How to Switch Jobs Without Giving Yourself an Ulcer

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This article was contributed by YPG member Maree Hamilton. If you are a YPG member and would like to contribute articles on publishing-related topics for our site, please contact Stephanie Bowen at sbowen@randomhouse.com.

So, you work in publishing, and it’s really neat, right? You’re surrounded by books and get to regale your family with stories about the time Sarah Palin’s husband called. But maybe a coworker one desk over reminds you of the four-year-old you used to babysit. Or you took the first industry-related job offered to you after college, even though it was in sales and numbers make your head spin.

It’s okay if you didn’t find your “place” on the first (or even second) try. But maybe now you’re ready for opportunities to expand your skill set, or just some good old-fashioned change. Whatever the reason, there are a few things you should keep in mind (and some that you should firmly banish). It may feel overwhelming at first, but it’s as easy as turning a page.

DO: Use (but don’t abuse!) your friends.

If you’ve spent enough time in a position to consider moving on, you know and are probably friends with various people in other departments and at other houses. They can be excellent sources for finding out what new positions are opening up, and more importantly, can often get your resume in front of the right people—that’s half the battle. Always be respectful when asking someone to recommend you, and make it clear that they should not feel obligated to do so. And use your best judgment when asking people within your company or imprint—especially if you’re not ready to tell your supervisors you’re considering other options. We publishing people are good with words, which means that news travels fast.

DO: Learn from Kate Middleton—patience is a virtue.

As with any entry-level job, some of the tasks that occupy your workday may make you want to quit and become a pineapple farmer in Hawaii. It’s quite a shock, too, if you’ve come straight from academia into a 9-5 job that can feel repetitive. Have patience! Even though it might only take a month or two for you to realize that you don’t want to stake your career in a certain area, there’s plenty to learn. Most importantly, you’ll demonstrate to future employers that you won’t cut and run when the going gets boring—it will be a red flag if you’ve only been in your current position a brief amount of time. Try to stick it out for at least one year.

DO: Know your crossover potential.

Don’t despair if you’ve been working in an area that seems unrelated to what you’d like to do. There’s a good chance you interact regularly with people from your desired department. Are you in marketing but long to be in editorial? Familiarize yourself with editorial tasks. Strike up a conversation with that assistant editor at the water cooler. See if there are side projects you can help out with. After all, book publishing is a collaborative industry, and most people won’t turn down genuine and enthusiastic offers for help. Perhaps you can read manuscripts that the editors don’t have time for, and try your hand at writing a reader’s report. Does publicity have a ton of books to mail? Is marketing making an author video and in need of some extra hands on deck while filming? Pitch in! Understand that it might mean dedicating a few evening or weekend hours of your own time, but you’ll gain additional needed skills.

DO: Be real.

When you start interviewing for other positions, be as diplomatic as possible with your current supervisor(s). Let them know that, while you find your current work interesting and challenging, a great opportunity arose and you’re being considered for another position. Most bosses will—and should—be supportive, especially if you’ve taken the steps to be respectful of their time and your responsibilities. You don’t want to feel like a double agent, peering suspiciously over your shoulder when people approach your cubicle. Try to schedule interviews before you need to be at the office or during lunch, let people know you’ll be out, and always make sure your time away from the office does not interfere with what your colleagues need from you. The job that’s currently paying you should always come first.

DO: Give ample notice.

While you don’t necessarily have to give your current supervisor as a reference, it may seem suspicious not to. Telling your boss you’re potentially leaving is nerve-wracking, and the timing of doing so can be a delicate balance between false alarm and inconveniently late. If you’ve given your boss as a reference, you should let her/him know (as with any reference). If you’re offered a position, whether or not you’ve notified anyone of the possibility, a minimum of two weeks’ notice is standard—anything less is disrespectful. Of course, if you’re switching departments within the same imprint, this time frame may work differently. Your current supervisor might be aware that you’re being considered throughout the entire process—it depends on your company’s policies. It’s not unusual for someone switching departments to stay in their current role until a replacement is hired and trained. In this case, be sure to discuss the handover guidelines with your boss and outline any expectations he/she has.

DON’T: Forget to talk to Human Resources.

Respect the HR representatives! They usually have particular rules and processes, particularly when it comes to considerations for internal candidates. For example, some houses allow internal candidates to have one confidential meeting with their prospective employers before officially declaring candidacy. Once the candidates have decided whether or not they would like to be officially considered for the position, they must tell their current supervisors that they are pursuing the opportunity. Protocols like these are generally designed to avoid departments or imprints poaching other employees, or hiring under the table.

DON’T: Ignore your current workload.

Sometimes the desire to find a new and more interesting job can be all-consuming. While it may be okay to take a look at potential options occasionally during the workday (don’t be afraid to click that interesting link under the New Jobs section of Publishers Lunch!), save the more time-consuming parts of applications (cover letters, resume revisions, etc.) for your evenings and weekends. The last thing you want is to fall behind in your work directly before any potential reference requests.

DON’T: Trash talk/gossip.

When interviewing with fellow industry people, especially if you are already acquainted, it’s tempting to fall into more casual conversation. While this can be a good opportunity for you to connect on a memorable level, you’re still in an interview. Your main focus should be professionalism and explaining why you are well suited for a particular position. Avoid talking in a negative way about coworkers, clients, and/or authors. Take the opportunity to emphasize your ability to work effectively with all different personality types. Discretion is important in any job, but particularly in an industry that relies fairly heavily on positive media exposure.

DON’T: Leap before you look.

Switching jobs is stressful—exciting and thrill-inducing, too, but definitely stressful. Like moving within the five boroughs, doing it too often can take years off your life. Even if you’re feeling burnt out or frustrated in your current position, it’s important ideally to wait for something to open up that has the potential to make you happy (or at least satisfied) for some time to come. You don’t want to end up restless again in three months. To that end, think carefully about what is most important to you in a job and do your research to make sure a new opportunity will provide you that before you accept an offer. Does this potential new position provide comparable benefits? If it’s within the same house, will it match or exceed your current salary? (Use your previous experience to negotiate, if you can.) Does it seem like your new coworkers will be a good fit for you personality-wise? When you’re already in a secure position, there’s no rush to switch. Take your time and weigh your options. When the right position comes along, you’ll know.

Neither the Association of American Publishers (“AAP”) nor the Young To Publishing Group (“YPG”) represents nor endorses the accuracy or reliability of any advice, opinion, statement or other information displayed, uploaded or distributed through this website by any member, user, information provider or any other person or entity. Member-generated content published on this website reflects the views of the provider of the content, and does not constitute the opinion of the AAP, the Young To Publishing Group, or any of their respective members or divisions.

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