How I Got My First Job with Laurel Symonds '10
January 20, 2011
I walked into Hamilton knowing I wanted to major in creative writing, and the summer following my sophomore year I realized what I would do with the degree. That summer I had the opportunity to intern in the editorial department of Bloomsbury Children’s Books in Manhattan, and it confirmed my belief that children’s book editorial was my dream job.
Then the economy crashed, and publishing was hit especially hard. Two years later, when I graduated, most companies were in a hiring freeze and learning to functioning with smaller staffs. My friends went to grad school or had temporary jobs that held them over until they found something more stable. Instead, I volunteered at my local library while writing emails, calling, and even traveling into NYC to connect with Hamilton alums in publishing who I had found through the Career Center, establishing contacts. The Hamilton alums’ contacts turned into mine, and soon enough I had a few interviews, but no luck. To find job openings, I used the job boards on mediabistro.com, publishersmarketplace.com, and bookjobs.com, which I checked daily. I also checked the individual publishers’ websites weekly, although oftentimes jobs have already been filled by the time they are listed online, which is why having contacts in the industry who can alert you to job openings early is key. I continued to talk to everyone I could about the publishing industry, book trends, and popular reads. I networked nonstop, because like so many industries, to be hired in publishing you need to be qualified, but to be considered for the job you need a personal recommendation.
I can’t deny how frustrating this summer was. I was qualified! I was enthusiastic! I was putting in so much effort! Why hasn’t anyone hired me yet? And then I repeated to myself again: I am qualified, I am enthusiastic, I am putting in a ton of effort, and it will pay off in the end.
In September I took a part-time unpaid internship at a literary agency. This wasn’t my ideal job; it was somewhere around plan-D. But by being involved in the industry I learned a lot and was presented with more networking opportunities. My advisors at the internship also supported my job search immensely: one day an agent came into the office and placed three books on my desk with, “There’s an opening at this company and I think you’ll really get along with the editor. Read these books and I’ll make a phone call today.” All those days working long hours for no pay became worthwhile because she knew that I was qualified, enthusiastic and dedicated. She could provide a personal recommendation and get my resume noticed.
I didn’t get that job. Or the several others I applied to and interviewed for that fall. But then I was offered an interview at Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books. I met with HR and the two editors I would work for. I was given a writing test. Two of the women I interned for made phone calls or wrote emails on my behalf. I received a second interview. I met with the two editors again, and their boss. A week later, I got the job, and was told that my passion for children’s books as well as writing skills made me the most desirable candidate for the position.
It wasn’t easy, or fun, but my efforts paid off in the end. I’m now happily employed in my dream job thanks to an amazing network of Hamilton alums, a lot of hard work, and patience.