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20 October 2022

Practical career development: editorial and commissioning skills

It is May 2022, and the Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers (ALPSP) is running its first live training event since 2019, at the Bristol Watershed. Editorial and commissioning staff covering the humanities, social, environmental, life sciences, technology, engineering, medical and business are gathered after a two-year hiatus. It’s a full house of recent starters and early career professionals. The buzz is palpable and overwhelmingly positive. Their enthusiasm and appetite to engage, learn and employ newly acquired knowledge and skills is evident.

The purpose of the course

As a result of the global pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, new starters and early career staff had been unable to experience and access the physical workspace and its advantages. In-person support from peers or line managers, the inclusiveness of a shared office space and interfacing with colleagues in roles not directly related to their own, were lacking for many. The ALPSP Training Committee resolved to deliver a practical career development course that equipped early careers editorial and commissioning staff and those who were moving into a new position, perhaps their second job in scholarly and academic publishing. The course set out to address and distinguish internal communications from external communication; how to build effective relationships with colleagues and line managers, while accessing support and training. 

Remote working has brought challenges in building and maintaining successful external relationships, for example with editors, authors, and researchers, in the absence of attending meetings and industry events. Offices have since re-opened, but hybrid working practices are likely to continue for the foreseeable future, perhaps as the ‘new normal’. So how best to navigate your career development in this new work dynamic? 

ALPSP runs and manages 36 virtual training courses annually. We sought to compensate for lack of in-person training and development by offering this course as an in-person event. It was important that experienced publisher panellists could share their senior management experiences and decisions during the pandemic, and also draw on their careers. The panellists represented a large academic journal, books and conference proceedings publisher and a university press publishing books and journals in humanities, arts, and social sciences.

The event aimed to deliver five objectives:

  • How to prepare and conduct in-person meetings, conferences, hybrid events and campus (faculty) visits
  • Effective follow up
  • Communications and relationship management
  • Build your community
  • How to network productively

This is in keeping with ALPSP as a collegiate membership; sharing information and knowledge is key to the strength of the scholarly publishing community. Practical career development courses such as this act as an introduction to other professional development and career support that ALPSP provides to all professionals, whatever their career stage. This includes the ALPSP mentorship scheme to drive engagement and learning, proven and relevant training courses, member webinars and the ALPSP Careers Hub. The Careers Hub is a growing resource which provides essential introductions to a wide selection of topics across scholarly publishing and is highly commended. 

Five key take-aways from the day

  • You are not alone. From small group to whole room interaction with like-minded peers from similar career stages, the realisation that we face the same issues and experiences emerged.
  • Insightful, reassuring practical career advice by leadership in academic publishing on networking, commissioning across all publishing products including journals, books, and edited collections.
  • Rome was not built in a day. ‘Relationship building’ rather than the ‘intimidation’ of ‘networking’ is arguably a more appropriate expression of our career development and navigation. Build out your community on trust over time and with increasing confidence. 
  • Internal and external relationship building are equally valuable. 
  • Find a mentor or seek mentorship whatever your career stage.

David Barker

Jeremy Brinton is Head of Sales: Education | Academic | Professional at Glassboxx, Trustee of The Book Trade Charity and a Training Committee Member – ALPSP.

For more information about similar events and other ALPSP training, visit the ALPSP website. You can also follow ALPSP on FacebookTwitter and LinkedIn.