We are still a long way away from creating a fully diverse workforce in publishing, but to think that if Farhana hadn’t been brave and bold, we would have missed out on her talent and unique point of view, it’s just upsetting. I hope her story will inspire many of you to follow your dreams and to join our wonderful industry: publishing needs you!

1. Tell us a little bit about yourself!

I am an Academic Partnerships Representative at Epigeum, which is a part of Oxford University Press. 

I am also a post-grad in film and screen cultures and always looking for new opportunities to explore my passion for film. 

2. What is the part of your job that you enjoy the most?  

I work very closely with universities, and the most enjoyable part is talking to the many different people at the university and hearing their passions in their role, whether it is their research thesis or their motivation in supporting student’s mental health. As I hope to continue in academia, both as a career and in my studies, hearing the work people do is very inspiring!

3. When did you know you wanted to work in publishing?

I was desperately trying to find an internship for my third year mandatory placement module at university. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do or knew of anything that my English and Media arts degree could be used for. It was only once I decided to reactivate my twitter account and started following what interested me (filmmakers, book-reviewers, authors, and writers), and stumbled across the world of ‘publishing twitter’, that I found a lot of internships being advertised, as well as people who worked in the industry.

I read a bit more about the industry through twitter (shout-out to all the accounts advertising paid internships!) and felt like it fit a lot of my interests. I decided to apply for my first internship to see if it was something that would suit me, and it did! 

4. How did you land your first publishing job? 

I was 2 months away from my master’s dissertation and decided to procrastinate by looking for internships that I could start after my deadline. I applied to so many and I just wasn’t getting anywhere. I then decided to evaluate my skills, match them to a few different jobs/careers, and decided to take the plunge and apply for jobs. By a stroke of luck, I landed my first publishing job, which started before my masters’ deadline – very different from the plan I had when I first began job hunting!

5. What is one thing you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs? 

The publishing industry is unknown territory to the working-class, and that was certainly the case for me. Being the first in my family to go to university, as well as the first to have an ‘office-job’, the job market was something completely new to me, and I had very little support in understanding how I could fit into it. Often for the working-class, it is the dream of being a doctor or a teacher that is the most sought-out because that is the only world we have seen to be successful and achievable for someone of our background, and I thought the same. I didn’t know the publishing industry existed until I started university, let alone that I could begin a career in academic publishing!

I wish I had known the value of my skills and how they could translate to a number of careers. Whilst I was searching for internships and jobs, I read a number of job specifications trying to figure out if it was something I would be able to do, and it sometimes became hard to see if I was compatible. I began to doubt myself a lot and it dissuaded me from applying to so many great roles as I wasn’t sure how I would fit into the industry. I wish I took more of a chance to just apply to those jobs rather than just thinking I wouldn’t get that job that I probably was well-matched or experienced for.

6. What advice would you give to someone looking for their first publishing job right now? 

To just apply, especially if it is an entry-level job. If you have read the job spec, found it to be everything you would like in a job, and you like the company, you should just apply, even if you don’t really fit with everything on the required skill-set. It’s often your enthusiasm to learn and your passion for the job that will help you begin your career. 

To all my working-class dears looking for their first job in publishing: don’t let self-doubt trick you into not applying to a role with a pay that may be higher than you would ever expect in your first job, or higher than anything you may have come across growing up. I know it can be daunting, not coming from money and not knowing what your worth is in this industry, but your motivations and skill-set are extremely valuable and unique. You can definitely get that role and excel in it!

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Farhana!

You can connect with Farhana on Twitter here.

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