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The next step

I've been working part time for 6 weeks. It's going very well and I am enjoying being back at work, earning an income and working on something which I agree with. I'm glad that I was stubborn and that I stuck to a couple of my initial job-hunting criteria (eg it must be working for a company I agree with ethically, it should help me get where I want to go long term etc).

Of course, the question was always what was I going to do with the rest of my free time? When I was brainstorming about jobs last year, one of the things I thought about was being a freelance proofreader (and perhaps translator). It sounded like an interesting idea for me, especially after quite a negative working experience I had earlier this year; the idea of working from home was very appealing. There were cons, such as the worry about setting up being self-employed, taxes, how to drum up sufficient business to pay the bills, how to network (not one of my strengths!), how the process of getting and submitting work to clients would be etc and then the self-doubt would creep in - am I good enough? I haven't really done it professionally before or been taught what to do. These worries, as was pointed out to me, were just me coming up with excuses. I've taken an Editorial and Proofreading course which I passed with distinction. I was copy editor and proofreader for an entire book by myself! I used to be proofreader for a music magazine until they stopped publishing, as well as for various websites. So whilst I'm not the most experienced out there, I certainly have the skills to do it.

The next and biggest worries, those about the financial and administrative side of things, have sorted themselves out meanwhile. Back in March I was offered a freelance contract for a few weeks by a publisher which was too good an opportunity to miss, so within a weekend I officially became self-employed! It did take a lot of research, reading the HMRC's website, reading freelancers' blogs for advice, phone calls to my father who is fortunately a Chartered Accountant. Now I know the basics, I can cast away those excuses as potential barriers.

I am very much enjoying working part time and it was particularly useful in the beginning when I was moving house the same week as starting the new job and going on holiday the following week. I had plenty to do to occupy my time and in fact would have found it quite stressful had I had a full time job to contend with. Day after day, week after week, I have had To Do lists as long as my arm. These are slowing down now however I have realised that I am the kind of person who will always have a To Do list! For me, it's the best way to keep track of [what I have determined] needs to be done, as well as the best way to get things done; there's nothing like the sense of accomplishment when crossing a task off the list.

Last week I felt for the first time in 2 months that I could be putting my spare time to better use. I feel ready to take on more work. I guess I'm a workaholic who isn't satisfied with only working part time! (See my previous post about feeling guilty at not working full time). I would like a good work-life balance, which I have now. However I do feel like I could be spending some more time working. It's not like I get bored in my spare time as I have plenty of hobbies that I enjoy. On the flip side, there's nothing like having limited resources (time and money) to focus the mind! It really helps to illuminate what is important. When freshly made redundant, I had what seemed like endless resources to do with what I will. This was quite hard to cope with and whilst it opened my mind to new possibilities, it also highlighted the confusion I was feeling on what I wanted to do.

But now I am in a great position to start thinking about my old ideas - other ways to earn an income and occupy my time. Ways to further my career and carve out the life that I want, professionally. I have a regular income and I am still a registered freelancer. Anything extra I now do will be a bonus without the pressure of needing to make a living from it. Now is the perfect time to give it a shot. So today's To Do list consists of brainstorming ways to start my own proofreading business.

Part time work

For the past 3 weeks, I've been working part time. This is my first experience of part time work.

At first, I thought it was an amazing opportunity to be able to [almost] support myself and only work part time. Then I found out how difficult it was to work part time - to manage your workload when only working a couple of days a week, and how to switch off when the morning's shift is over.

The most striking feeling I've been having is that of guilt. Guilt that I am only working a few hours a week and not 35-40 hours. Like I am cheating someone somehow. It's not how it's meant to be - you're meant to work 9-5 and get home tired, have no time to do anything, day after day. I have a lot of spare time now (although it doesn't feel like it as I am still trying to sort out the house after moving recently). I feel like I should be doing something worthy with that time. But what is wrong with just enjoying the time off? Reading books, walking, writing etc. It still feels like I am wasting time and that I should be working! Ideally I would like to put those hours to good use; maybe do more freelance work. But even so, relaxation IS a good use of my free time! I don't want to work all of the time just to get more money.

Can anyone empathise with these feelings of guilt?

New job!

It's been a while since I blogged.

The publishing internship in February went well. I was asked to stay on as a freelancer for 6 weeks following the internship. Unfortunately after 3 weeks, I was asked to leave. Apparently it was nothing to do with my performance; they were moving offices and didn't have enough desks at the new place. However, shortly after, the Director asked if I wanted to return as an intern for a couple of weeks leading up to the London Book Fair (which I declined). The whole experience was rather stressful as I'd been working 9am - 7pm often with usually no lunchbreaks, all for less than minimum wage once you added the hours up, for little gratitude too. I'm kind of glad that it didn't work out however I found it quite a difficult situation to cope with at the time and it made me rethink things a lot. I also learned more about myself and what I wanted from a job. So I'm glad that I went through the experience overall.

Meanwhile, I went back on the dole and started applying to anything and everything (cafés, retail, office temp, secretarial work etc) because my redundancy money was nearing its end. I searched and searched, applied to 20-30 jobs a week. Nothing. Finally, after about 2.5 months I landed myself a very cool part time job.

It's not working for a publisher directly but it is loosely to do with books. I'm working for a project which is implementing a sustainable business model to make academic books open access globally. They're starting with humanities & social sciences as that's what the project leader is most familiar with, but with such a strong business model, it would make sense that this could spread further. And even across media, who knows? It's backed by the British Library and other well known institutes and I'm very proud to be working for them. Unfortunately my role is purely administrative again although it may involve some research soon too. And they are expanding. But I need to figure out some things first.

If I were to be asked today - I'll give you any job you want, just tell me what you'd like to do - I couldn't answer. A year ago I'd have said Editorial Assistant. Which I would still love to do. However where would I go from that job? Turnover is high in publishing, people move on quickly. What would the next step be? I'm currently not interested in the business side of things. I'm more about the words, the language. But to work in publishing means to be passionate about a product. I do love books but am lacking industry know-how. As you can see, I'm also full of self-doubt.

I get to work from home with this job, as well as working from a think tank once a week. Such interesting people work there. It makes such a difference for me to be able to get excited and WANT to learn more about the project I'm working on. I couldn't really say the same for my past jobs in patents and insurance. So I'm very slowly getting there to my ideal job. It's becoming obvious to me that I really need to learn more about myself though, as strange as that sounds. I know roughly what my strengths & weaknesses, likes & dislikes are. But to transpose them to a career is a little more difficult. Time will help - I just have to not get stuck for so long this time. 5 years in each previous job was much too long.

New internship blog

Hi friends & strangers!

I decided to create a separate blog for my experiences as an intern so that hopefully other people can find it through Google and learn about what really goes on inside a publisher's office, in case they are thinking about going into that career.

In case you'd like to read about it, you can find my other blog here: http://editorial-rights-intern.blogspot.co.uk/

I've posted 3 entries so far - the day before, day 1 and day 2 which was on Friday.

Feel free to ask questions/comment there too if you like! I don't believe that you need a Blogspot/Blogger account to do so.

Internship

Work experience is vital for getting a role in the publishing world. I've heard this from so many people who have told me that it's virtually impossible to get a job in publishing without first having worked for a publisher (yes, for free!). So as well as applying to permanent positions, I've been applying to any and all advertised work experience placements and internships that I've found, as well as speculatively applying.

This week I was successful! Finally, the first concrete step towards working in the publishing industry! 3 days ago I applied to an internship I'd seen on bookcareers.com and I was invited to an interview this morning. The role is Editorial & Rights Internship for a co-edition publisher and it seems ideal for me. The editorial side is what I would ideally like to do but the rights work will be interesting too as it involves liaising with publishers in other countries, so my languages will be useful here. The interview went well and the Director offered me the internship on the spot.

I feel so relieved that the preparation is paying off and that I can get some work experience! I don't know if they have a vacancy for afterwards but my main focus is getting work experience as (a) it will boost my knowledge of the publishing process immensely and (b) it will dramatically improve my CV. I've been told in the past that my CV is strong but without any work experience for a publisher, it's just not enough to get a role. It's quite normal for other candidates to have done several work experience placements for example!

I am planning (hoping) to blog on my experiences there as such knowledge is vital for someone trying to achieve what I am trying to do and so it'd be nice to help others too. Not sure whether to start a separate blog for this or to write it here; I'll have a think!

Glad I have some good news to report for a change!

Titan Update & PA Interview

I completed the reader's report within the deadline and was proud of what I'd achieved but was unsure whether it was what the publisher needed. A few days later, however, I received positive feedback that the report had been well-researched however she would've liked a little more critical analysis on a couple of points which she outlined. As I was about to set off on holiday just before Christmas, I let her know that I'd reply after my holiday. I did so at the beginning of January, answering the questions she had asked in more detail and am yet to hear back from her.

Meanwhile, I received a phone call at the beginning of January from a recruiter that I am registered with, which specialises in multilingual jobs. They had a position available for a German-speaking PA within a travel company. I initially wasn't interested because I thought it would be another corporate role but once I heard which company it was for, I became curious and agreed that she could submit my CV for the role. The job description sounded quite interesting and involved some travel and the benefits sounded quite good. Even though it's neither the role nor the industry I want to work in, it sounded like a great job to earn money whilst continuing my long search. The first interview was to be an informal chat, dress code 'smart-casual', with the HR manager to see if she thought my personality would fit that of the CEO's, as it's quite essential in such a role. My gut feeling was that the interview went very well - I answered her questions without hesitation, she made encouraging comments such as how my experience matched that of the role and how my working style was similar to the CEO's. At the end, she asked about my availability for the next week in case I was asked back for the second interview with the CEO himself. I took it as a good sign.

Unfortunately, 2 days later, I was told by the recruiter that the HR manager felt that my personality wouldn't match the CEO and so I wasn't invited to the second interview.

It upset me a lot more than I thought it would. It's not just the rejection but the fact that this would've been a great job that made use of my German and looked interesting. I was told that I interviewed very well and that the HR manager really enjoyed meeting me. I couldn't but feel betrayed too after receiving such positive signals that I thought I'd at least get through to the second interview. I was angry too and a barrage of negative thoughts rained down on me - if I can't get such a shitty PA job, then how can I ever get the job that I want? etc.

My current frame of mind is still upset and also lost. Again, doubting whether I am making the right decisions along the way. Whether publishing is such a good idea or whether I should try something else.. Adult language teaching? Freelance copy editor & proofreader? Freelance translator?

I am meeting with my career advisor on Monday and I just don't know what to say to him. I guess I'll go through motions and continue looking for a job within publishing. But maybe it's all a waste of time. Maybe I shouldn't try to find a job where I'll be happy as it's looking unlikely I'll ever find one. I feel so jealous of those who know what they want to do and are working towards it.

The big plan

Just before the Christmas break I met with my career advisor. I was still feeling lost and needed advice on how to get through the 'holiday' season. I did actually go away which really helped me to relax and forget about job hunting for a while. I was worried about the rest of the time as not any job vacancies are posted over Christmas & New Year. As it turns out, I had plenty to keep me busy because a friend was staying for 2 weeks and because my band was offered a gig for 18th January so I started to practice violin again to get back up to speed with the songs.

The advisor gave me concrete suggestions on how to occupy my time:

1) Search for job vacancies
2) Prepare for January:
- draft speculative letters to book publishers looking for a job as a PA to side step into the job that I want
- research magazine publishers and draft speculative letters to ones which interest me
3) Apply for a job in a book shop to show commitment to the industry
4) Keep applying for work experience roles.

The appointment left me happier that I had a plan I could work towards and relieved that there are still steps I can take towards my goal.

Blog from 12th December 2012

I didn't post this immediately as I wasn't sure whether to post such a negative blog entry but if I am to air my views & opinions on this whole job-hunting process, then of course the negative belongs to that naturally. So here was my state of mind before Christmas.

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Again I am in a period where I am filled with sadness. I feel alone in my misery, not knowing who I can turn to. I need someone wise and experienced who can understand, empathise and advise.

It is getting difficult to remain motivated and focused. It's like I don't care anymore.. Except that I do. But I can't really describe why I am feeling such a deep sadness. Of course it's difficult finding a job and dealing with rejections. I am also worrying whether I am making the right decisions. I guess I won't know until I get there. Until I've made it. But does the journey ever end? Will I ever know?

Millions of people are looking for jobs all over the world. My plight is nothing special. I'm having real difficulty coping though. I break down in tears randomly, I experience highs and lows, my eating became erratic and a form of comfort.

I feel like I am not in control of my life. Not in control. Not coping.

There are bigger problems in the world and I should be grateful for what I do have but I'm dissatisfied and ungrateful.

If I don't get the job that I want then I doubt I ever will. So then what? Give up and look for something else? What? Am I wrong about this path I'm fighting so hard to stay on? If you lay good groundwork and research, prepare etc then it should bring results. I haven't even had basic success yet. How long will I have to wait, how much will I have to go through before I get there? Do I have to be penniless, almost homeless? How do people cope with this? I just feel hopeless.

I really want a fulfilling job that I enjoy otherwise I will feel like I have failed at life.

Titan

A day after my last post where I was lamenting a host of rejections, a curious e-mail landed in my inbox. It was from Titan Books, a publisher of sci fi & fantasy (SFF), whom I had asked for a work experience placement.

Unfortunately, I was informed that no such positions were currently available, however the editor did ask if I would be interested in writing reader's reports* for them. I was shaking from nerves, excitement and adrenaline. However I had no clue what a reader's report was! Thanks to Google I managed to find some descriptions and even an example of one which had previously been written. I agreed to producing a trial reader's report for free and hopefully this will lead to being asked to write more. The pay is ridiculously low - not even enough to cover food bills for a week (and the work involved will probably take a week), yet it is an opporunity I simply cannot turn down - this will add a huge amount of experience to my CV. So this week I'm frantically trying to read the book which I was sent so that I can finish the report by Friday. It is also a boost to my morale as I have finally been given a chance to prove myself rather than being rejected straight away.

*A reader's report is often used as part of the interview process when employing an editor. It involves writing a summary of an unpublished manuscript as well as writing how commercially viable it is as a product, whether there are any similar books currently out in the market etc. As it's my first time, it will involve a lot of research.

Dealing with rejections

And so 3 months have passed since my last entry. In that time I have spent a few days in the Lake District and a few weeks in Asia (Singapore, Japan and Thailand). I have had some dental work done so it wouldn't potentially clash with my next job (that statement feels oddly positive). I've signed on so that I receive £71/week benefits to help out with the bills. My JSA advisor set me the task of applying to a minimum of 3-4 jobs per week in order to receive the benefits. At first, I was following this solely to fulfil his requirements but in the past month I felt ready to look for and apply to roles I would really like to do. Ideally, I would like to return to work in January.

Of course, this has brought a change in mental state too. Initially I was relieved at the job rejections as I wouldn't be faced with the conundrum of being invited to an interview that I didn't want to attend. Now that I am receiving rejections (or usually silence) for roles that I would like to secure, it is another matter. I find it hard to deal with rejection, as do most people. I keep trying to remind myself that this is a temporary state and that tomorrow someone could say yes. But how long do I give it until I apply to any old job for the sake of bringing some cash in? Will all of this hard work (visiting a career consultant every week, redrafting my CV, figuring out what I want to do, researching, registering with recruiters etc) have been in vain should I end up in another dead-end PA job which I hate and which has no career prospects? If that happens, I really don't know how I'd react. How do I keep going until I'm successful?

I don't currently have the financial pressure to return to work thanks to the (ever-dwindling) redundancy package but I will soon. I start to panic when thinking about returning to the old lifestyle of being a slave to wages. Of having to fight myself every morning to get out of bed and go to the office. Although in the current economic climate, I should be grateful for any job I can secure, right? Unfrotunately, my brain doesn't work that way. I'm too demanding, too hopeful, perhaps too naive.

So my current mental state is that I'm in a slump. Wondering if I can ever become an Editorial Assistant. Wondering if I am wasting my time trying. If not this, then what else can I do? 'Taming Tigers', a book about how to realise your ambition, would advise me to stop listening to these doubts, these negative niggling thoughts, not give up and carry on. Surmount each obstacle as they crop up. But at what point should I become brutally realistic about my situation? Perhaps when I am broke. Until then, dream on... or think of a Plan B? Perhaps I should become a translator after all and do an Open University masters in Translation. Or do proofreading on a freelance basis. Or take the PGCE course and become a teacher. Transferable skills and a flexible career could be handy should I move again - who knows what the future will hold? I can teach and translate in any country. But would I want to? Or am I just distracting myself, giving up already on the Editorial Assistant role? :(