Name: Amanda M. Karby
College & Majors/Minors: Hope College, BA English & Creative Writing; Emerson College, MA Publishing & Writing
Current Location: Boston, MA
Current Form of Employment: eBook Developer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I currently work at The MIT Press as a digital production coordinator, a detailed title for what I consider my core role: eBook developer. My job focuses on the digital production of the Press's frontlist titles as well as management and distribution of all our of digital book assets. When I graduated from Hope in 2010 and moved home to Metro Detroit, the prospect of getting a job locally in my desired field - publishing - was, as you can imagine, not so great. After taking a gap year, I moved to Boston in 2012 to get my master's and hopefully transition directly into publishing; I'm happy to say that's exactly what happened.
It's my ultimate goal to return home to Michigan to settle permanently (when the right career opportunity arises), but for now, Boston is an incredible city to be in if you're interested in pursuing book publishing.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I like to think I've had a fairly natural progression of an English major's intended career path: while an undergrad I was the editor of my college's literary magazine as well as a copyeditor for the newspaper. After school I took on a number of freelance clients that have stayed with me into graduate school, and while in graduate school I had a handful of editorially focused internships. One of these internships was a full academic year in the Digital Initiatives Group at MITP, where I now work. That's how I "found" this role.
You could probably say that my current job is my "first" job in that it's my first permanent, full-time, typical 9-5 gig. Before I was full-time at MITP, I was working as a temporary clearance editor in rights and permissions at Pearson - another typical 9-5, but not long-term. And of course beyond these roles, I've had my fair share of non-publishing-related jobs: supervisor at Edible Arrangements, college mail room clerk, and hair salon receptionist, to name a few.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Actually, when I think of anything writing-related that was important in my career, the jobs I've held don't come to mind first - my writing instructors from undergrad do. My professors and mentors at Hope were instrumental in my decision to move away from my home state, dive headfirst into publishing, and really go after what I wanted. Rhoda Janzen advised me to "be a shark" when applying to graduate schools; Dr. William Pannapacker supported my projects with Hope's literary magazine and interest in the digital humanities; Heather Sellers completely changed my views about writing, poetry, and living well; the list goes on.
Without these remarkable professors guiding me through my program, I doubt I would be in my current career - in fact, I probably would have changed majors. I'm indebted to them and Hope's English department as a whole.
Additionally - this may sound trite - rejection has been very important to my career. I was rejected from my top choice grad school, the university I'd been dreaming of attending my entire life. Without that rejection, I would have never come to Emerson, where my life and career changed in the biggest way imaginable. I've also been rejected from so many "dream jobs" I've lost count. Do not lose hope when rejection comes your way. It's all part of the process.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Like I mentioned in the previous question, seeking to learn as much as possible from my professors was high on my list. I think we as English majors (especially those in my graduating class, who finished school in arguably the worst part of the recession) are often fearful of our futures and what we can do with our degrees. While in college, I wanted to try to get as close to publishing as I could, considering my degree was much more writing-focused: editing the lit mag, copyediting for the paper, attending as many readings as I could. And, of course, researching graduate schools! If you think grad school might be the best route for you, do your research and make sure to cast your net wide.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
If you're an English student and are interested in the world of book publishing, stay positive: the industry is changing in huge ways, most of them exciting. From a digital publishing perspective, specifically, there is a lot of opportunity for growth and learning.
As much as it's annoying to hear these things, internships and networking are invaluable. Get as much real world experience as you can, and make sure to keep your network strong; LinkedIn is a really great tool that I think too many students (and professionals) underutilize. The world of publishing and writing is pretty small! Get to those networking events. Stay in touch with your professors and peers from school. Above all else, take Rhoda's advice and be a shark - English majors have a wealth of marketable, desirable skills. Show 'em what you're made of. Last bit of advice: ALWAYS send thank you notes. For interviews, for speakers, for events, even for job rejections. Learn the art of saying thank you - it means so much.