As someone who dreams of working in publishing one day, as soon as I heard about a free literary career day in Seattle, I knew I had to go. So, early in the morning on Saturday, Feb. 3, I hopped on a bus and made my way to Seattle’s Central Public Library.
When I arrived, I was directed to a small auditorium. While waiting for the event to begin, I chatted with other attendees and perused my event program. I knew that there would be a keynote speaker to start the day off, and I expected a slightly generic but wholesomely inspirational speech about the power of literature and the importance of young voices. Boy, was I wrong.
Local writer and current Civic Poet of Seattle Anastacia Renee Tolbert read several of her poems, which were at times funny, tragic, powerful, and thought-provoking—sometimes all at once. She followed her performance with a question and answer session. One of my favorite pieces of advice she gave was this:
“Don’t be stubborn or prideful. If there are people in your life who have the information you want, ask them! They will probably tell you and some will even go above and beyond.”
This really spoke to me because I often feel awkward asking for advice, so it was nice to be reminded that most people do genuinely want to be helpful.
After that amazing start, I was excited to see what the rest of the day would bring. Following a short lunch break, we had time to explore a table fair. The event website did not provide specifics about the organizations who would be at the fair, but I hoped to be able to connect with potential employers in the industry. There turned out to be six organizations: The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, the Seattle Office of Film + Music, Hugo House, Seattle Arts & Lectures, TeenTix, and One Reel. None of them were focused on recruiting interns or employees, and instead they aimed at giving information about their missions. While this was not exactly what I had hoped to see, it was still interesting to learn about local organizations involved with supporting the arts.
Next came my Breakout Session, which ended up being the most informative part of the day for me. There were four sessions to choose from: Writer, Money, D.I.Y., or Industry. Since I want to be an editor, I chose Industry. The session was led by three panelists: Ruth Dickey from Seattle Arts & Lectures, Kristin Mehus-Roe from Girl Friday Productions, and Shelly Mastalerz, a teen services librarian at the Seattle Public Library.
The panelists began by describing how they got to their present positions. My main takeaway from those stories was that…
…career paths are rarely straightforward: each woman held several different positions and had several different career goals throughout her journey.
Afterwards, they took questions from the audience. Their advice was frank—all of them emphasized the relative scarcity of jobs in this industry and told us to be prepared to work for free or for very little when starting out. However, I didn’t feel discouraged, since they paired that advice with countless suggestions. Most importantly:
Volunteer at literary nonprofits, work for bookstores, and do informational interviews to get involved and build connections.
Overall, the career day was an amazing learning experience for me; I came away with a much better understanding of the field and how to break into it. If you are at all interested in the literary industry, I highly recommend attending this event—no matter where you are in your job search process.
If you’re interested in visual arts or music, you’re in luck because 2018 career days for both of those fields are coming up soon. Visual Arts Career Day will be held on Feb. 24 and City of Music Career Day is scheduled for March 31. To register or find out more, visit careerday.onereel.org.