The Andy Sachs Dream vs. Reality

We all know that jobs in the publishing industry can be scarce, especially when you’re just starting out.

At my university, a lecturer got up in front of our publishing and editing class only to tell us we’d be better off finding teaching positions. It was just that competitive out there. I didn’t heed his warning at the time, but I have to admit – after more than a few rejection letters and unsuccessful interviews, and oftentimes, a failure to acknowledge that my application was even read, much less received – I’m starting to take that pessimistic advice to heart.

Entry level positions in publishing get hundreds of applicants at a time, and if you don’t know the right person, you’re generally stuck out there on your own to tend your wounded pride. It only takes so many knock backs before your bright eyes start to lose their earnest, newly graduated lustre; and your bushy work-enthusiastic tail falls limp. Internships in the US are insanely popular, but here across the Pacific, we only dream about having our own Devil Wears Prada adventure. We have to be more realistic.

Often you feel like asking the universe – if someone like Lauren Conrad can get herself a prestigious magazine internship (ignoring her wealth and connections for the minute), then why can’t I? The answer, of course, is funding. Publishing magnates would no doubt be happy to hire willing graduates, if they only had the funds and the resources to keep more of them on staff.

Instead, the majority of interning opportunities in Australia are voluntary. Not a bad thing if you’re willing to put in a lot of work for long-term rewards, instead of short-term, which most of us are; but magazines only take four to six interns a year, and publishing houses even less. So you’re literally competing with hundreds of others for a position that doesn’t even pay, just to get your foot in the door. Students enrolled in courses like RMIT’s Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing, which has 68 hours of industry work as part of its curriculum, have a definite leg-up, but those of us out there on our own can find it pretty tough going.

That’s not to say there aren’t options. We all want to learn from the big publishing houses and the most well-known magazines, but sometimes small literary mags offer unpaid work experience throughout the year, and these positions are advertised less and can be easier to get. Express Media offer voluntary internships in communications, administration and electronic publications that give individuals much needed experience and invaluable industry contacts. Places like Artshub, Bookseller + Publisher and your state Writers Centre keep up to date listings on available interning opportunities, though you have to pay for membership to read these listings.

The best opportunity I’ve come across is undoubtedly the Australian Publishers Association Internship Program, funded by the Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) Cultural Fund, about to commence for 2010. This program offers four paid internships with four different publishing houses, a huge opportunity for hopeful grads wanting an intro to the industry. Last year the companies selected included Black Dog Books, Scribe Publications and Oxford University Press, and said positions were at least six months in duration.

A sound opportunity in a rather cutthroat job market. When the APA announce their applications open in the coming weeks, I’ll be one of the many putting my name forward.

But with three hundred other applicants each vying for a position, all fellow graduates from the multitude of publishing, editing and communications courses available throughout the country, I have to stop and wonder at my chances. How will I seperate myself from the crowd? How will I become Australia’s equivilent to Andy Sachs?



2 responses to “The Andy Sachs Dream vs. Reality”

  1. Melanie says :

    Here’s a sneaky peek I was told by a tutor at uni: Bookseller & Publisher does cost to subscribe, however you can get a trial subscription which allows you to read job listings and it still works after the trial period is over.

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