NYC on a Budget, Part II: Get a Life

New York is notoriously expensive, and getting a job fresh out of college isn’t always easy. Having been through all this, and with more and more friends wanting to move here and/or work in publishing, I thought I’d do a little series to help them out. It can be a challenge living here, there’s no doubt about that. But as Tim Gunn always says, “Make it work!”

I did, and you can too.

And I promise you, it’s worth it.


So you found your perfect (or at least a suitable) apartment — awesome! Now comes the hard part: getting a life. Or a job. Or whatever it is you plan to be doing now that you’re here.

For the sake of this argument, and the general topic of this blog, we’re going to assume you’re looking for a job. More specifically, a job in publishing.

Fact: finding a job is hard.

Fact: finding a job involves a lot of work.

Fact: you need a job if you don’t want to be homeless.

If you’re planning to move to NYC to get involved in publishing and are fresh out of college, you should definitely look into the Columbia Publishing Course, or NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. Both offer a great introduction to the industry, provide access to a lot of important people, and have really excellent job placement. (When I applied two years ago it was roughly 80%.)

But if you’re over late nights, ramen, and endless homework, or just don’t have the money, never fear! It’s still possible to find a job!

But where, pray tell, does one even start?

Well, you’ve already got a New York address, so half the battle’s been won! It’s the suckiest catch-22 out there — to live in NY you have to have a job, but to get one, you need to live here. That’s why the money you saved up before moving here is really important.

After that comes the dreaded job board search. Try places like Publishers, Craigslist, and most importantly, the job boards of the major publishing houses:

Heck, you can even check twitter. I’ve seen people post ads for assistants, interns, and all sorts of things. And don’t forget to check with the smaller publishers. They still need people to work there!

Keep in mind, it’s not unheard of to send out 100 resumes. Personally, I sent close to 80. I’ve had friends shoot out as few as ten, and as many as 150. If you’re qualified, apply. (I’ll admit, I applied to a few positions I probably wasn’t qualified for. I did, however, make it clear that I was more than happy to learn.) It never hurts to get your name out there. NYC offers loads of industry events, from book signings to open houses to happy hour. If you’re just starting out in the publishing industry, YPG is a fantastic place to meet people (although I think you need to be employed to technically join. So this may be more relevant for after you’ve gotten a job). My book club sprung from one of YPG’s outings, and I’ve made some great friends through attending their events.

But I digress.

So you send out a huge batch of applications. A couple of weeks pass. You don’t hear anything. It’s not uncommon, although it totally sucks. Sadly, most of the time all you’re going to hear is crickets. Hundreds of people are applying for the same position you are, and chances are there’s someone more qualified. Someone always is. That’s why it’s important to rack up those internships early. But while you wait you can attend industry events, read blogs, and really try to get to know the industry. The more prepared you are, the more marketable you are.

A few more weeks pass. And another. Then, finally, someone responds! They want to interview you! Dance around your apartment, call your parents, and freak out. It’s okay.

Then it’s time to buckle down and do your homework. I found this book to be incredibly helpful in prepping me for the job hunt and subsequent interviews.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Dress the part. Guys, shirt and tie. Ladies, your boobs should be tucked away. A nice dress will always serve you well, but pants or skirts (that aren’t too short) are also totally fine.
  • Bring multiple copies of your resume. Even if you’ve been told you’ll be meeting with two people, bring extras — you never know if more people will be pulled in to chat.
  • Bring a few writing samples. Some places will ask, some won’t. Either way, offer. It can’t hurt.
  • Study the books the agency or publisher represents. Read a couple if you have time. Be able to talk to them about their products. If you hated the book, find something nice to say.
  • Firm handshake. Always.
  • EYE CONTACT. Do not stare at the table, do not stare at the floor, and do not stare at your hands.
  • Be yourself. If you’re a timid person, there’s no need to try to be someone you’re not. Be confident in your abilities, but you don’t need to try to portray another persona entirely. Maybe the person looking to hire you needs someone who’s on the quiet side, or vice versa. Just smile and be engaged. Nobody wants to hire Grumpy Cat.
  • Be prepared for multiple interviews, and meeting with all sorts of people. As long as you’ve done your homework, you’ll be okay.
  • Make sure to send thank-you notes to the people you’ve met with!

Hopefully, after all this, you land yourself a job. If so, congratulations! Take yourself out to dinner, call your parents (again), and freak out (again). Stock up on work-appropriate clothing and suit up. You’re a big kid now.

If your interview was a bust — and we’ve all had them — don’t worry. There’s always tomorrow. Just keep trying. Eventually something’s going to turn up!

In the meantime, maybe hunt down an internship and/or a part-time job. Best to have some kind of income, and if you can fit both into your schedule, all the better! Then you’re earning money and getting industry experience! And who knows? Maybe that internship will land you a job.

Now the rest is up to you. Go out there an conquer!


NYC on a Budget, Part I: Moving, or How Not to Live in the Ghetto


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