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Ways Of Breaking Into Publishing

Aug 17, 2007
I have always wanted to work for a newspaper or a magazine. It has been my goal for as long as I can remember. I have a degree in graphic design and have wanted to do layout design. I have had trouble finding my first job, as few people would considering hiring someone with no experience. Do you know how someone like me could break into the field of publishing?

You're right -- getting started is tough. My first job out of college, with a four-year degree in journalism, was as a clerk at JCPenney. Two years later, I finally got a newspaper job. (Took that long because I didn't have much time to job-hunt.) So I know how frustrating this after-college time period can be. But you just need to hope for the best and keep trying to find that one job that will get you into the journalism world.

What you need to do is plump up your resume and your clips. Have you considered doing some volunteer work for your church, a charity, a youth group, a local school, or other organization that puts out occasional publications? Or you could see if your local newspaper has a special section they put out annually (a fashion section, bridal section, back-to-school section, etc.) where you could design the cover for them or do any or all of the section's layout for them.

It's something the editorial staff has to do in addition to their regular duties, so so they might really appreciate the help, especially if you offer to do it just for clips and the experience. You might also ask the newspaper's advertising manager if he would consider letting you design a few ads for him, just for the experience. That would give you some more examples of your work to show to prospective employers, and it also increases the pool of people who have seen your creative abilities and your work ethics. It never hurts to increase your contacts. A lot of journalism jobs get passed along via "word of mouth."

Is there a large store in your area that sponsors special events for charities or just as promotional events? Maybe you could talk to the store's manager and offer to design their ads, posters, or their hand-out fliers for them, just for the experience. You might also try offering your services at a small, local newspaper -- such as a shopper (the freebie newspapers they give out at the grocery store, etc.) or your community's weekly or daily newspaper. They may not have an opportunity right away, but they could keep your information on file.

Another option might be to look up the address of your state press association (or whatever your region calls its professional association for journalists and editors). If they don't have a job listing, they may know of someone who's hiring. It can't hurt to ask -- or even to ask if you can send them your resume. While you're at it, ask if they have a website where their members are listed (or a printed directory they could send you). You can blanket your area with your resume and samples of your work.

Since you don't have a large body of work or a long career you can point to, perhaps you can highlight the positives that you have. Did you have any famed or acclaimed professors? When I was starting out, I liked mentioning that I had a magazine editing class with Willie Morris (former Harper's Bazaar editor and novelist) at the University of Mississippi. I also had kind of a low GPA, thanks to poor focus on my studies my freshman year, but I was able to say that, for the classes in my major, I had a 3.9 average.

I didn't have internships to point to, but I did submit some of my stories from various journalism classes to area newspapers and I had those for clips. Perhaps you have done something similar you could point to? Be sure to point out that, in addition to your skills, you have a strong work ethic, you bring the job in on time, and you work well in a team environment. Employers consider not only your skills, but also how well you will fit into the workflow of their existing office. Be sure to highlight your overall professionalism as part of the total package you bring to an employer.

One other idea: Look for "trade magazines." I worked for a small publishing house, who put out 3-4 national magazines that are geared to the professional interests of people in various trades -- nightclub and bar management, liquor store ownership and marketing, restaurant management, etc. (They also host several major national tradeshows for those professional groups, too -- which requires a graphic artist's skills for ads, etc.) They rely heavily on the expertise of their graphic artists to design ads, design magazine covers, and do the editorial page layouts.

I'm not sure how you find such publishing companies, since a lot of them are not in the Writer's Digest guidebooks; you might try asking your local chamber of commerce of any publishing companies or "tradeshow" companies in the area, or you could do some online searches for "trade magazines."

Or search the websites for Editor & Publisher and other professional mags. One source of new magazine -- the website of a journalism professor and magazine publishing consultant who is internationally renowned for his expertise and acumen in picking the best of the year's new magazines. Some of those magazines, which are just starting out, might have an opening for a hungry new professional such as yourself. It can't hurt to skim his website, find the magazines that intrigue you, and write to them.

I would also search online for jobs that would let you freelance a bit to add to your portfolio. It dosen't matter that what kind of a job that you get while you are waiting for something that you really want to do. What ever job you do get you could even ask them if they need some help to promote there company or something that they are putting out and would like to get people to look at it. That my even start you off in the field that you would like to be in. Just keep your hopes up and your mind open to most things and you will get the job that you want sooner or later. Don't loose all hope.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant at http://www.4Magazines.info/. 4Magazines.info offers the greatest magazine subscriptions from a variety of top publishers. Browse through our selection of Lifestyle Magazines here: http://www.4Magazines.info/category/lifestyle.html.
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