English Editor, MDPI
BA English, 2020
What does your current role involve?
I am currently an English Editor at MDPI, a publisher of open access scientific journals. As an English Editor, it’s my job to proofread and edit article submissions for clarity, consistency and grammatical accuracy and ensure that all articles adhere to MDPI’s style guide and house rules.
I studied English at University of Birmingham (UoB), and after graduating in summer 2020 I had the daunting task of trying to find a job during a pandemic. Overall, I applied to over 70 jobs—all related to editing, copywriting, and marketing—on websites such as Indeed and LinkedIn before I got this job, and this was the third job I had an interview for throughout the process.
Did you know what you wanted to do before you started University?
I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do as a career before I started university, but I knew that I would potentially be interested in publishing and editing. Unfortunately, I discovered that the publishing industry is very concentrated in London, where I didn’t want to live, but during my job search I found that there were editing jobs in the field of scientific publishing elsewhere, which helped me to get into this industry in a way that I hadn’t anticipated prior to university.
Did you have any work experience before your graduated?
In the summer before my third year, I managed to get a place on Penguin Random House’s two-week work experience scheme. Although I had originally wanted to do my work experience in their Editorial department, I got my second choice and ended up completing my work experience in Marketing and Publicity. As well as giving me experience in the publishing sector, this enabled me to learn more about marketing and consider it as a career—during my job search I applied for lots of marketing roles as well as editing jobs.
In third year, I also gained even more work experience through the Professional Skills Module at UoB, which helped me to secure a role as an Editorial Intern at a marketing company based in Birmingham. This gave me a lot more confidence and several things to write about in my CV.
What do you love most about your role?
I enjoy being able to work independently and manage my own work and schedule, as editing is often quite a solitary role. This means that I have responsibility and control over my own work. However, there is also a teamwork aspect to this role as the editors often help each other and offer advice when someone has a particularly difficult paper, which creates a friendly and supportive atmosphere.
What is most challenging about your role?
My job can be quite fast paced as I need to maintain editing speed and efficiency to ensure that articles are published on time. This can be a bit stressful at times but it has also helped me to develop my time management and organisation skills, which will be good to include in my CV as valuable experience.
Have you faced any key challenges during your career journey and how did you overcome them?
I definitely started to struggle a few months into my job search as many organisations never even replied to my application. This knocked my confidence and made me worry about whether I would be able to get a job in the sectors I was interested in, especially with the pandemic making everything even more uncertain. However, I made sure to set aside time for myself to help my mental health.
Treating a job search like an actual job by setting yourself work hours and rest hours can be really helpful for this, as scrolling through Indeed or writing cover letters late at night can disrupt your sleeping patterns and increase anxiety. It’s also really helpful to speak to other graduates to learn that you’re not alone in finding the job searching process difficult, and they can also give you advice.
How did your time at Birmingham help you prepare for this role?
I think the work experience I gained from the Professional Skills Module was really valuable for my job search, not only because it gave me things to write about in my CV but also because it gave me more confidence with working in an office environment and enabled me to learn more about the job sectors I was interested in. I also found Careers Network very useful, especially the careers fairs.
What are your career plans for the future?
I’m still not entirely sure what my career plan is, but for now I’d like to continue working in editing and publishing. However, I’ve also thought about moving into a field such as copywriting where I can create my own content, but I haven't made any decisions about this yet.
At the moment I’m keeping my options open and not restricting myself with a rigid future plan. I think it’s important to have a rough idea of where you’re heading and what your goals are, but flexibility and being open to change are also key skills.
What advice would you give to students who are interested in getting into your industry or role, or if they’re unsure what they want to do?
To get into editing and publishing, studying an essay-based subject and being passionate about reading and writing would obviously be beneficial. However, this is a very competitive industry, so you need to make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Having lots of relevant work experience or extracurricular activities on your CV would be a great place to start—I would recommend taking placement/internship modules if they’re available on your course, seeking out opportunities online, joining writing-based societies at university, or even starting your own blog.
If you’re unsure of what you want to do, just remember that many people are in the same position and that you don’t need to have a concrete and extremely detailed future plan. In this case, my advice would be similar: seek out work experience opportunities in a variety of sectors to get a sense of what is out there and don’t be afraid to try different things or change your mind.
What would be your key piece of career advice for a student just entering the employment market?
My key piece of advice would be to make sure your CV and cover letter are tailored to each job application to show that you’ve researched the role and considered how your skills and experience make you the best person for the job—this is much better than using a generic CV for every application, for example. A way to make this process a bit easier (because writing cover letters can be time consuming) is to have copies of your CV and cover letter that detail all of the things you’d possibly want to include, and then pick out key words and phrases from the job description you’re interested in and edit your CV and cover letter to focus on these areas, ensuring that you actually include these key words and phrases in your application. This makes it absolutely clear that you fulfil the requirements.