Last night, Ella - my university friend - and I made our way to the swanky Phoenix Artist Club in London for the Society of Young Publishers' Career Speed Dating event.
We were intrigued (and a little anxious, it has to be said) to find out exactly what the night would entail - not knowing how true to the "speed dating" concept it would be. In fact, the organisation was excellent; each individual was given a colour group on entry, and then asked to move from table to table with that group. The tables were separated according to the various publishing departments - editorial, publicity, marketing, sales, and digital - and this is where we met the professionals who were so full of advice and easy to talk to; it really was a fabulous experience.
As someone who wants to work in editorial, it was actually really insightful to be able to speak to professionals across the fields in the industry. There were not only reps from within publishing houses, but also from within the book industry as a whole, including a rep from the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction social media team, as well as the careers sector rep from The Bookseller magazine. All of the professionals were so equally passionate about the value of their role in the publishing process - they all made their own departments seem like the place to be!
The popularity of the night amongst aspiring publishers meant that the event could have done with a bigger venue to allow people to move about more easily. That said, whether standing, sitting or thigh-toning(ly) squatting, it didn't detract from the excitement that seemed to permeate the room.
Until recently, I've always seen networking events as a kind of daunting experience. There's so much pressure to get contacts and ask the right questions, it sometimes seems easier to want to stand in a corner and hide! What was great about last night, was that the atmosphere was so convivial and relaxed and the publishing reps seemed so happy to tell us about their experiences - I felt like I got a real understanding of why they love their job, as much as what they do.
In fact, every time I meet someone in the profession, whether they are a writer, agent, or publisher, I feel more and more assured that this is the industry in which I want to work. The enthusiasm that the professionals have for their jobs was palpable and I hope I demonstrated the same kind of excitement for wanting to break into the industry.
The one piece of advice that was reiterated across all the sectors was to persevere. Not many had an easy entrance into the sector, and it may have taken them several years (and a stroke of luck) to get to the point where they are today. Yet they proved that as long as you're flexible, dedicated and willing, it is possible. I certainly feel like I'm those things, so persevere I will!