Publishing Trendsetter is a production of Market Partners International and Publishing Trends.

Bye, Guys; Be Nice: Thoughts on Peer Mentoring & Fond Farewell

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From the Editor’s Desk

More than two years after I (somehow) convinced my extraordinarily generous bosses to let me start a Publishing Trends spin-off for young publishing professionals, I’m off to start something new: I’m headed off to work in Subsidiary Rights at Simon & Schuster.

I would never have pursued this new area of book business as I have without the perspective my job at Trendsetter provided. So, for me at least, Trendsetter has more than delivered on its founding goal of enriching young book professionals’ careers by giving a “birds-eye view” of the industry they’d entered at such a pivotal moment. But as I’ve prepared to move on, I’ve begun to notice another vital resource that this project has provided all along, although it went unmentioned in any of the Mission Statements I drafted in early 2011. As much as we have focused on access to long-range perspective, Trendsetter has been an incredible source of peer mentoring.

These several years of writing for and talking to my professional cohort has taught me that one’s peers’ perspectives provide a unique kind of professional guidance. Those of us who entered the publishing industry post-2008 (or thereabouts) are heirs not only to a different way of doing book business, but to a different way of doing any kind of business. Expectations of internships, assumptions of digital savvy, and changed models of publishing are things only the under-30 crowd have experienced from the entry level.

“Peer mentorship” is probably just a subtle aspect of networking–a skill/ritual that any smart professional will (rightly) harp on endlessly. Networking is how you get your next job, and it’s how you get access to resources to do exciting things in the job you have. Networking is to be done widely, and with people of as many ages as possible.

I’ll admit that the “learn from each other” is also usually tacit in The Networking Ritual. But there’s a longevity and focus to the word “mentor” that I think we miss out on with our peers by seeking mentoring relationships exclusively with those 10 or more years ahead of us in their career. What’s more, as the very smart founders of The League of Assistant Editors pointed out to me a few weeks ago, the connective powers of social media with which Millennials are deeply endowed make it downright silly not to digitally seek out professional relationships with more of one’s peers.

Therefore, my parting words as the Editor of Publishing Trendsetter are twofold. First, endless thanks for mentoring me by through all that you shared as readers and contributors. Second, keep mentoring each other. Here are a few ways to get started:

WHO? A peer mentor is at a relatively similar career juncture to you, and “talks shop” in a way that’s fun and enriching enough to make you want to continue the conversation across weeks or months, or even years. Like any mentor, remember that a peer mentor doesn’t have to be best, or even close, friend material. All that’s required is mutual respect and complimentary styles of communication.

It’s great to find someone 3 or 4 years ahead or behind you career-wise, with whom you can nurture a more traditional mentor-mentored relationship. But also look for more fluid relationships: someone who mentors you in some areas, while you offer guidance in others.

Connect with people specializing in areas very similar to you: You can offer each other support that uniquely you can give.

Connect with people whose specialties differ dramatically from yours: They’ll widen not only your understanding of the book industry’s scope, but introduce you to different ways of approaching a career trajectory. Work in genre fiction? Connect with people in academic publishing. Develop digital platforms? Find someone you admire at a super literary, book-as-object press. If you work in-house, find people with unusual outlier jobs at associations, foundations, and festivals.

HOW? I think this is mostly about bringing a new perspective to the networking you’re already doing, whether in person or on LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, and anywhere else. Asking a question on Twitter has brought some wonderful mentors my way, as has writing a note to a blogger or even someone interviewed in an article by someone else, saying “thank you for pointing this out in a way I’d never thought of.

Initiate conversation. Ask questions. Listen deeply. Send thank you notes. Be especially generous to the people who don’t have anything to offer you right now.

And stay in touch! Kimberly Lew will be taking care of Trendsetter for now, and its next chapter promises to be a great one. I can’t wait to read what comes next.

Very gratefully yours,
ELISABETH WATSON

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  1. […] Trendsetters! As you may be aware, we’ve had some recent changes in staff, but Publishing Trendsetter is still alive and kicking, and we are excited to continue giving you […]

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