It is a truth universally acknowledged, that literary quotations will become bastardised by overuse. And it is a sport beloved of literary nerds everywhere to spot misuses of ‘Catch-22’. But I would argue that there is an experience common to many recent graduates, and especially those with a penchant for media, publishing or the arts, which genuinely warrants this label: finding a job.
The dilemma is a simple one. Without having prior experience you cannot find a job. Yet without finding a job you cannot gain experience. Without which, of course, you cannot find a job. Which is in a way impressive; I don’t think many envisage graduating university only to be blocked from further progression by logical paradox.
As the problem has worsened, three distinct routes for bypassing it seem to have emerged. The first of these is familiar:
1. Good, old-fashioned Nepotism – gaining experience through your parents’ connections.
The second has emerged recently, and is what I will affectionately call:
2. Nepotism Plus – gaining experience through your parents’ bidding for internships via auction (yes, these do exist).
The third is the unpaid internship, which have proliferated wildly over the last few years. I don’t intend to get too much into the debate about whether it is feasible or sustainable to expect young people to do boring tasks for free in the hope that it will help their future job prospects, but I will just point out that average expenses tend to just about cover a short bus and train journey within London and a Pret sandwich (if you are lucky). So:
3. Be proactive and, more importantly, lucky. And live in London. Preferably within Zone 2. If these options are not open to you (your dad doesn’t play tennis with Greg Dyke; you live in Derby or (worse) Wales) then unfortunately your prospects for evading the above-identified vicious circle without effectively paying for the privilege of doing admin look slim.
Which is why we at whitefox have been thinking long and hard about finding a way between the horns of this particular dilemma. We may be too small to give each and every talented and promising graduate a job, but we are well connected. We are a network of specialisms and skills. We are 21st century publishing unbundled. So at some time in the next few months we will be running a book publishing ‘Summer School’ event, the first of what we hope will be many future workshops led by some of the best editors, cover designers, marketeers and publicists in the business. We want the people who are at various points on the ladder to share their experiences and tips. We want to open up the possibilities of gaining practical skills that talented young people can use to earn money by making a material difference within the publishing process. It may not be enough to solve all the problems, but hopefully it will start to lift the curtain on our world and give anyone interested a good peek inside.