The SYP London 2020 Committee. We had no idea what we were in for!
Acceptance comes from having "the skills," right?
Wrong. My year with the SYP London Committee taught me just how much I had to learn.
Getting an acceptance letter is always thrilling, and in December 2019, I was offered one of the Career Support Officer roles for the Society of Young Publishers* (SYP) London.
The committee met only once in person before London entered lockdown in March. We moved online and experienced the chaos that comes with joining an organization during a major upheaval.
Let me say this upfront: I’m not comfortable meeting new people, in-person or online, but moving to an all-digital life was my worst nightmare. This is how I’m getting through it.
Social media & online platforms
I was tech literate when I joined SYP, but not tech savvy.
Success on social media (SM) comes from having a message and an audience who wants to hear it. I realized that I didn’t have either of those things, and that’s why I didn’t like being online or using SM.
So I spent all of 2020 exploring and experimenting. The team made online events happen, fumbling our way through. Mistakes (and typos) were made. But the world didn’t fall apart.
Now I can host interviews and workshops on Zoom without flinching. I actually talk and interact with people on Twitter (typos and all). Every day I improve my understanding of design by studying marketing materials. Now I can create more eye-catching event announcements on Canva that I’m not too afraid to post on Instagram.
It sounds easy. It’s not. It takes time, patience, and repeated efforts to get it right. But at least now I look forward to these tasks instead of dreading them.
Everyone dreads networking. But when, like me, you’ve just arrived in the country, are new to an industry, are a freelancer working alone at home, and the whole world has moved online, you’ve got no choice.
Fortunately, my imagination is overactive and talking to people is never as bad as I imagine it to be. To put on events for the SYP, I had to do what I most feared – email people I’d never met to ask them for their most valuable asset: their time.
Who wants to do that while the world is falling apart? There was nothing to do but sit down and write emails. Lots of them.
Luckily, people in publishing are happy to volunteer their time and knowledge. I’m grateful to everyone who was able to say yes. The nos were never personal.
Now a lot more people know me – I’m not just a stranger on the internet. If I hadn’t joined the committee, I wouldn’t be (nearly) cured of my fears: speaking to strangers, cold emailing, interacting with people online.
With networking comes communicating. For most of my professional working life, I’ve been on my own. Being thrown in with a team of nineteen strangers and learning how to talk with them was a challenge, and I got it wrong. Frequently.
I undercommunicated, not mentioning my plans or asking my questions. I thought what I had to say wasn’t important, and the end result was that I sabotaged my own success.
Eventually I started keeping notes about things I wanted to say in meetings, made sure I asked every single question, re-announced events frequently and booked the Zoom account early.
This year helped me become more flexible and I’ve become better at thinking on my feet. I still need to be more assertive in groups and meetings and learn not to care too much about what others think. Got any advice?
My parting advice to anyone joining a team in 2021 is to say everything, and say it loud. Proactively copy people into emails.
Make sure your event information is shared early, widely and repeatedly.
Ask questions. Lots of questions.
Double check all dates. Triple check, actually.
No one on the committee had the year they had hoped for, but as a group we were able to accomplish a lot more than we imagined!
I’m grateful for the team: I didn’t realize how influential a group could be. They have no idea how much they contributed to my growth, and I want to thank them all.
Despite everything, 2020 was one of my best years in terms of gaining new skills and knowledge. When I joined SYP, I was looking to find my place within publishing. I haven’t found it yet, but I’ve been given a peek into a magnificent industry with so many unimaginable opportunities. I’m excited to spend 2021 exploring those options.
*The Society for Young Publishers is a not-for-profit organization for anyone in their first ten years of their publishing career, NOT people who are young.
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