The field of scholarly publishing can feel very isolating. While organizations vary greatly in size and demographics, it can be challenging to network and connect with people whether you’re at a large or small publisher...
The field of scholarly publishing can feel very isolating. While organizations vary greatly in size and demographics, it can be challenging to network and connect with people whether you’re at a large or small publisher. Larger organizations tend to be very siloed, and you may feel discouraged from connecting with people outside of your immediate department. Of course, there are challenges to only networking with your direct coworkers, as this can limit honest conversations and relationships. Working for a smaller organization often means being one of a handful of employees, so your options to network may be limited to supervisors or a few other people. Furthermore, many university presses and scholarly societies and organizations are also in small, homogenous college towns, where it may be difficult to find people who you can connect with.
In addition to the social and psychological benefits of networking, it is also important to help share information and help each other work toward fair wages and equal treatment. As we know, supervisors and mentors often put more effort into training and helping junior staff who remind them of themselves. For an industry that is so homogenous, this means that the same types of people are prioritized for advancement. Through networking, you can discuss compensation, benefits, self-advocacy, opportunities for development/advancement, healthy relationships and work environments, and other factors that will help you assess whether your current role and employer is treating you fairly. As the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag showed, 1 communication about compensation can expose discriminatory disparities. This kind of information sharing can help you advocate for yourself with your current employer or identify other organizations that you may or may not wish to work for.
It should be noted here that you may feel pressure to network even if you don’t feel like it. Don’t worry about it! Sometimes we’re all just trying to do our jobs and get by. It is not a competition to rack up as many industry connections as possible, and you do not need to network. If you feel it may be good for your wellbeing or career opportunities, go for it. But know that you don’t constantly need to be expending energy in this way if you don’t feel it is beneficial.
That said, here are some resources for networking and career development:
BIPOC in Scholarly Publishing listserv: https://groups.google.com/u/1/g/bipoc-in-scholarly-publishing. Currently there are 80+ members on this listserv. You can adjust your settings to receive emails or not (so you can just bookmark it and check on the discussions when you feel like it). Common threads are about job openings, DEI initiatives, and BIPOC virtual events, but it can also be used to ask questions or network (e.g., arrange for in-person gatherings at conferences). Per the description: “This is a listserv for people who openly identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or Person of Color and who work in scholarly publishing to build community within our industry. Please feel free to send recommendations for other potential members to Caitlin (email@example.com) and Niccole (firstname.lastname@example.org) who are overseeing the listserv.”
AUPresses Diversity Job Boards resource page: https://jobs.up.hcommons.org/career-resources/diversity-job-boards-career-resources/. Provides links to different societies and organizations that may be of interest.
There’s info in the TFO Resources for job boards also.
People of Color in Publishing mentorship program: https://www.pocinpublishing.com/mentorship. This program is not specific to scholarly publishing and includes trade publishing professionals. Per the website: “The People of Color in Publishing Mentorship Program is a volunteer-based initiative that aims to create mentorship relationships between entry-level and experienced-level POC industry professionals. The initiative’s goal is to provide entry-level POC professionals a personal resource for support, guidance, and encouragement, as they begin to navigate a career in publishing.”
Paths in Publishing mentorship program: https://pathsinpublishing.wordpress.com/. Geared toward early career folks in general and not just BIPOC, but this program offers support in navigating one’s career. From the description: “A free mentorship program to help prepare early career applicants (moving into or out of entry-level jobs) for the work of applying to, interviewing for, and navigating negotiations of new positions in scholarly publishing.”
Employee resource groups or affinity groups: Many organizations and universities have groups and listservs that facilitate connecting to those outside of one's immediate business unit or press. email@example.com
BIPOC in adjacent industries: Similar to above, for in-person networking, don’t limit yourself to only publishing folks. Booksellers, librarians, and other communication professionals (among others) can be wonderful to connect with in your city.
Organizations outside of your employer that may offer free programming, scholarships, or other resources to help with professional development
C4DISC Free programming
GWU Publisher Career Building Series
GWU Ethics in Publishing Conference
For those working at a university press:
AUPresses Annual Meeting: In recent years, AUPresses has hosted a BIPOC networking event. As the annual meeting is alternating between virtual and in-person, this could provide an opportunity to connect with other BIPOC in publishing even if you do not go to the in-person meeting.
AUPresses Grants: You can apply to grants to cover expenses for attending the annual meeting, with specific grants for early career scholars, first-time attendees, and staff in different departments (which can be particularly useful, since some departments involve less travel and general networking opportunities than others).
AUPresses mentor-mentee pairings: The AUPresses Professional Development Committee sends out a call for people who would like to connect with a mentor/mentee around the time of the annual meeting. This is just a jumping off point, and relationships can continue beyond the meeting. While this is not specifically aimed to BIPOC, you can request to be paired with an editor of color or someone from a specific department (if you’re interested in exploring a new career track, for example).
Early and mid-career buddy system: Dom Moore and Becca Bostock started a buddy system in 2021 to foster peer-to-peer connections with people outside of your press. The sign-up for this program is closed currently but keep an eye out for this or similar initiatives via listserv announcements. For more background, see this Scholarly Kitchen interview.
AUPresses listservs: You can sign up for a variety of listservs from the AUPresses, including ones for early career staff, directors, and certain departments (acquisitions, marketing, production, etc.). See https://aupresses.org/resources/tags/email-lists/.
UP Commons groups: You can find additional discussions and groups through Humanities Commons. See https://up.hcommons.org/.
Mentors serve many functions, but most importantly, they should listen to you and help you achieve your goals in a manner that best suits you. They may help to connect you with others to build new relationships and expand your network, demystify processes, inform you of potential opportunities, offer their stories about navigating their careers, troubleshoot issues, or advocate for you. When embarking on a mentorship journey, it's essential to take the time to self-reflect, create a list of things you’re hoping to gain from your mentor, and then share this list with them. Doing so will facilitate matchmaking based on areas of interest and expertise.
For more on the different roles involved with mentorship and networking, see the Antiracism Toolkit for Organizations. It also offers best practices for effective mentorship.
Creating a “mentor map” can help you visualize your network of mentors and how these different connections may support you. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity offers a sample mentor map. Yours may be smaller or larger or contain different categories specific to your personal and professional goals.
Not all mentors are the same for everyone. Some communication styles work better together, and it is often better to find someone who you feel more comfortable with rather than forcing yourself to build a relationship that you think is clunky and ineffective. It’s okay to have different layers of mentorship and sponsorship relations—for example, someone may be an excellent resource for connecting you with potential opportunities, but you find that you don’t really learn much from them for whatever reason. To this point, you might wonder what is the difference between mentors and sponsors? Do you need them both? Under optimal circumstances, the answer to the latter is yes; you need both, mentors and sponsors. Mentors as described throughout this work are exceptional allies for assisting you in navigating a new organizational culture, learning the job, networking, and onboarding you into the dos and don’ts of a new work environment. Sponsors, on the other hand, are your best spokespersons. From personal experience, sponsors are more involved in your career success not necessarily your development, and are constant reminders of your discussed career goals. Sponsors find and often cede professional space for you to shine and to thrive." Put your energy into fostering relationships that are the most positive for you, and if you have the capacity, maintain bridges to other people so you can connect as needed. It’s great to see people at conferences and chat with them, but you may not want to get dinner with them. This all seems obvious, but it’s good to remember not to overextend yourself. When seeking mentors and sponsors put your energy into fostering relationships that are the most positive for you.
Build a communicative relationship that works best for you. For example, some people may feel most comfortable talking to their mentor over coffee/drinks as needed, while others may want to set up formal meetings that are on a set schedule. Some mentors are capable of different styles of communication, and they can engage with you as you prefer. On the other hand, some mentors are more rigid in their view of mentorship and communication, and if you don’t think you’re getting value from the relationship, it’s okay to de-prioritize it and look for others instead.
Try to connect with mentors outside of your organization, as they can offer additional perspectives and give you some distance from your immediate workplace. It’s immensely valuable to see how things work at other organizations, and you can leverage this knowledge to make positive changes in your own organization (not that you’re responsible for changes and improvements, but you can bring ideas to others who could implement them). Having a mentor within your own organization is also valuable, as they have institutional knowledge and can respond more precisely to particular issues or questions.
You can also find great mentors in other departments. They may not have in-depth knowledge about your work and department policies, but this can be valuable to provide a perspective that is a bit removed from your day-to-day work. And they can still advocate for you within the organization as well as provide an outlet for talking about your employer or the industry in general.
It should also be noted that you can be an effective mentor even as an early career professional. As calls for mentors go out in the industry, do not shy away from volunteering even if you just have a year or two of experience. You don’t have to be an absolute expert on everything in the industry in order to be extremely helpful to and supportive of others.
As already described, code switching is stressful and tiring for many. Krystle Dorsey, M.Ed., career services professional, writer, and social justice advocate, has some tips for managing the side effects of code switching.
Be around those with whom you can be your true self. Get involved with volunteer groups, etc., that align with your beliefs and values. Find your people.
Look for role models who have faced workplace challenges similar to yours. Observe them, get to know them, and consider asking them to be your mentor.
Pay attention to how you are feeling. Code switching takes a lot of energy. The more you have to do it, the more it wears you out mentally and physically. Listen to your body and allow yourself some self-care.
Build trust and publicize your cultural differences. Some won’t understand your cultural background. Others may assume they do, leading to some uncomfortable interactions. If you think someone is making an effort to get to know you in a sincere way, consider opening yourself up.
Do not feel obligated to educate others in DEI settings. Determine what you wish to share while realizing you have no obligation to do so. And if someone offends you but does not own the mistake, fails to apologize, or continues to offend you, let them go. It’s not worth your energy.
Know when it is not working for you. If you find yourself emotionally drained, psychologically distressed, or mentally fatigued after trying these tips, consider moving on from your workplace. If you are being discriminated against, harassed, or attacked, and you do not feel safe even after taking the proper measures to alleviate your grievances, then it may be time to go. You deserve to work in an organization that treats you with respect.
Beware of tokenism. When non-white people are allowed a seat at the table of the privileged, they are often expected to follow white norms and act accordingly. Having a few people of color in leadership positions can give an organization false assuredness about how equitable their workplace really is—they may believe their workplace inclusivity issues solved through these few hires. Additionally, “tokens” may be put in the uncomfortable position of representing or speaking for an entire minority group. In an institutional context, tokenism can be used to conceal discriminatory and racist practices. 2 Marla Baskerville Watkins of Northeastern University, Aneika Simmons of Sam Houston State University, and Elizabeth Umphress of the University of Washington wrote that, if organizations with fewer than 15 percent BIPOC on a team or in a department, they are likely to suffer from harassment or discrimination. 3
It is believed that Socrates, the philosopher from Athens, Greece, began the self-care movement in the fifth century. He believed that to find wisdom and virtue, one must look into themselves. Their soul should be taken care of before all else. For others, self-care is defined as taking care of your physical and mental health to be the best you can be. Many practice self-care but the idea was amplified in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. For some people of color, practicing self-care seemed more than necessary after the murder of George Floyd.
Being a citizen of the world is stressful, watching the news is stressful, life overall is stressful. Being BIPOC along with all that has been mentioned is even more stressful. If you need to step back, step down, or step away, you should. All of that is a form of self-care. It’s also a form of self-preservation but we will focus on self-care in this space.
Let’s start with defining what self-care is not and what it is. First, it is not an act of selfishness. Second, it is about caring for yourself in any way you choose. According to Essence magazine, “Self-care is about making an effort to focus on your own needs — whatever they may be.”
To me, self-care looks different but the same every day, in the sense that it looks like listening to my body and my heart, but can manifest as a dance session, sobbing like I need to flood my bedroom, dressing to the nines to go to the grocery store, or reaching out to my community. I intentionally practice self-care daily because there was a time when I took care of everyone but me, and it was killing my spirit. I realized I deserve to exist, to thrive and only through nurturing myself is that possible.
—Bianca Augustin, Black femme, she/her, constantly growing and healing
If you’ve ever been on a plane, you may remember the instructions given to all passengers is to use the oxygen mask on yourself before giving the mask to someone else. You are of no use to anyone else if you are not your best self.
You don’t need an elaborate plan. Self-care can include reading daily affirmations, trips to the gym, a book and a glass of wine, or a weekly chat with close friends. You can also contact mental health organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), Better Help, or download the Youper app, Online Therapy With Or Without Insurance - Youper/. There are also many free emotional well-being resources (See Resources).
Oftentimes, and sadly, the publishing industry is not necessarily the right career path for our skill sets, talents, and aspirations. From low wages, lack of promotion possibilities, long hours without extra pay, non-existent professional development opportunities, to the centered whiteness that becomes unbearable, there may come a time for you to leave the publishing field, not just the job. Yet leaving the publishing field does not mean you are leaving the professional world. And so, before you turn in your resignation letter, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
Exit Interview: Even if it is not offered to you, you should request an exit interview with your supervisor and/or the head of your organization. Additionally, planning an interview with your human resources officer or unit can be another option. An exit interview offers you the opportunity to have an honest and professional conversation about your experience from what worked well for you, challenges you faced, to sharing the reasons behind your departure from the job and publishing career path. For some folks, the exit interview is a moment to share only the bad and ugly with the Director. For others, it is an opportunity to offer constructive feedback with specific details so that the next BIPOC colleague does not encounter as many difficulties or challenges in the field. Lastly, before scheduling your exit interview, I would recommend that you write down your thoughts, organize them, and practice, practice, practice.
Request References: While the exit interview can provide you some professional closure, it can also offer you the opportunity to ask your soon-to-be ex-supervisor to be a reference for you. One never knows when you will need a letter of reference and think of this request as maintaining good professional contacts and lines of communication open.
LinkedIn Connections: Before your last day of employment, make certain to connect with co-workers on LinkedIn. There are many benefits to adding connections and developing a wide professional network, i.e., you will appear in peoples’ search results, and it will help you forge new professional connections across careers. And, if you do not have a LinkedIn profile, start one immediately and keep it up to date.
Indeed, Editorial Team, How to Ask Your Current Employer for a Reference (With Steps) https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/reference-from-current-employer
Kern Carter, Why are so many editors leaving publishing? And how does it impact authors? https://medium.com/cry-mag/why-are-so-many-editors-leaving-publishing-8f4d9ee598b3
LinkedIn Youtube video, Adding Connections on LinkedIn https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0i7iXrm38h8