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Climbing the ladder

Climbing the ladder

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By Suzy Astbury, Managing Director of Inspired Selection

What top tips do you have for getting ahead in your career?

First of all, you need to know where you want to be and then figure out how to get there. You need to make yourself visible across your organisation, but visible in the right way. Think about positive behaviour towards your peers and manager.

Let's talk about managing up and down. Your boss will really take notice of you if you are not just doing a great job in your role now but also making their lives easier! The people underneath you will also really respect you if you help them progress in their careers too!

You need to demonstrate leadership qualities as well – don’t be afraid to take the lead and follow your instinct as it's often right. Don't always just be a follower.

Finally, you have to be confident in your own ability. To move ahead you need to feel ready and confident and show this in every aspect of your role and time at work.

Where do I start if I want to enter publishing after I’ve already started my career in another industry?

I think the first thing is to understand where you will fit best within the industry, so look at those key transferable skills. It's then finding a way of convincing a publisher to meet you and see how you could transform their business.

Publishers are often risk-averse, and will often hire from within. There are some great case studies where they have hired from outside. It's your job to convince them. Also, @InspiredSearch wrote a white paper on this too and it fits really well with us becoming more inclusive.

We also have a huge skills gap in digital marketing and data skills so if you have these, make sure they are clearly visible on your cv. Also, make sure you describe the companies you have worked for so we can easily identify whether these are consumer-facing or B2B.

When is it right to leave a company or job?

Great Q. Often a few months before you do... It is a really tough decision to make but you need to go back to your career plan. Ask yourself these questions: Am I still learning? Am I still developing? Am I still motivated to do a great job? Work in publishing if the answer is no.

It's time for a change! Don't feel guilty about this but make sure you are leaving for the right reasons. You need to squeeze as much out of every role that you can. Publishing is a small industry and so falling out with someone isn't an option and if you do, you need to fix it!

If you do leave a role, PLEASE leave your desk and role in a fantastic state! Leaving loose ends of unfinished jobs may prevent you from being hired in the future. As I said, it's a small industry – thanks @bookstothesky for this invaluable advise.

A mentor of mine once said to me at the beginning of my career, "always go for a job you can do 70% of and you can learn the rest. That way you will always be moving your career forward" so be brave and push your careers forward otherwise you will stand still.

What’s your best advice for writing a covering letter? How do you get the hiring manager’s attention?

Being in publishing, we have very HIGH expectations over the quality of a covering letter. Think about who is reading this and what they will want to hear and this is what they will want to see.

  1. Write a clear introduction about who you are and which job you are applying for at which company – anything vague may feel generic and you want this to be tailored like it's the only covering letter you are ever going to write.
  2. Make the tone engaging and easy to read but also make sure you focus on them, their values and answer the key competencies they are looking for – basically, “Why you?”.
  3. Try not to be too cheesy though… Go for fitting in with their brand, not over-gushing. A good way of doing this is to use their language.
  4. Have a strong ending! Leave them wanting more and make it clear that you want to meet with them.
  5. You don't need to write a report on why you would be great, but I normally suggest pointing out three of your top skills that would be a good fit for the role and company.

Proofread your covering letter and make sure there are no grammatical errors or typos and, of course, address the letter to the right person and company so it's standing out for the right reasons.

Saying that, I always did love it when Elle Woods handed her covering letter in on pink paper with a squirt of perfume in legally blonde :-) #sorrynotsorry.

What sort of extracurriculars do hiring managers take note of? I.E. Should I put “Enjoys skydiving” on my CV?

I think employees like to see all sorts of things but for me, I love to see a range of activities. Yes to skydiving but other activities which show you commit to something and have a good work-life balance are also really important and helps the conversation flow.

WARNING! If you are going to put activities on your CV be prepared to speak about them! So if you put running down and haven't even run for the bus in the last 6 months take it off...

My favourite interview answer when hiring for @Inspiredjobs was when I asked the questions, “Can you tell me about a time you have committed to something and achieve success?”. They replied, "Yes! When I was at uni, I got really unfit. So I downloaded Couch to 5k, committed to it and now I'm smashing through 15k runs regularly!". “Wow”, I thought, “That's impressive!”. She still works for us now... and is still impressing me!

So the more you can squeeze on there the better, especially early on in your career.

Is it really possible to get a job through networking? And what does that actually mean?

Yes, you absolutely can but understand that networking isn't just at networking events. As soon as you work in publishing, you are networking… Tah dah! The network you build from day one will remain with you till you retire so think about that when you make friends.

On the same theme, know that if you are bad at your job, word will spread and so may make life hard when trying to find a new job if you are not well recommended. I HATE saying things like this but it is the truth and you must be professional at all times!

If you are networking to get into the industry then, yes, you can also get in via networking but not networking alone.

Also, if you are a nervous networker, check out this blog: Just Got Made: Networking Introverts Breakfast Club.

How is a career in publishing different from other industries? Why #workinpublishing if you can work anywhere?

This is a terrific Question! Right, here we go…

Books educate, entertain and inform us from the moment we are born.

There are so many parts to publishing – it could be the latest scientific breakthrough that will cure cancer that we are publishing, to telling your child a bedtime story – we have the power to put this content into people’s hands to enrich lives.

The people in publishing are all amazing! They are bright, creative and so passionate about making our industry the best place that it can be. Whether fighting for paid internships @pubinterns or making it a more inclusive environment #inclusivityconf17.

We are an industry of problem solvers! Along came digital but the book is still alive and will be for many years to come! We are #futureproofing ourselves and innovating at the same time.

Publishing can offer innovative, technical and creative roles. As we evolve and become more commercially focussed, we are actively recruiting a wider skill set.

As publishing changes, you will change and never stop learning or evolving too.

No matter what your background or interests there will always be an avenue for you to make a difference. Books really do change lives! Asks our friends @Book_Aid.

Suzy Astbury is Managing Director of Inspired Selection. Make sure you follow her on Twitter @Suzy_A and take note: Suzy will be hosting a LIVE Q&A every last Friday of every month on Twitter. Just follow the hashtag #AskSuzy.

Published November 2017 as part of #workinpublishing week.