Dear YPG: How do I get an interview if I’m new in town?

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Dear YPG,

I recently moved to New York from the Midwest to pursue publishing jobs. Even though I had publishing internships in college (also in the Midwest), I’m really struggling to get interviews. I’m not sure if it is realistic for me to pursue an assistant-level position even though I’ve already interned. Any advice for the application process and scoring an interview?

Publishing Pains from the Plains


We feel your plight, PPP. Figuring out how to land that first publishing gig can be tricky, especially if you went to school somewhere other than the Northeast. But finding an entry-level position is entirely achievable. Your internship experience will stack up nicely against other candidates who are also looking for jobs at the assistant level—in fact, going from intern to assistant is a very typical publishing path. So take heart: while it can be tough to score that first interview, there are a few ways to crack the publishing nut.


  1. Networking

It may feel redundant and like a trope half-heartedly tossed around before every career fair, but networking remains a vital part of the job-seeking business. And it doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Start with who you already know. College career centers often extend their services to recent grads. It might be worth giving your alma mater a call to see if they know any alumni who work in publishing. If their databases come up short, ask for professionals in other industries who live in the NYC area and might be willing to meet up. Fields like broadcasting and journalism have obvious ties to publishing, but never discredit the happy accident: a teacher or even a software engineer may have a roommate who works on picture books. It might be worth some small talk about shared mascots and campus lore to ask the question—plus, now you finally have someone to go with to check out that cool alumni bar.


Be sure to tap the resources from your internships as well. While your past employers may be located far away from the city lights, that doesn’t mean their connections are. Large book conferences, workshops, or festivals often bring publishing giants and indie presses together in one space. It’s likely your old boss has professional acquaintances from across the country, or has had previous interns go on to join the fray in NYC. Don’t be afraid to ask your old coworkers if they have any contacts in your new neck of the woods.


Finally, as you make new friends in the city, be vocal about who you are and what you’re looking for professionally. It’s to your advantage that the biggest publishing companies are all clustered in NYC. Someone you meet is bound to be within six degrees of separation to someone who works at one of them. Let others know what you’re about, and they’ll be happy to point you toward friends who can help in your search.


  1. Certificate Programs and Graduate School

If you’re looking for a little more structure, going back to school is an option. There are several publishing certificate and masters programs that connect students with some of the top professionals in the field. The Denver Publishing Institute, Columbia Publishing Course, and NYU Summer Publishing Institute are a few of the most prominent. These programs can come with a hefty price tag, but they often last only a few weeks and provide hands-on experience as well as organized networking events. Consider whether that path is right for you.


  1. Internships

Although it’s easy to feel like you’ve already paid your internship dues, it may make sense to pursue an additional internship or two in NYC. It’s not atypical for prospective job seekers to complete multiple internships before starting work full time, and more publishers offer paid internships (or at least a small stipend) than in the past. No matter where you work, being in an office gives you access to numerous individuals with years—sometimes decades!—of experience under their belt. In between endless reader reports and making copies for meetings, ask fellow employees to grab coffee. It’s a great chance to pick their brains about their jobs and how they got into the industry. It can help you decide which departments truly pique your interest, and your coworkers will likely have insider knowledge on positions opening up both at their workplace and others. If the timing is right, your internship may be the foot in the door you need to land a full-time job at the company. And even if the timing isn’t perfect, an internship at a major house is a great way to increase the chances that prospective full-time employers will personally know someone who can give you a glowing reference.


It can feel really tough to come into the book industry cold, but know that most people like talking about their jobs and many have been in your shoes before. The important thing is to keep letting others know what you’re looking for, and to not be afraid to ask for what you want. When you finally land that first interview, YPG has your back there, too. Best of luck.

–Dear YPG


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