Friday, October 12, 2012

Busiest Unemployed Person Ever!

Lately I've been fascinated by how much work I've had to do, considering I didn't really have a JOB!

One thing that anyone attempting to break into book publishing will learn rather quickly is that there's plenty of work out there for people willing to put all of their time and energy into working for free. Internships, manuscript reading and evaluation, blogging, copy writing, researching and networking are just some of the ways I've been 'passing the time' as I sought out more lucrative professional opportunities. (AKA anything that offers payment!)

While any rational-minded business professional would say I was stark-raving mad to offer anything up for free, I'd have to argue that they simply don't understand how the book publishing ecosystem works. Getting a foot in the door is a delicate balancing act, and it requires that you give your time and energy in exchange for information and career support, rather than a typical salary. It may appear on the surface that the book pub industry is antiquated and backward, but the wealth of experience and guidance that you gain from putting in the man hours far outweighs the tempting alternative of taking any job you can get for a meager paycheck.

In October of 2011 I made the leap, and left teaching behind to try my hand in book publishing. In the past 12 months I've basically given myself a survey course in the industry, and met some incredible mentors, colleagues and potential future employers. The experiences I've had, and the wisdom I've gleaned, have set me up to be a successful and valuable member of the close-knit network of book publishing professionals here in New York City.

When talking with a fellow book-pub friend, I mentioned how remarkably busy I've been, and she said, "If you're that busy, then you're doing something right." And she hit the nail on the head. Just yesterday I was offered an Associate Editor position at an E-learning company, as well as an opportunity to be groomed for a future book-pub career at the same time. No details on that second bit for now, but I'll be sure to litter future posts with hints and details as they arise.

I hope you'll take a moment to virtually celebrate with me, and that my success story will continue to motivate and inspire those of you who are on a similar path.

~Michelle In Turn

Friday, September 7, 2012

Just Say No

Okay, so anyone who knows me can attest to my unnatural memorization of movie lines and recreation of movie scenes. On the one part I think it's in direct correlation to being a child of the 80's, but I also think a good chunk of the reason is that my brain is somehow hardwired to latch onto that stuff. Therefore I have decided to start putting those great movie moments into action in my own life.

We've all had a time where we were dealt a crushing, "No." Whether it was from a jilted lover, the food truck that just ran out of dumplings, or a career opportunity that was stopped in its tracks.

Sample Real-life Movie Moment:
I recently got engaged, and my fiance` and I are REALLY big into food trucks. The idea, the deliciousness, the scene...everything about it. Long story short, we figured rather than having some horrible buffet, or shiny plates of quasi-warm wooden chicken, we'd skip the caterer and go with something we know and love. We've decided that for our wedding, we'll feed our guests hot-off-the-truck gourmet street food. In our quest to find the perfect truck, we came across this new one with authentic Taiwanese food. Being that my fiance` and his family are from Taiwan, we had that truck on the top of our priority list. One busy Friday afternoon we hopped on Twitter, found the truck's location for the day, and drove from the middle of Queens to the Financial District in white-knuckled traffic chaos. When we were about fifty feet away from our destination, the damn truck drove right passed us! We were furious. We whipped the car around, and from the passenger seat I yelled into the truck's window, "Hey, you said you'd be here until 2pm. It's only 1:15!" And much to my surprise the young driver yelled back, with a boyish and apologetic smile, "We sold out." My face must have dropped; I probably looked like a kicked puppy. We did our best to keep pace with the truck, and this time I hung out the window a bit more and shouted, "But we want to hire you for our wedding. We just drove all the way here from Queens just to taste your food!" Pout still firmly affixed to my lower lip, a woman inside the truck poked her head into the conversation and said, "Hold on." I felt the excitement building. Something cool was going to happen. Their truck was moving ahead, we moved up, we moved ahead, they caught up— very spine-tingling stuff. We were coming to a fork in the road, seriously we were, and she shouts, "Catch" and just like that a glorious bag of hot, fresh foodtruck leftovers leaped into my arms. It was amazing! The food I mean, the food was totally amazing.

You see, we easily could have had the canned weh, weh, wehhhhh sound effect win, and driven away defeated. But no, I say No! We left with a steaming-hot bag of Taiwanese goodies. And that's simply because we wouldn't take no for an answer.

I decided to apply this same movie principle to a seemingly failed job opportunity. I had finally found it, THE perfect literary home for myself, in a small indie press here in the city. I had a great phone interview, and then an amazing in-person interview where I fell out-of-love with the idea of the company, and instantly in love with the actual company and its employees. Despite the general awesome feeling I went home with, I ultimately did not get the position. It was a lack of experience that cost me, and I simply couldn't accept that as a good enough reason to let that dream go. I thought to myself, I have to fix this. So rather than puffing myself up and touting, "you can't win 'em all ol' girl," I set my mind to solving the problem. I wrote the company a genuine and heart-felt letter, about how much I was drawn to the company. About my passion and determination to follow my career path in the face of any and all adversity, and more importantly, how I was willing to compromise and jump on board as an intern, if they would have me.

It's like in those cliche` romantic comedies when the girl says "No" and tries the slam the door on Senor Handsome's face, but instead of accepting her dismissal he slams his sneaker into the crack of the door and says, "Wait!" The door usually opens, right? I mean even if it isn't in that moment, eventually he gets the girl. So, I decided this was as good a time as any to slam my sneaker in the closing crack of opportunity's door and shout "Wait!" Now I didn't do this because I was desperate for a job, or because I liked location of their office, that would just be stupid. I was so persistent because I felt something when I thought about this company. When I read articles about their books or their staff, I was moved, interested, inspired! That is the kind of place I want to work. Those are the kinds of people I want to learn from, because somehow they've figured it out. How to be successful and happy. How to find a job you love so much it never feels like work. Some of you might see getting an unpaid internship vs. a paid position as a loss, but I view it as an incredible gain. Now I have the opportunity to experience working in that environment, but more importantly, that employer will finally have the chance to see what I can do as a potential employee.

I am completely satisfied.

So when it's a career that you really want, a place and a position that your own heart is tugging toward, it may be the right moment to let a high-speed chase ensue, or to shout, or to jam your foot in the door. I mean, what's the worst case scenario? They already said no.

~Michelle In Turn

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Multiple Revenue Streams

Have you heard the phrase multiple revenue streams? Sounds fancy, right? In truth it isn't. It's just a great income-earning strategy, especially for those of us stepping into a particular career path late in the game.

Everyone knows that when you are changing careers, there are often many sacrifices you have to be willing to make, including accepting a lower salary. That's all well and good, if you have accepted this fact up front, right? Well, you don't have to accept it completely.

Instead, you can find ways to supplement! Having multiple revenue streams simply means making money in more than one way. For some this can include second jobs, royalties from book sales or even income from an investment or two. But these are not the only sources of additional revenue.

A great way to add income is by pinning down one of your talents or hobbies, perhaps something that's not even directly related to your new career, and figuring out how you can bring in extra revenue. If you're a Twitter nerd like me, then you probably spend a lot of your free time on the computer reading, researching, tweeting and retweeting. So, what I've done is taken my enjoyment of Twitter and figured out ways to earn some extra income by helping others improve their understanding and performance in the Twitterverse. I've also taken my ten years of experience as an English teacher, and combined that with my love of reading and analyzing books, and I've become a secondary editor. Basically after an author works with their main editor to write/create a book project, I come in as the final manuscript reader and clean it up. It's something that I really enjoy and the reward it two fold; the experience builds upon my targeted career skills while bringing in some extra money. To me, this is a win-win.

So what's your hobby? What do you love to do in your free time that can make you a little extra money? Are you a big reader? How about reviewing books on the side? Do you love to play video games and test new gadgets? How about becoming a beta tester or a tech/gaming writer? With the wide reach of the Internet and the incredible accessibility of all kinds of technology, there are endless avenues to connect with like minded people who share your common interests. As a result, there are also many ways you can turn your hobbies and passions into extra cash. All you need is a little creativity.

Friday, August 10, 2012

And the Cup Floweth Over

And the Cup Floweth Over

I can't hand out any magical recipes, but I can say that I think I'm finally seeing a return on all the sweat equity I've been putting forth, for it seems I have found the proper mixture of occupationally interesting ingredients at just the right time.

I'm happy to share that this week things in my neck of the woods have gone from crickets, to a grand cacophony. My resume is getting not just attention, but the right kind of attention, particularly in the children's publishing field I so desire to break into. My cover letters have lost what I can only describe as a stiffness, and I think I'd attribute that to the opportunities I've been applying to. Most recently there have been several openings in the exact job titles I'm seeking, and talking about my love for children's books and young readers alike just comes naturally. 

In addition to several upcoming job interviews (Oh yeah!), I've also been invited to participate in several part-time or remote internships, with an interview for another potential position next week. As if that isn't fabulous enough, I've also been getting some great referrals for my side business. (The one where I help literary professionals with everything from editing to marketing to writing and more.) If this dreamlike state continues, perhaps I'll even get the chance to pick from a handful of job offers, but I don't like to get ahead of myself. Really, I just wanted to share how good it feels to know that the hard work and the (wo)man hours I've been putting in are getting me results.

Passion, persistence and perseverance are my gold-medal traits this week, because without them I wouldn't be heading in this exciting and fun new direction. You can be sure I'll post any affirmative decisions, as well as the necessary shout-outs to friends and colleagues who have helped me along the way, as soon as I have 'em.

Until then...

~Michelle In Turn

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Proceed

Good Afternoon All,

It's great to write to you on this beautiful Summer day. But, I have to admit, I have been running into a few challenges lately.

One of the challenges of changing careers is finding opportunities to freshen up, your repertoire that is. An interesting hiccup of trying to achieve this in publishing is that many of the internship opportunities I am seeking, particularly in the children's editorial field, will only take on "college students" for their internship programs.

Now, this is not because the publishing industry is ageist, nothing like that. It's because there are laws in place to protect workers from being taken advantage of. Laws that say when you work, you need to be compensated. But, since many publisher's don't want to shell out cash to pay their inexperienced interns, they shell out college credit instead. For an undergrad, this is a fantastic solution. However, for an experienced professional like myself, it's quite a road block.

The good news is that there are alternatives like taking on an internship at a literary internship, much like I did, or working for a newspaper or magazine. Again, great options, but my goal is to get IN HOUSE EXPERIENCE WITH A CHILDREN'S BOOK PUBLISHER. Hmmmm. On the one hand I have a great background that lends itself nicely to a career in publishing, however, on the other it's I have gained no in house experience that would make me more appealing to them.

As always, I will have to be creative and resourceful, and eek out ways to get around these silly little rules. If only I had a full-time entry-level position, then I could afford to take graduate-level publishing classes that would allow me to qualify for the internships. But with nearly $40K left in school loan debt from my previous career, it seems unwise to continue stacking on that pile. Perhaps I can find a relevant grant or scholarship? A good idea indeed...

~Michelle In Turn

Friday, August 3, 2012

Lessons from a Fortune Cookie

Every now and then I find a great statement that really inspires me inside one of those crispy little fortune cookies. When I do, I keep them in the little zippered pouch in my wallet until I have time to tape them onto my refrigerator so they stay fresh in my mind. One of the fortunes that has been helping me out over the last few weeks is:

Never stop. One always stops as soon as something is about to happen.

I can't say that I've been waiting for the right opportunity to come along, because that would imply that I've been sitting on my butt expecting employers to knock on my door, bearing gifts, and inviting me to join the ranks of their company.

No, I have not been waiting at all. I've been hitting the pavement, scheduling business lunches, joining groups, writing blogs, connecting with others via social media, scouring websites and job sites and articles about both established and up-and-coming publishing organizations. I've revised my resume, built an online presence, kept in touch with former employers and clients,  and written countless thoughtful and well-articulated cover letters.

Alas, the perfect job offer has not come my way...yet. The trickiest part about landing the right career is that it rarely comes easy. If you're sitting at home waiting for your new boss to show up, it's incredibly unlikely that you are ever going to meet. 

I must admit that it can be a bit disheartening to put so much time, energy, creativity and passion into a job search and come up empty handed– but that is by no means an excuse to give up. When you are determined to do something, to be something, or to say something, you simply keep pushing yourself until you've accomplished that aspiration.  If what you've done this far isn't working, try a new approach, learn a new skill, and keep working towards that end goal.

It always helps to have a strong supporter in your corner, and I'm blessed to have a fiance` who can always see the bright side of everything, and who has reminded me that in the past year I have:

1) Taken a HUGE risk in giving up my tenured, high-seniority position for a life passion.
2) Earned a scholarship to a creative writing program in Tuscany, where I wrote the full draft of a children's book for my nephew and created the illustrations for it.
3) Found a super part-time job to help me in my transition, and that bridged my love for teaching and for cooking by becoming a children's culinary school instructor. It was fun, it supported my local community, and helped me rekindle a passion for cooking that had been dormant for a while.
4) I took my first official step into the publishing world by working part-time at my local Barnes & Noble as a children's bookseller.
5) I landed an internship at a literary agency, and built a good initial understanding of the agency side of the industry, and honed my developmental editorial skills.
6) I started my own small business helping literary professionals with everything from editing their novels, to writing and launching social media campaigns and more.

And these are only the tangible acts I can put down on paper, it doesn't include the reading, the research, the networking etc. So, while at the moment it may feel like I'm treading water, I've really done a lot.

Next time you're feeling down, or like you're just never going to get a break, make a list of your accomplishments, and then flip that page over and make a list of small steps you can take to get you where you want to be. Then just start checking them off!

~Michelle In Turn

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Networking Cards? Who Knew!

I'm sure the networking card is something many people in the corporate world are familiar with, but it was news to me until now. I recently joined the National Association of Professional Women, a huge networking organization for hard-workin' ladies, to increase my networking opportunities and receive mentoring from women who have already achieved a high level of success.

At my first NAPW event I discovered the best alternative to a business card, the networking card.

When you are brand new to an industry, fresh out of college or a career changer, it's hard to commit to a business card because things seem to be changing every few months. I may be an assistant this month and an entry-level editor six months down the line. But a contact I make today, may be even more valuable to me in the future, and I want the first impression I give them to have staying power.

If my job title or company phone number changes, then that business card is useless, and the contact is lost. So rather than pigeon-hole myself into a tight box, I kept it broad and simple. Instead of focusing on details that might change, I chose to highlight the things that stay relatively constant such as my personal contact information, key social networking sites, and a recent image of my face.

Last night I spent a few hours creating my first networking card on VistaPrint. I wanted something that would say "I am a professional". I needed the card to let people know where to reach me, or research more about me, and wanted them to be able to match my face with my name.

The front of my card has a small headshot, and it's the same one I use for all of my social media sites. This is a very simple way of branding myself, so that no matter where someone goes to look me up, they see the same smiling face. Next I included my professional email address and cell phone number, so if I relocate or change jobs, there's still a phone number where I can be reached directly.

In this modern job market, social media sites are likely to be one of the first places a potential employer visits to learn more about you. So I added the URL's for my Linkedin profile, my professional Facebook Page, and my Twitter account. Here they can see my work history, see the kinds of things I chat about, and get a feel for the the kinds of connections I'm making. (Just be careful, and make sure that you're a responsible social media user, no drunken pics, no rants about how stupid your current boss is, that kind of thing will come back to bite you.)

Finally on the back of my card I put a short invitation to visit this blog, along with the URL.

With just one small photo, a few URL's, an email and a phone number, the people that I meet have a clear and accurate picture of who I am, what I do, and how I can best serve them. The only challenge left is initiating the conversations that will land my card in their hands, and that will inspire them to learn more about me.

More on that next time, for now I'll just sit in the lobby staring at my mailbox, waiting for my little box of cards to arrive. Is that too nerdy?

~Michelle In Turn