Jennifer Bell, English Literature MA student at the University of Bristol, has just spent the past eight months volunteering at Policy Press as part of the Editorial Commissioning team. Today is (sadly!) her last day with us.
Jen’s learned that ‘it takes a village to raise a book’, there’s more to Friday’s than cake (really?!) and she tells us how the experience has influenced her future career plans. Read on for more insights….
What was your inspiration behind looking for volunteer work?
The world beyond the bubble of academia is a hugely daunting place. Since starting A-levels students are advised to begin amassing work experience if they want any chance of success. Suitably scared, I have taken various positions at different companies over the past few years. Last summer, with my undergraduate degree completed, the necessity for gaining an insight into any and all aspects of the publishing industry pushed me to apply for a volunteer position at Policy Press.
What’s been the motivation that has kept you at Policy Press?
While I must admit that every task is not always, in itself, new and exciting, being part of such a fantastic company and genuinely contributing towards the publication of books has been more than enough to motivate me to continue at PP. This combined with the lovely people, compelling subject areas, and the more interesting tasks has meant that I have looked forward to every Friday of the past eight months.
What are the three key things you’ve learned since being here?
1. What working in academic publishing actually means.
The experience I have gained in my position with the commissioning team has been invaluable. I have developed loads of little skills and bits of information that I would not have been exposed to any other way. Knowing things like how to fill in acquisition forms and use databases, to the difference between trade books and monographs has definitely prepared me for future work.
2. What a difference a good company attitude can make.
When I was offered the option of volunteering on ‘Cake Fridays’ I obviously said yes with no hesitation. What I didn’t realise at the time was that this supply of sugary-goodness brings together colleagues who otherwise wouldn’t get the opportunity to talk (despite the open-plan office). It has been fantastic to experience such a commitment to an office being a team and this is just one way in which the Policy Press office has been an inspiring environment in which to work.
3. That it takes a village to raise a book.
While I never thought that books appeared by magic, I never realised just how much work it requires to take an author’s vision to completion. Now, having filled (what feels like) hundreds of acquisitions forms, seen publication dates in a continuous state of flux, and witnessed the painstaking task of attempting to finalise a cover, I have an acute sense of the people and the processes that make each page possible.
How has it impacted/changed your view on your career plans?
I never really considered academic publishing as a future career until receiving the email from Policy Press. Eight months on and I can’t imagine being in another industry. I may have had to google the definition of every third word in some proposals, but that’s the learning process which makes the job so rewarding. Within this industry I’ve come to feel part of something much bigger than myself.
Anything else you’d like to say about volunteering and Policy Press?
I started volunteering at companies because I was told it would be the only way I had a chance at a career. While this may be true, I now know that volunteering is so much more than a CV necessity; it opens your mind to knew ways of lateral thinking, introduces you to wonderful people keen to help you learn and thrive (and who are very human, not the super-human success stories of my imagination), and, most importantly, it’s so much fun! Having the chance to engage my brain in something completely different to my MA work was completely refreshing! My only regret is that I have to leave – I can’t thank Policy Press enough for the experience.
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