How I worked out that publishing was for me

Posted on November 18, 2019 in Oxford, UK

On Work in Publishing Week Esther Morrison describes the moment she knew she wanted to work in publishing and how she got to her current position as Portfolio Marketing Executive at Oxford University Press.

Screenshot of Facebook post reading: Today in my careers meeting I got told it's okay to want to just be and mum and that I was an interesting case. So I still have no idea what I'm doing at or after uni.

Every year this post pops up in my Facebook memories and serves as an amusing reminder of just how clueless I was as a second-year university student when it came to finding a career. While I’m grateful that the well-meaning career advisor recognised the value of motherhood, as a young and very single woman paying over nine grand a year for a degree, I decided I probably still needed to find myself some other form of productive purpose. At least until I could find the finances to support my baby making aspirations. But the question still remained as to what that career would look like.

How I stumbled upon publishing

Being the proactive go-getter I am I already had some work experience up my sleeve which I had landed by writing to loads of local companies asking if anyone would take me. Many would not, but a few did. From these placements I learnt the following things:

  • I do not want to work in sales
  • I am not cut out for government bureaucracy
  • I enjoy good levels of organisation
  • I’m quite good at copywriting
  • I like to edit stuff

I took this very non-inspirational list and started to research roles and industries based on the skills and tasks I had enjoyed, which in a very vague and indirect way led me to publishing.

How I got into publishing

The next step was to learn more about the industry and to find my place in it. I went online and was instantly terrified by the number of articles telling me how competitive the industry is. But as I said, I’m a go-getter and so I persisted. I looked for more work experience, this time focusing on publishing-related placements. Through online research and doing my own outreach once again to local companies I secured the following:

  • Three-week placement of editorial and journalism experience for Primary Times magazine
  • Two-week placement in marketing at Random House Children’s
  • One week at a not-for-profit organisation who published academic monographs

It was through these placements that I discovered an interest in marketing. This surprised me because I always assumed that marketing was for professional, business-minded people. Not for people who, up until recently, had no tangible career goals. But its balance of creativity and analytical thinking intrigued me (and continues to do so!).

In addition to gathering the work experience, I also attended the SYP Conference. It was this that really set my heart on fire for the publishing sector in general. The talks were insightful and gave me a really firm understanding of the opportunities and problems facing the industry at the time. Attending alone I was also forced to actually talk to people and I started to realise the beauty of networking and sharing ideas. Many others had come alone too, eager to learn, and were soon put at ease by other friendly publishing professionals. I even inadvertently got myself a couple of work experience placements from it and by that point my CV was starting to look quite full. 

Why I love publishing

And so a couple of longer internships later (I worked in children’s marketing at Oxford University Press for two months and then did a nine month stint as an editorial intern at a German school book publisher) I finally decided it was time to settle down which is when I landed my job as a Marketing Assistant in Journals at Oxford University Press. I’ve been here for nearly two and a half years and have begun working my way up as the opportunities arise. Journals marketing may not have originally been seen as a dream job but I love it. I also love working in the publishing industry and I will tell you the three main reasons why:

  • The people: From my experience, the publishing industry is full of empathetic and driven people who are super keen to support and help those around them. This is exactly the kind of environment I always want to work in.
  • The ideas: Publishing is notorious for being behind the times, but while change can be slower than in other sectors, there is still a strong drive to innovate and do better. We are also publishing the newest and most forward-thinking ideas which is exciting.
  • The opportunities: Roles within publishing are diverse and there is plenty of opportunity to try different things out and move around. Where you start will definitely not be where you end up as you develop unique interests and skills.

So that Facebook post continues to pop up in my notifications each year and I always smile at the cluelessness and naivety of my student self, and also thank the powers that be that I was a conscientious and motivated nineteen year old because I hate to think what I would have missed out on had I stopped my career search after that one misguided meeting.

SYP Autumn Conference 2019: Paving the Way in Publishing: Innovate, Adapt, Overcome

Saturday 23rd November, Oxford Brookes University

If you are looking to break into the publishing industry, or to move onto the next stage of your career in publishing, then come and join us at the SYP Autumn Conference.

Our day full of informative panels, networking opportunities, and inspiring talks from leaders in the industry will give you the opportunity to begin paving your own way in publishing. The conference will begin with a talk from Hannah Telfer, the Managing Director of Audiences and Audio at Penguin Random House, followed by a host of varied events, on topics ranging from bookselling and transferable skills, to independent publishers and inclusivity schemes.

Buy your ticket: