How to arrange a professional placement

In addition to coursework and a final project report, the Master of Publishing Program also includes one four-month professional placement, which can be completed anywhere.

Students take the lead in arranging their own professional placement (with the support of the faculty and the industry), with the process beginning as the first semester of school comes to a close. In January and February students begin to finalize the details, and by April most students have their placements arranged. The placements typically run May to August (around 12 weeks). Students enter their placements at a higher level than traditional interns, and have more input in how the placement will work. For example, students are encouraged to brainstorm challenges in a particular area of publishing they are interested in and then present solution-based proposals.

Professional placements are arranged in consultation with the faculty in the Department of Publishing, who help students determine what their goals and aims are and then suggest professional placements that may be a good fit or industry professionals they should connect with.

So what steps do you take to find a placement?

  1. Determine your interests. What type of publishing are you drawn to? The list of areas to explore is very long—starting with book publishing in the first semester and ending with magazine publishing in the second semester. Be open to plans changing and to new ideas coming your way.
  2. Connect with guest lecturers. Introduce yourself to them after class, send them a thank you email or tweet, or invite them out for coffee. This is the time to grow your network and connect with many people who will support you throughout your career.
  3. Research different publishers. Check out their websites, go to their events, and and become familiar with the types of books they publish.
  4. Set up informational interviews with publishers that pique your interests. An informational interview is very similar to a regular job interview, except you are the one asking the questions. Call or email publishers you are interested in doing your professional placement with and ask if you could arrange an informational interview to help you get to know more about the company because you are interested in working for them.

You can ask things like:

  • What kind of work do you usually have students do?
  • Are there any interesting projects going on that I would be able to be a part of?
  • What kind of instruction would I receive here?
  • How many students do you usually have at once?
  • What is the culture of the workplace like?
  • Why do you like about working here? Is there anything you don’t like?
  • What are you able to offer in terms of compensation?
  • Are there opportunities for employment following my placement?
  • Is there anything else you think is important for me to know?

Make sure to follow up the interview with a personalized thank you email or card.

  1. Watch the Quill & Quire job board and follow SFU Publishing on Twitter and Facebook for professional placement postings. Some placements are competitive and you will need to apply for them as you would a regular job. Other placements are arranged more casually, but you will still need to send your placement your resume for them to have on file.
  2. Update your resume and cover letter. SFU has Career Education Specialists available at each campus to help one-on-one with resume and cover letter writing, mock interviews, networking strategies, and more.  

Remember that it is going to be okay. Everyone finds a placement and that faculty are here to support you throughout the process.