Ask Our Alumni: Reflections from SPI 2015 Graduates

Every year at this time, the Summer Publishing Institute inboxes are flooded with emails from prospective students asking about course work, schedules, housing, networking, life in New York and so much more. We understand! Attending SPI is a dream come true for many of our students—one that gets increasingly stressful the more you think about moving to New York, making friends, and landing that first real job in publishing.

Instead of telling you about it, we decided to let the Class of 2015 speak their minds and answer your questions. After all, they were asking the same things just last summer!

Let’s start with an easy question: What was the most valuable thing you learned at SPI?

“Having such a complete understanding of the industry has continued to be valuable. I am spending a year (full time and salaried!) rotating throughout the various imprints and departments at Macmillan US Trade—so just like at SPI, I’m exploring all the pieces that go together in the life cycle of a book. So far I’ve helped market bestsellers at St. Martin’s and helped acquire and edit children’s books at Mac Kids. It’s amazing that Macmillan is investing in my development and my SPI experience laid a great foundation.”
—Megan Abbate, Rotational Associate, Macmillan Publishers

“Before I came to SPI, I could mumble about wanting to ‘go into editorial.’ Fortunately, SPI gave me the vocabulary to speak about publishing as a whole, and consequently be able to confidently say, ‘Yes, I would like to go into editorial!’”
—Julia Irion Martins, Editorial Assistant, Village Voice

“The honest portrayal of what the publishing industry is like. It doesn’t pay well, it can be a struggle, but it’s worth it if you love what you do.”
Channing Kaiser, Editorial Intern, Highlights for Children

“Working on the projects at SPI gave me experience in so many different things that I could put on my resume. I was able to say I had experience in Photoshop, InDesign, running social media accounts—definitely things I wouldn’t be able to do without SPI.”
Elise Rahner, Communications Assistant, Bar Association of Erie County

 

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Robbie Meyers, Editor-in-Chief of ELLE, answers student questions on the first day of the 2015 Summer Publishing Institute.

What about the most surprising thing you learned?

“SPI introduced me to a part of publishing I had never before considered: subsidiary rights. With my love of travel and languages, I realized that working in international rights would allow me to combine my interests in ways I never thought possible. [An SPI alumna] put me in touch with a literary scout at Maria B. Campbell Associates and, a few weeks later, he offered me an internship. That internship led to my current position at Penguin.”
Samantha Farkas, Subsidiary Rights Assistant, Penguin Random House

“The inclusion of ‘industry-adjacent’ panels (UX Design, Legal) was actually very helpful. I took on a tech writing position after realizing I was interested in UX Design…. SPI informed my decision to take on a tech job as a resume-booster prior to enrolling in a UX-centric program.”
Bridget Siniakov, Technical Writer, Apex Systems

 “I came into SPI very set on editorial, and now I’m working in publicity. It is likely that I wouldn’t have even considered other departments had I not heard from people working in those positions who came to speak at SPI.”
Alyssa Persons, Publicity Assistant, Little, Brown

 

What about the other students at SPI? What are they like?

 “The people you meet at SPI will be your most valuable networking resource, almost above the speakers. I can’t stress it enough—make friends with your peers! I got my job through networking with other students.”
Cara Munn, Managing Editorial Intern, Open Road Media

“SPI lets you compete with the best of your peers in publishing, so take every opportunity you can to learn from them! The connections you make with your fellow classmates will serve you well as you start your career. Publishing is a small world!”
Lauren Moriarty, Associate Project & Production Manager, Time Inc.

“I think that one of the most valuable aspects of SPI was that it closely connected me with around 100 other students who are in a similar life-stage, share common interests and experiences, and are all pursuing the same type of career as I am. Being connected with them on social media (most specifically through the SPI Facebook group) has allowed me to continue learning and growing beyond the classroom through their job search experiences and advice.”
Erin Kimbro, Office Assistant, Bob Jones University Career Services; Freelance Copywriter, Showcase Marketing

 

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Students at the summer’s NYU Media Talk, “Meet the Publishing Press: How Editors and Reporters Cover an Industry in Transition.”

All of this sounds great, but tell the truth: does SPI help students get jobs?

“When I interviewed for Oxford University Press, the first thing several of the interviewers noticed about my resume was that I attended SPI, and it was a big hit. The program gave me a great foundation and proved to the interviewers that I was serious about publishing.”
Samantha Marshall, Marketing Assistant, Oxford University Press

“SPI placed a strong emphasis on job placement. They helped with our resumes and interview skills. Most importantly, however, previous graduates from the program are now employees and look specifically for SPI grads.”
Sarah Lewis, Editorial Intern, Open Road Media

 

While we’re on the topic, any advice on the job search?

“Start looking for jobs at least halfway through the program. As soon as you have your resume evaluation, get your cover letters in order and apply.”
Charis Tobias, Digital Media Associate at Findlay Digital Design

“It’s really, really important to remember that you shouldn’t be embarrassed to intern. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience in publishing than my time at Melville House. Because of my internship there, I’ve made professional and personal connections that have helped, surprisingly enough, kickstart my career in film and TV criticism.”
Julia Irion Martins, Editorial Assistant, Village Voice

  

What about networking? Did it make you nervous? What are some tips on how to network?

 “[SPI] gave me a great starting point for informational interviews. ‘I just finished the program and would love to talk to you about [insert job here]’ was an easy way to explain who I was and why I wanted to talk to them…. Informational interviews are a chance for someone to talk about themselves and the career they love. Who doesn’t want to do that?”
Megan Broderick, Editorial Assistant, Harlequin

“Get to know your fellow SPIers and try to talk to the speakers. Even if you don’t plan to stay in NYC, you never know what connections could be helpful.”
Emily Stewart, Marketing and Digital Content Coordinator, Gusto TV

“Even though networking is hard, keep at it! Most people I know found someone in the industry to fight for them, which can mean an informational interview is just as important as an official interview. Just keep at it and don’t give up, even if you don’t get something right away.”
Mollie Phillips, International Sales, Hachette Book Group

 

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Students meet with HR representatives from HarperCollins Publishers at the 2015 Center for Publishing Career Fair.

You have a job. Now what? Does SPI still help you now that you’re employed?

“Learning about the different jobs within the publishing industry was incredibly useful. I interact frequently with our production, marketing, and sales teams, and SPI gave me a good understanding of who everyone is and what their roles are.”
Allison Neuburger, Editorial Assistant, Palgrave Macmillan

SPI gave me a working vocabulary for an industry that can seem a little unfriendly to outsiders, a dose of reality in how to approach my job search, and perhaps most importantly a sense of optimism when it came to my job search in publishing.”
Emily Horn, Executive Assistant to the Chairman, Trident Media Group

 

Tell us about living in New York. What do you wish you’d known before moving? Now that you’re pros, any tips?

“Living in Gramercy [Green, the NYU dorm] is great, there’s so much to do in the neighborhood! Eataly is super close, as is Madison Square Park, plus there’s a 6 and an N/R train super close to the building, so you’ll be able to get most anywhere in New York.”
Addison Smith, Resident Manager, Oak Hill Academy

“Explore as much as you can and have so much fun. Remember that the nights you spend going to bed early aren’t the ones that you are going to remember years from now. And be careful of falling in love with this city—it happened to me suddenly and unexpectedly.”
Patricia Pham, Digital Sales Planner, Time Inc.

 

Any last words of wisdom?

“Bring a lunch to class! I bought lunch almost every day we had class and by the end of SPI, my wallet hated me.”
Elise Rahner, Communications Assistant, Bar Association of Erie County

 Go for it! You’ll be working long hours and working hard, but it’s worth it. We poured everything we had into our magazine project, watched it win, and launched it as an online magazine that’s still growing.”
Lauren Moriarty, Associate Project & Production Manager, Time Inc.

 “Always stay open-minded. When I entered SPI, I thought I had my heart set on book publishing, but I quickly learned my interests were actually more aligned with online media. Also, starting out is the hardest part. Whether you just started a job or looking for an apartment, there are going to be a lot of hurdles, but just stay focused and you’ll be over them in no time.”
Sam Dilling, Associate Editor, Spoon University

 

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Students meet with Justin Chanda, Publisher of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and other children’s imprints, (center) during an industry visit to Simon & Schuster.

Want to know even more about what happened at SPI last summer? Check out the rest of our blog posts here.

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