We get a lot of job application e-mails.
A lot of them are really flattering! People send us great e-mails about how much they like our books and would really like to work here, which is exactly the sort of e-mail that a person should send if they are endeavoring to get a job somewhere. ‘I know who you are and you’re really important to me personally’ is precisely what every employer wants to hear when they’re looking for new employees.
But do you know what the most important part of sending a successful job application e-mail?
(And I should note — I’m defining ‘a successful job application e-mail’ as one that actually results in you getting a job.)
The most important part of sending a successful job application e-mail is good timing.
If a small publisher is doing things right, they’re not always hiring. In fact, for a small publisher, the perfect job applicant is the one who is like, ‘my career goal is to work for you — this is the best possible job that I could have.’ Rather than hiring staff who will go on to new jobs in two or three or five years, small publishers (especially ones with a specific niche, like poetry! activism! graphic novels!) want to hire people who are committed to the books they’re publishing and the kinds of books they’re publishing.
This leads to small publishers having a lot of really wonderful, dedicated staff people.
But here’s the downside of that for all you aspiring job applicants: small publishers have really low staff turn-over.
Here at First Second, the last time we hired anyone was five years ago.
That’s great for us, because it means that we have really dedicated staff who really like their jobs and want to work here hopefully forever!
But for anyone else who wants to work here in the future, that’s really tough, because you can literally be waiting around for years on end before getting the opportunity to even apply for a job.
So if you’re looking at your very favoritest publisher and dreaming of a job there someday, it’s important to apply for a job right when they’ve got a position open — that’s really your best chance of getting a position. Doing that may require some online stalking. Do they have a twitter account, a facebook page, a tumblr, or a blog? Make sure to check those out every week and see if there’s any news about new job openings, or news about their staff members moving on to other jobs.
When there is an announcement like that — that’s when you want to pounce. Because seriously — even if you’re the best designer in the history of ever, we can’t give you a job right now. We already have a designer who’s the best designer in the history of ever, and she’s not leaving any time soon AND she knows all of our systems. You just can’t top that — no matter how good your resume is, we’re not going to fire someone else to give you a job.
In the meantime, feel free to send the sporadic casual note (once / year or less frequently) saying, ‘I know you have no job openings, but I just want to say I’d love to work for you some day because I love your books,’ engage publisher staff in light conversation at events or conventions, and take time to get the experience that would qualify you for a job at the publisher you love.