Katie Childs has loved reading books her entire life. So it comes as no surprise that she is now a book publicist at one of the most prestigious book publishing firms in the country. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Katie for the past seven years and it seemed inevitable to me, even during our freshman year at Hamilton College, that she would become incredibly successful in her future career. The moment people meet Katie, they can tell that she is the perfect balance of friendly and driven, creative and solutions-oriented, curious and confident. She is a bright publishing star, with lots of great career advice for Studentbranding.com readers. In the interview below, Katie shares her thoughts on networking, becoming indispensable, and choosing the right first job.
KC: It’s easy to get caught up in the college rat race of applying to and landing jobs. You start to think, “My friends all have jobs already, why don’t I?” But it is so important to choose your first job well and choose something you love. You have to look back on what you liked when you were a child. I always loved reading books- that really made me happy. So what I’m doing now at Random House really makes sense, given the person I have been all along in my life. When you try new things, the right answer will come along and you’ll know it. Don’t resist the detours. They often lead you down the most fulfilling path.
MK: Do you have any suggestions for how people can develop a more holistic understanding of the industry they want to pursue a career in?
KC: I went out to lunch with editors, publishers, online directors – and asked all of them questions about how they got to where they are. It’s great to hear their insight on where the business is going. Ask as many people as you can if they would be willing to grab coffee and meet with you. Young people don’t do that enough.
MK: What do you think are the characteristics of people who are wildly successful early on in their careers?
KC: I think you have to have a huge drive and a sense of where you’d like to be in one, three, ten years time. It’s hard to “measure” success. I measure it by how happy I am with my job. Finding joy in what you do for work is, to me, the most important thing. Finding the basic qualities you know you need to be happy, and then finding those in a job, is critical.
MK: What are the markers of indispensible people?
KC: I think curiosity. Whatever you are doing, always go above and beyond what you are asked to do. Always look for more and take everything as an educational opportunity, because that will keep you well informed and allow you to do your job exceptionally well.
MK: If you could go to college all over again, is there anything you’d do differently?
KC: I wish I had enjoyed all aspects of my class and didn’t over-worry about future plans. Don’t take your time in college for granted, because it’s such a privilege to research and write papers. It’s something you won’t do as often probably ever again unless you go to grad school. I would have just slowed down and taken more time to savor and enjoy the last few years of college.
MK: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career thus far?
KC: The importance of interpersonal skills- the ability to make those with you and around you be comfortable. The people who really succeed have social skills, and know how to navigate the grey area between personal and professional. The other thing is to find great mentors. They will really help guide you throughout your career- and really, your life.
MK: Do you have any advice for college students out there who are looking to work in the publishing industry?
KC: Don’t be scared away! It’s a very passionate industry, and I think that will keep the business alive in the future. It’s hard work to get your foot in the door, but be persistent. Know what you want. And you must love the area of the industry you are pursuing job opportunities in. If you don’t, you’ll be competing with too many people who really want to get that job. Don’t apply to jobs you don’t really love. You also have to be specific, but flexible. Don’t underestimate the power of a cover letter. Know what area of the publishing industry you want to work in and talk about specific products and interests.
MK: What motto do you live by?
KC: Publishing is a glamorous industry- unless you are in it! You have to appreciate what you are doing.
MK: What’s your advice to the soon-to-be college gradates out there?
KC: Be aggressive with what you want. Be very specific about what kind of job you are searching for. Write 15 great cover letters instead of 30 generic ones. When you tailor your cover letters, you’ll be more likely to get a response. Trust that things will work out. The path may not look the way you think it will, so you’ve got to be flexible. But trust that it’ll work out- it usually does.
Melissa is the Marketing Director at Baking for Good, an online bakery that donates 15% of the proceeds from every sale to a charity of the customer’s choice. Previously, she was an Associate Brand Manager at Time, Inc. working on brand extension projects for numerous publications including: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit, People, MLB, NFL and National Geographic. Melissa has a passion for magazines, writing, traveling and of course, the NY Jets. To find out more, read her blog, follow her on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.