Two women chatting at work

Having a mentor helped me progress in my publishing career and secure my new role

Posted on June 18, 2018

In part two of our feature on mentoring, Nicole Gordon, former Creative Access intern and Sales Administrator at Pan Macmillan, writes about her career journey to date and what she has both given to and taken from the mentoring partnership

As a Creative Access alumni with over two years of publishing experience, I was allocated a mentor via the Creative Access Mentoring Scheme in January. The Development Scheme pairs alumni, which total over 150 BAME individuals in publishing, with senior publishing professionals from across the UK. I was thrilled to benefit from the insight and experience of my mentor, who is a Managing Director at Penguin Random House.

Over six months the guidance, support and advice I received from my mentor propelled me to pursue the next step in my publishing career.

Looking back, as a student at The Royal Docks School and later at the University of Leicester, I tenaciously sought experience in the creative industries, completing internships during my summer breaks at The Guardian, and during term time at the University’s Press Office and the local newspaper The Leicester Mercury. When I returned from a study abroad year at the University of Heidelberg, I attended a Creative Access Showcase and it was inspiring to meet an array of current Creative Access interns thoroughly enjoying their placements at media organisations such as ITV, HarperCollins and the BBC among others.

I was subsequently motivated to apply for a publishing internship in 2015 when I was invited to an event at London Book Fair jointly hosted by Creative Access and the Publishers Association. The focus day, during which I met with publishers and publishing interns, introduced me to the array of careers within publishing.

Ahead of my graduation that summer I was elated to secure a six-month placement at Pan Macmillan in International Sales. A highlight of the internship was being invited to attend Frankfurt Book Fair, the world’s largest trade show for books, where I was able to use my German skills! Fortunately, at the end of my internship with Pan Macmillan the position of Sales Administrator arose in UK Sales; a busy, good-natured team that I have enjoyed working with for over two years.

Two years on, having gained fantastic foundational experience in publishing, I felt that a mentor would offer me continued support as I looked toward the next stages of my career.

The variety of career paths I could pursue were not immediately obvious to me, and having a mentor helped me to hone in on the aspects of my transferable skills and experience that I relish, and tailor them to opportunities best suited to my aspirations.

In particular, I debated whether to continue developing my career in Sales, or broaden my experience by entering an entirely new area of publishing. My mentorship was highly effective. I met with my mentor every month, and we communicated via email in between our catch ups too. To maximise our meetings I set an agenda. The topics I selected depended on which areas of my career I felt that I needed more guidance on, for example, ‘Building A Personal Brand’ and ‘Networking’. Deciding on themes ahead of our meetings provided a springboard for further discussion, and sharing notes with my mentor following our meetings was also key as it helped me to set action points to further my development outside of our catch ups. Another brilliant aspect of the mentoring scheme was the sustained support I received.

Having a senior perspective helped me highlight the most relevant aspects of my skills when applying for opportunities, and sharing feedback with my mentor following interviews improved my development.

When I decided to pursue a career in Rights, the added reassurance and insight provided by mentor strengthened my resolve to pursue an alternative pathway in publishing. Ultimately, having a mentor gave me a dedicated space in which to develop and share ideas and it further motivated me to pursue my career aspirations. Since beginning my mentorship I have secured a new role as a Rights and Media Assistant at The Madeleine Milburn Literary, TV and Film Agency. The insights provided by my mentor encouraged me to articulate what I desired in my next role. Specifically, working more closely with authors and their literature, employing my love of negotiating and rapport building – combined with an international outlook! I am fortunate that I was able to benefit from the guidance of a mentor which has helped me to advance in my career.

A mentoring partnership works both ways and there are a few things you can do to make it a really fruitful relationship. Here are my top tips:

  • Set an achievable goal of what you would like to achieve during your mentorship.
  • Set out the topics of discussions ahead of your meetings. It will be a good launch pad for discussion and shows you are actively taking responsibility for your development.
  • Take notes during or soon after your meetings and share them with your mentor to help track your progress.
  • Set action points to work on ahead of your next meeting.
  • Communicate with your mentor in between meetings if you would like career advice. Your mentor is most likely best placed to offer advice!
  • The above also includes sharing good news, for instance, if your application for a fantastic role has been shortlisted. Sharing feedback throughout your journey will bolster your confidence and can lead to invaluable guidance.
  • Enjoy the experience of building a rapport with your mentor. Knowing their career journey may help you reflect on your own pathway.
  • Be open minded about your career progression. If your career goals shift during your mentorship it is a good sign as it indicates that you are honing in on your skills, experience and aspirations.

Twitter: @nickysgordon