SPI Class of 2011: Looking Back, Looking Forward

The creators of “Geek” Magazine after presenting their final project

Each summer, 110 students gather for six weeks at the Woolworth Building, an historic skyscraper in downtown Manhattan, to participate in the NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI). While there, they are immersed in all aspects of the publishing industry (think content creation, editing, sales and marketing, finance, art and design, promotion and publicity, and digital, digital, digital!). They receive job and networking advice, and even create their own magazine brands and book imprints. Learning directly from some of the top publishing executives in New York, they are also given opportunities to learn outside the classroom by visiting the headquarters of major publishing companies like Time Inc., Condé Nast, Simon & Schuster, and Random House. Finally, after attending a career fair, they begin their job search for the perfect publishing position.

We caught up with some of the 2011 SPI alumni nine months after they completed the program and asked them to offer advice for the class of 2012.

Andrea Chambers, Executive Director, with SPI students at the annual SPI Alumni Party.

How has SPI helped you in your job search?

“Having SPI on my résumé led to questions during my interviews that I found easy to answer. The program helped me to feel prepared, poised, and confident in an interview setting. I was more than happy to discuss everything I’d learned during the program, and I truly believe that my interviewers were impressed by how much I’d learned and how certain I was about publishing as a career path. It showed them that I was willing to go the extra mile.”

-Andrea Modica, Editorial Assistant, John Wiley & Sons

“From day one, I made an effort to learn as much as possible and to connect with professionals who had careers that I aspired to or who worked at publications that I liked. I followed up with people I met and often asked for informal interviews for further advice. For example, I met a young professional during the SPI alumni panel last year. I asked her for an informal interview, during which she told me all about her experience as an editorial intern at TIME. With her recommendation and SPI on my résumé and as a talking point, I got my first job in publishing at TIME.”

-Molly Martin, Editorial Assistant, TIME

“SPI really helped me understand the type of career in publishing I wanted. I was an English major in college and I felt like I was being forced onto an editorial path, but I wasn’t convinced this was the right fit for me. Through my eye-opening SPI experience I was able to network and get a marketing internship with Open Road Integrated Media, where I was hired part-time, and, from there, found my way into Managing Editorial—a department that really allows me to be a part of the overall publishing process and interact with all of the departments.”

-Kristen Lemire, Managing Editorial Assistant, Simon & Schuster

“SPI connected me with individuals in the publishing industry who ultimately helped me get my job at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. I met one of the HR representatives from MSLO at the career fair at the end of the program. Although I did not get my job at MSLO until February, I kept up with her and their website job board until I found a position that fit my wants and the company’s needs at the time.”

-Alyssa Griffith, Public Relations Coordinator, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

“I actually found my position through the SPI job fair. I met with a representative from Wiley at the job fair, and a few weeks later one of her colleagues called to ask me to interview for the position. It was my first and only interview, and I got the job!”

-Ashley Huston, Publicity Assistant, John Wiley & Sons

“Apart from the SPI Career Fair through which I got my job, I was able to sharpen my résumé through the workshops. The panels and guest speakers gave plenty of insight and advice on how to go about searching for a job and the interviewing process. I gained a better understanding of what people in the industry were looking for in their applicants.”

-Seema Mahanian, Managing Editorial Assistant, Simon & Schuster

SPI students meet with Louis Cona, Chief Marketing Officer of Condé Nast.

What was the most valuable part of SPI and how has it helped you on the job?

Meeting every task on a deadline. If you didn’t get it done, you let your team down. That wasn’t something I was going to let happen. I’ve brought that mentality with me to Scholastic.”

-Meg Roth, Editorial Assistant, Scholastic

“Working on the magazine and book imprint launch projects. Creating an inspired yet realistic magazine or book imprint in three weeks was a challenge, and when I look back on the work that I did individually and with my team, I’m very proud. I learned so much from visiting professionals, both during lectures and one-on-one time in workshops. I learned more about the importance of communication, honed my editorial skills and gained more skills that forced me to go outside of my comfort zone. Now, on the job, not only do I have a good sense of how the publishing industry works, with all its parts, but I also value working hard work in a deadline-driven atmosphere.”

-Molly Martin, Editorial Assistant, TIME

“The help we received from the staff and volunteers to break into the industry through mock interviews, résumé reviews, and personal stories that showed us that everyone’s path into publishing is different.”

-Kaitlin Palmer, Production Assistant, Palgrave Macmillan

“Overall, SPI gave me an excellent broad overview of the different facets of publishing, as well as the culture of the industry. The inside look into the industry by people we might never have had a chance to speak to otherwise was invaluable. However, the most valuable part of the program was definitely the friendships that were made, and the community it created—which still exists after the program’s end. The people I met are my friends, as well as my peers and co-workers.”

-Seema Mahanian, Managing Editorial Assistant, Simon & Schuster

“I enjoyed many different aspects of SPI, from the talented speakers to the in-depth presentations. There are so many wonderful people throughout the program that SPI students get to meet and interact with. But don’t underestimate the value of engaging with your peers because some of them will be as valuable a connection to you as those editors and publishers who come to SPI.”

-Alyssa Griffith, Public Relations Coordinator, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

“The terms [glossary of publishing terms]. That was probably my least favorite part when I was going through SPI, but invaluable once I started my job. I cannot tell you how relieved I was that I knew what “sticky,” “P&L,” and “transmittal” meant.”

-Susan Barnes, Editorial Assistant, Orbit Books, Hachette Book Group

John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan Publishers, hosts SPI students at Macmillan’s NYC headquarters.

What advice do you have for students in the SPI Class of 2012?

“My advice would be to really jump in with both feet. This program is intense and overwhelming at first, but really getting involved inside the classroom, as well as connecting with your classmates outside of the program, will benefit you down the road.”

-Kristen Lemire, Managing Editorial Assistant, Simon & Schuster

“Go into SPI with the confidence that you deserve to be there, because you do. You have the skills and enthusiasm to explore the many and varied career opportunities that publishing offers. Give each professional who speaks to you all your attention. Don’t be closed-minded to new ideas or careers. You have six weeks to soak in as much information as possible. Make the most of it. Sit in the front row. Listen. Take notes. Take initiative. Ask questions. Learn as much as you can and challenge yourself.”

-Molly Martin, Editorial Assistant, TIME

“Take advantage of every opportunity you’re given (and you’re given tons!): networking with department heads, networking with your classmates, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry. All of these things will be invaluable to you as you move forward with your career.”

-Meg Roth, Editorial Assistant, Scholastic

“Get a Gmail or Yahoo email immediately. Dump your student email address—your applications will instantly go in the company’s spam folder. And immediately change your address on your résumé to the NYU dorm address—or wherever you’re staying in the city. It will instantly boost your callbacks.”

-Hannah Karena Jones, Assistant Editor, Transaction Publishers

“Make sure you take advantage of all the great people you get to meet and interact with. Some of the greatest and most influential people in the publishing industry come to speak at SPI, don’t be afraid to talk to them.”

-Alyssa Griffith, Public Relations Coordinator, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia

“Try not to be stressed, and rather enjoy the 6 weeks—you get unparalleled access to the some of the best minds in the industry. On the same note, start applying to jobs right away and constantly read job boards.”

-Stephanie Malinski, Subsidiary Rights Assistant, Simon & Schuster

“To never give up, and to always work hard. Sitting on the sidelines and watching your peers talking to industry professionals isn’t going to help you personally. This is a hard industry to break into, and you have to be assertive in going for what you want. And you have to be passionate. Whether it’s about magazines or books—or even something else, if that’s what you come to realize—never be afraid to show just how much you love the industry and how badly you want to be a part of it.”

-Andrea Modica, Editorial Assistant, John Wiley & Sons

Editor’s Note: Here are some additional tips from the SPI team:

  • Quickly become a “morning” person. We start at 8:30 or 9 a.m. promptly.
  • Bring a sweater. The classroom can be chilly.
  • If at all possible, sign up for NYU student housing: it’s a great way to bond with your fellow classmates (Jennifer, our Assistant Director, will send instructions).
  • Invest in an interview outfit, something spiffy for the alumni cocktail party, and nice bond paper for your (revised) résumé.
  • Immerse yourself NOW in publishing: check out bookstores and newsstands,  read publishing blogs and newsletter  (lists will be sent to attending students) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more publishing news.
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