The toughest part when trying to get into a new industry is right at the start when you have no contacts and little inside knowledge of how things work. In some cases, you don’t even know where to find the right jobs advertised or what are the key skills that will help you land a position. I’ve been there. For both my publishing and events career, I was a complete outsider. I didn’t know anybody in either industry and I didn’t have any understanding of how things worked, except for imagining how fabulous and great everything was. In addition to that, I was trying to get in as an immigrant, which had a challenge of its own as I struggled with both language and cultural barriers. But I’ve managed to make it through in both industries and I’d like to share with you 5 tips on how to tackle this and get into the industry that you’ve been dreaming about!
Research people who work in those industries: what I realised a little too late in my quest to get into publishing, is that there are a lot of people who already worked in the industry and who were sharing their experiences. At this point, I’m going to assume that you would have already done the basic research (i.e. in this case, finding the key publishing houses in your area, looking into their structures, etc…), so it is time to get a better idea of the behind-the-scenes stuff. What jobs are available and what are the skills needed? You can find people who work in any industry on LinkedIn, Twitter and all the other social media platforms. Have a look at their profile to get an idea of what experience they have acquired. What jobs have they done? Did they get a specific degree? Did they volunteer? What are the skillsets that jump out from their profiles? If someone is in a position that you find interesting and you’d like to get in touch, make sure you do so in a professional way and, before bombarding them with questions, ask if it’s ok to connect and explain why. Once you have received the go-ahead, make sure you have some questions ready to send through and always always be professional.
Find organisations relevant to that industry – every industry has some organisations that support their goals and cause. They may be providing relevant training or organising events to reach out to new people as well as support current professionals in their area. These organisations are essential to understanding your chosen industry before diving in. They will also offer opportunities to connect (online or offline) with people who are already working in this area. I will be writing some specific info on the publishing and events industries in a separate post soon, so keep your eyes peeled if you’re interested.
Volunteer: this is my absolute favourite point. Volunteering is a great way to meet new people, gain new skills and support your community. I have been volunteering for a while and it has been the best time spent ever! If you are trying to work in publishing, you can volunteer with several organisations, but I will give a big shout out to the Society of Young Publishers, a brilliant non for profit run entirely by volunteers across the UK & Ireland. They are a fantastic bunch and a very well respected organisation in the publishing world. Having some volunteer experience relevant to the industry you want to join will give your CV a real boost!
Professional Training: although qualification and degrees are not always necessary, I find them very effective and helpful when it comes to breaking into a new industry. I completed an MA in Publishing and a diploma in Event Management before making both career moves. There’s obviously an investment of both money and time when it comes to studying and getting trained full-time or on the side of your day job, but I do think it’s worth it. Some of the things you can expect to gain from these kinds of courses are industry knowledge, contacts within the industry and industry-specific skills. My MA was at UCL in London and you can listen a little more about my experience here.
Network: I know, I know, it’s hard. But you can do this in many ways and if you are planning on taking any of the above steps, you’ll get more contacts in no time! If you won’t have a chance to go to events, whether this is due to location, time, money or anything else, remember that both the event and publishing industry have a thriving online community on Twitter. If you are not trying to get into either, check out LinkedIn, there’s a lot that you get involved with. Get connecting!
I hope this is helpful, but I know that it can be really hard when trying to change industry. Just focus on a couple of these points at a time and remember that things won’t happen overnight.
If you are trying to get into publishing, do check out the ‘How I Got Into Publishing’ series here.