The Right Job Is Worth The Wait

 

While I was in college it had never occurred to me to work in publishing. I was an English major with a Classics minor, but I was taking a lot of journalism classes because I somehow convinced myself that while being an author would be hard, getting a job as a journalist would be easier. I was quite wrong.

After applying for a number of jobs I didn’t get and with graduation looming closer, I decided to expand my search away from journalism. Truly, I don’t even know how I landed on publishing, but I ended up applying to almost ever single summer internship that was on HarperCollins website. I wasn’t really sure what my end goal was, but I knew I didn’t want to graduate without some kind of plan so I figured why not?

After an interview with human resources and then with the Editorial Director of Dey Street Books, an imprint focused on celebrity books, I became the Editorial Intern at Dey Street. Overall I had a great experience at HarperCollins, but the best things I got from my time there were the friendships I made and the knowledge that I definitely wanted to work with children’s/young adult books.

However, following my time at Dey Street I got an editorial fellowship at BuzzFeed and decided to try my hand at journalism again. While at BuzzFeed, I mainly focused on doing book related content because that was always my main interest, and it was just fun to do. Unfortunately, at the end of the fellowship I wasn’t offered a full-time position and was left unemployed for about two months.

I’m lucky enough to be able to live at home where I don’t have to pay rent so I know my circumstances could have been much worse. Still, during that time I was the most depressed I’d ever been in my life. I felt like I had somehow failed because I wasn’t working and I didn’t know what I was going to do next and I just felt stuck. Somehow I found the energy to apply to any job I could, both in publishing and journalism, but it just felt like I was getting nowhere. Thankfully, I had connections.

One of my friends from HarperCollins reached out to me about an editorial internship at Abrams Books for Young Readers she’d heard about through one of her friends. I quickly jumped at the opportunity, sent them my cover letter and résumé, went in for an interview and suddenly I was employed again. Around the same time I also started freelancing for Romper.com and I began to find my footing.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Abrams, I was beginning to suspect editorial wasn’t for me. My love of books was definitely still there, but I didn’t love reading manuscripts all the time and struggled to find constructive feedback for books in their early stages. Still, after my internship ended I applied for a number of Editorial Assistant positions because I figured that was what I had the most experience in so that was what I was supposed to do. But it turned out that wasn’t true and I did interview after interview and edit test after edit test, always being this close to getting the job, but never actually getting it.

After working at Abrams I had sworn off interning again. I’d done two internships and I felt that was enough; that I’d earned the right to have a full-time job in publishing. I’d paid my dues, so to speak. Unfortunately, applying for full-time jobs wasn’t working, so I decided to give up. I convinced myself that publishing just wasn’t for me and that wasn’t what I was supposed to do. Instead, I focused on freelancing, and decided to apply for MFA programs for Creative Writing. Some of the editors I worked with at Abrams wrote my letters of recommendations and soon after I was accepted into The New School.

Before I started my first semester of classes and over a year after my internship ended at Abrams, I decided to try interning again. I began to hate freelancing and I didn’t feel like the work that I was doing really meant anything. I was just working to work and I decided that wasn’t enough for me anymore. So I expanded my job search to include internships and secured an intern position at Waxman Literary Agency. The job was mainly administrative, and was only one day a week, but it allowed me back into this world of books and authors that I realized I was desperately missing.

Thus, when the internship was coming to an end I decided that though I would still keep trying to get a full-time job, I’d be willing to intern again. And that’s how I ended up at Simon & Schuster.

When I went in for my interview for the spring internship program, I met with the HR person and we had an amazing conversation. I told her about my professional experience, but also about my blog, my bookstagram, and a Twitter account I’d created for YA book events happening around New York City. At the end of the conversation she pointed out that I’d done mostly editorial work, but it didn’t seem like that was what I wanted to do, and I knew that she was right. I still wanted to work in children’s, but if I was really going to do my fourth internship I wanted it to be something different. So I told her I wanted to work in publicity and/or marketing and thankfully she listened and I became the Children’s Publicity & Marketing Intern for the spring.

The internship program only lasted two months and went by way too fast, but it was the most fun internship experience I’ve ever had. I made friends and the people I got to work with at S&S were incredibly kind, encouraging, and open, allowing me to ask questions about things I didn’t understand and really learn more about the business. Also, I got a lot free books, which is always a nice bonus.

However, when my internship ended I once again felt like I was lost. I didn’t have anything lined up after it ended and I knew for sure that I was done interning then. I truly felt like I’d learned everything I could learn at the intern level and I was ready to move on to the next step. Thus, I applied for every kind of job I thought I could do: Publicity Assistant, Editorial Assistant, Marketing Assistant, etc.

I went on informational interviews, job interviews, and networking events. I reached out to friends and contacts, asking them to pass my résumé along if they could. But again and again I was rejected. Often times there was no reason given. A few times I was told I just “wasn’t a right fit.” There was one time I was told I was overqualified for a position, which made me laugh then cry, because how could I possibly win?

It was becoming harder and harder to find the energy to keep applying. I was tired of being rejected and I began feeling worthless, like I just wasn’t good enough. It seemed like everyone else I knew was succeeding and somehow I was still stuck doing a job I was beginning to hate and not getting anywhere at all. Eventually, once I realized I was applying to jobs I wasn’t even sure I wanted, I stopped. I told myself I wasn’t giving up, but I needed a break. I needed to take a breather and figure out what it was I even wanted, because I wasn’t sure I knew anymore.

Naturally, it was then that I saw a job that sounded perfect for me. It was in the People of Color in Publishing Facebook group. Someone had posted about a Digital Marketing Assistant job at Tom Doherty Associates, which, truth be told, I wasn’t entirely sure what that was. Then I did my research and realized it was Tor Books, which I was familiar with, along with Forge Books, Tor Teen, which I’d realized was publishing one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and Starscape.

Suddenly, I was excited again. This was something I actually wanted to do. It was books I was interested and the required skills were all things I knew I could do. It just felt right and I was so hopeful it was scary, because I knew if I didn’t get it that I might actually give up for real.

I applied and then, because I’m a realist, I began applying for other positions too, just in case. Finally, I got called in for an interview, which I thought went great, but I refused to get my hopes up. But then I got asked to come in for a second interview, which was definitely a good sign. However, I’d gotten there before. I knew how this went. It could be good, but was it “we’re definitely going to hire you” good? Apparently, it was.

A few days after my second interview, I had taken off work to go to an interview for an Editorial Assistant position and an informational interview for another assistant position. However, I was woken up by Macmillan HR letting me know I got the job, and it was honestly unreal. Truly, I halfway convinced myself I dreamt it and didn’t believe it until I got the email confirmation, proving it was really happening. I had finally gotten a job and five months in I can honestly say it was worth the wait.

4 thoughts on “The Right Job Is Worth The Wait

  1. Deja says:

    I love this, Zakiya. I’m only in my first year of college but it feels like I need to know what I want to do right now. And I just don’t. I’m glad you used your internships to find out what you liked and what you didn’t! I hope I’ll be just as fortunate lol

    • Zakiya N. Jamal says:

      Thanks Deja! And yes there is a really ridiculous expectation that you’ll know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you graduate college but that’s unrealistic to me. People change and grow and learn what works for them over time. Good luck with everything!

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