Monday, May 09, 2005

Editorial Career Advice: Show Me the Money!

As most editorial professionals know, this career path will not make you rich -- not even close. However, there are sectors that pay more than others. Eventually, you can make a decent living in this industry without being Anna Wintour or Helen Gurley Brown.

So, what sectors pay a decent wage?

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If you focus on advertising, pharmaceutical and/or the technical sectors, you will command more in salary than say, general trade, beauty, education and/or the nonprofit sectors.

Simple supply and demand at work here.

Publishing (advertising, media, journalism, etc.) is considered a glamour industry. So, the beginning salaries for the most part suck -- there's just no other way to put it. In New York, which many consider the publishing capital of the world, it is not uncommon to start out making 20-25K at popular magazines. Really!

If you know anything about the cost of living in New York City, you know that this will barely afford you a decent apartment with 3-4 other roommates -- forget about living on your own. It simply ain't gonna happen on an entry-level salary in the editorial industry.

However, if you focus on a less glamorous industry -- say working for a pharmaceutical company that publishes a trade newsletter -- your salary is likely to start higher and only grow as times goes on. Once you have some experience in a highly specialized discipline like medicine, science or technology, you can parlay those skills in a number of ways -- copywriter at a pharmaceutical advertising agency, editor at a scientific publication, freelancing as a technical writer.

In my experience, editorial is a very static industry -- magazines want people with magazine experience (not journal, book or newspaper experience); scientific publishers want professionals with a science background, etc. While this is understandable, it makes it hard to break into a particular field. Before you know it, you are pigeon-holed.

My advice to those just starting out -- focus on a highly prized (and paid) discipline from the get go. Even if you have to take a position in the copy center and segue way into the editorial department. Once you get that first bit of experience, it will be infinitely easier to climb on up the ladder.

And, what if you have already spent 3, 4, or 5 years in general trade and want to gain more specialized experience? Be willing to take a pay cut or make a lateral move to get your foot in the door at any company that will give you a chance to get specialized experience on your resume. Spend 1-2 years in this position and then move on up!
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