Advice from the 2012 Summer Publishing Institute Alumni

Each year, 110 students enter the Woolworth Building in lower Manhattan with a shared love of magazines, books, and digital media as part of the renowned NYU Summer Publishing Institute (SPI). They come from all over the United States–and, in fact, all over the globe–to study publishing at New York University in the heart of New York City, the media capital of the world. After an intense six weeks, having gained a great deal of knowledge, industry contacts, and job search tips, they pursue their dream jobs in publishing by meeting with top media representatives at the annual NYU Center for Publishing career fair. And this year is particularly exciting, as it marks the 35th anniversary of SPI.

So, what’s the best strategy to make all these great publishing lessons and connections work for the members of the class of 2013? We caught up with a few of the alumni from SPI 2012 nine months after they left the classroom and asked them to give advice to the Class of 2013.

Lisa Rodgers

Junior Agent, JABberwocky Literary Agency

Lisa Rodgers
Lisa Rodgers

“How has SPI helped with your job search?”

It’s all about the people you meet. SPI gives you great exposure to publishing professionals who want to help you get your foot in the door. Jim Levine of Levine Greenberg Literary Agency moderated a panel at SPI, which is how I knew that his agency had an internship program in the first place. I made sure to mention the panel in my cover letter, which I’m pretty sure was a big contributing factor to just getting the initial interview.

“Any tips on how to make the most of your time in NYC?”

Socialize with your classmates. Go to the park, eat at that greasy burger joint, see that movie, explore the tourist traps. You don’t know for sure which classmates will be staying in NYC afterward and they may be your only friends here for months. They will be useful when you’re looking for jobs, or when you haven’t left your apartment for 4 days and you just need some human interaction.

“Any specific advice for the Class of 2013?”

Take the final projects seriously, but don’t let them consume you for all six weeks. Make friends with your classmates, reach out to industry professionals for informational interviews/meeting up for coffee/helpful advice, explore the city, and have fun. The hard part is getting accepted to the program; learn everything you can while you’re here. (Pro tip: make friends with Jen [Goodwin]. SHE IS AMAZING. And might make you a cake.)

Sean Bonser

Advertising Sales Assistant, Climbing Magazine, Active Interest Media

Sean Bonser
Sean Bonser

“Do you have any tips for newcomers to New York City?”

At 8:30 AM when you’re rushing to class, the subway IS faster (and cheaper!) than hopping in a cab. I learned that on day 2 when I was running late. Take some time off after a full day of SPI. Don’t go straight home to do homework if you can. It’s ok to get a little lost on your travel home. For me, NYC was all about experiencing something new every day.

“What was the most challenging part of SPI?”

When I had to address the entire room filled with peers and industry leaders to present our final book project. Once I got up there, the time flew by, but preparing for the task set me on edge for days beforehand.

Tyler Allen

Editorial Assistant, Elyse Cheney Literary Agency

Tyler Allen
Tyler Allen

“What advice do you have for this year’s SPI class?”

You’re probably going to interview for a dozen jobs before you land one. You’ll leave every interview a little more prepared for the next one. In the end, for me it came down to finding the right editor/assistant fit. It has to do with personality and literary sensibility and complementary taste. If you’re being interviewed, you are probably capable of doing the job, but you might not be the right fit for an editor. That’s OK. Don’t be discouraged.

“Were there any challenges about moving to NYC?”

I need to talk straight to the hearts of Mid-Westerners: This place can seem unforgiving. It’s big and fast and cold–but only for a couple of weeks. You’ll find your routine. My best advice is to find ways to make the city fit your lifestyle. Do you like running for extended periods of time? There’s a place where people do that. Do you like pointing your mustache in pretentious angles? There’s a place where people do that. Do you eat food? There are so many places to do that here. Make NYC what you want it to be. A serious note on living here: You will experience a lot that will pull you out of your comfort zone, and that’s a beautiful thing. Embrace it.

Linnea Zielinski

Freelancer, Hearst Digital Media, Serious Eats

Student, NYU M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media Program

Linnea Zielinski
Linnea Zielinski

“How has SPI helped you in your job search?”

SPI taught me where to go to seek out the jobs I want and how to navigate professional functions (mixers, interviews, etc) in a way that will maximize my connections and leave a good impression.

“What was the most challenging part of SPI?”

Honestly, staying on task when SPI is filled with fascinating people you just want to get to know. Everyone comes from such unique backgrounds with such diverse goals that you can easily get more caught up with getting to know them than what’s going on around you.

“What are some suggestions for making the most of your time in NYC?”

Subscribe to the skint email update of free and cheap events throughout NYC, become a master of your planner, go outside your comfort zone–have Greek food in Astoria, legitimate Mexican food from a street vendor in the Bronx–these are experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.

“What advice do you have for the Class of 2013?”

Balance. Make time to hang out with SPIers as friends, but also take your projects and the speeches seriously because both elements are equally valuable to the experience of the program. Balancing your time this way will also mean you’ll meet (and, if you’re paying attention, stay in touch with) industry professionals who WANT to help you. You will also get some unique New York City experiences outside the classroom.

Jimmy Neel

Production Assistant, Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

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Jimmy Neel

“How has SPI helped you in your job search?”

This may be a cop-out answer, but I really think the opportunity to come to New York for six weeks was extremely helpful. I definitely would never have had a remote chance of getting an interview with Penguin or any of the other major book publishers had I been stuck in Arizona.

“Any advice on how to make the most of New York City?”

If you’re going to stay after the program ends, try to stay in the dorms as long as possible. It’s cheaper, and it is a great base of operations for applying/interviewing for jobs in Manhattan. Once you have the job, either find roommates or move to one of the other boroughs/New Jersey to avoid the extremely high rent (it’s still high, just less so than Manhattan).

“Any other advice for the new class?”

Volunteer for the mock interview. I really hit it off with an HR Director during the mock interview. Afterward, I was able to email this HR representative for tips and advice and I even got help securing an interview at their company.

Kimberly Ladouceur

Marketing Coordinator, Simon & Schuster

Kimberly Ladouceur
Kimberly Ladouceur

“NYC suggestions?”

Go out with people in the program and be social. You will go crazy otherwise. Try to see Shakespeare in the Park, try to go to the Boat Basin, and have fun at all of the parades!

“How did SPI help you during your job search?”

SPI helped me make connections, taught me how to make connections, taught me the basic (and completely necessary) lingo of the industry, and prepared me for the high stress of the media business.

“What advice do you have for this year’s class?”

This is an absolutely accurate crash course into the world of publishing–you will learn quickly who your friends are, and this is true in the business as well. Make sure you are always pleasant and eager to help, and you will do well both in SPI and publishing.

Allie Early

Junior Online Editor, Haute Living, Haute Media Group

Allie Early
Allie Early

“How has SPI helped you in your job search?”

SPI has been the first talking point at many of my interviews. Publishing companies in New York really seem to value this program.

“What was the most challenging part of SPI?”

The hours were long. It felt like a full-time job, but it was also just as rewarding. Our finished final projects were really spectacular, and they were a great addition to my portfolio.

“Any pieces of advice for this year’s class?”

Reach out to as many people as possible and don’t hesitate to make the first connection. Also, remember that fellow SPI students are likely to be your future colleagues. I love how our 2012 group has really stuck together and helped each other.

Editor’s Note: Here are some more tips from our SPI team.

  • Quickly become a “morning” person. We start at 8:30 or 9 AM 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 a nice outfit for interviews, something spiffy for the alumni cocktail party, and nice bond paper for your (soon-to-be-revised) résumé.
  • Immerse yourself NOW in publishing: check out bookstores and print and digital newsstands, read publishing blogs and newsletters (lists will be sent to attending students) and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more publishing news and alumni tips.
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