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Can I get any publishing job and then switch departments?

If you read our "I want to be... in Editorial" post, you'll know that a lot of people who want to get into publishing want to be an editor. But it's such a competitive department, and there's only so many jobs to go around. So I suppose it's natural for applicants to wonder whether it's worth applying for a job in a different department and then trying to move over when an editorial role becomes available.

But is this a good idea?

I'll be honest, there's more than one answer to this question. When I started working in children's books, it was as a Production Controller, and I worked in the role for about fifteen months before an editorial role came up in the same company that I really wanted to - and did - apply for. It was a nerve-wracking process for a number of reasons:

  1. Firstly, initial interviews tend to be done in secret. Because, basically, when we apply for a job there's always a chance that we won't get it.

  2. If we don't get the job but have kept the whole thing a secret, then no damage done. But the process will feel duplicitous and a bit sneaky, and that's not a great way to feel.

  3. If we don't get the job but our current boss knows that we're interviewing for editorial roles, they will (rightly) question how committed we are to the job we're already in, and this could hinder future development. After all, why would they continue to invest in us if we're not invested in them?

  4. If we do get the job, we'll need to explain our about-turn to our manager. Some managers are very supportive when a member of their team switches departments. Some less so (and, sometimes, with good cause - see below).

All of these things are worth factoring into your decision. Because switching departments does work. I did it, and I know a few other people who did too. But there is another side to the coin, and this links back to what I was saying about manager reactions, because if you apply for a job in Sales, or Rights, or Marketing - any department - your manager will invest their time and energy to train you. There's a lot to learn, and that settling in period is not only intense for new starters but for managers as well, as they willingly make room in their already busy workload to support you and share their knowledge with you. So, if you go into the situation knowing that you're going to bolt as soon as your "dream job" appears, then... maybe don't be surprised if your boss is a bit put out when you tell them.

If you do try to get into your chosen department by starting out in another, the one thing that I would strongly advise you to do is: work hard. Even if you don't really care about it. Even if it's not your dream job. Work hard. And not just because it's good for your reputation, or because someone may recommend you in the future based on the hard work you do for them, but because if a manager or team member makes the decision to invest in you, then the least you can do is invest in them too... at least until it's time to move on.


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