How to transition from EA to editor?
June 5, 2012 11:40 AM   Subscribe

I'd like a career transition from an Assistant to copy-editor/editor. What steps can I take while holding this job to help me prepare to be competitive for the new type of job?

I've worked as an assistant to the president of an organization for 7 years. Part of that job entails drafting and editing letters, speeches, and board materials. However, I haven't held any position that would indicate that kind of work in the title. I'm afraid resume reviewers will skip right over my application. Are there kinds of outside work, classes, or certification tests that could help me? I know that I'll have to start from scratch, but I would take anything in the writing/editing/fact-checking field to get started.
posted by jymelyne to Writing & Language (9 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should have added: I've read the advice on here for new editors and writing tips, like this - - but I'm more looking for advice on how to break in mid-career.
posted by jymelyne at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2012

When I was a wee editorial assistant, lo those many years ago, I took a copy editing and proofreading class (I think through NYU continuing ed's publishing certificate program). Many universities will have classes like that, and certificates, which would look good on a resume. Freelance work, too, would help bulk it up (think freelance copy editing, proofreading, copywriting).

My experience is only in book publishing, but here starting from scratch really does mean editorial assistant/entry level, for which it seems your experience would more than qualify you, especially with some additional experience like classes and freelance work. Many editorial assistants (myself included) were interns first, but you'd have at least an experienced leg up on them.

It may be harder if you want to make more of a lateral move (i.e. not start at the bottom).

There are also full courses like the Denver Publishing Institute, the Columbia Publishing something-or-other, and NYU has a similar program--probably other schools do too, I don't know.
posted by editrixx at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even though your title doesn't contain the word editor or writer, you can certainly highlight those functions in any cover letter and resume.

In terms of classes, check out the Education section at the Editoral Freelancers Association. They have both online and in-person offerings (depending on your location). The Northwest Independent Editors Guild has a list of courses in Portland and Seattle, as well as some other distance/online learning options. You also can check continuing education programs at your local colleges/universities; a number of them periodically offer courses in proofreading, copyediting, etc.

Good luck!
posted by scody at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

EA means "executive assistant," rather than "editorial assistant," right?
posted by rhizome at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all! Very helpful resources, editrixx and scody. Do you think there's any hope of starting out at anything other than editorial assistant?

rhizone, yes, that is what I meant by EA.
posted by jymelyne at 12:59 PM on June 5, 2012

Caveat: My experience is in the dark, shadowy domain of textbook publishing, so it probably doesn't apply universally.

On starting out as something higher than an EA (that is, editorial assistant): I suppose anything's possible, but I didn't see it happen too often. More accurately: I didn't see it happen ever. There is a lot of incentive to promote good EAs, not least of which is that you don't want them to go work for a competitor. Likewise, if you're bringing in someone from outside the organization for a mid-level position, it's more valuable to bring in a low-level EA from a competing publisher than someone with no experience in the industry.

However, I DID see people come in as executive assistants to publishers/presidents and then move into assistant or associate editor positions. They put in their time doing straight-up administrative work, kept expressing interest in doing more editorial stuff, finagled their way onto smaller projects and so on. Some publishers were amenable to this; some just wanted a great exec assistant with no editorial ambitions.

Nthing the idea of taking a course or a certificate in publishing.
posted by ann_disaster at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2012

What do you want to edit? Do you really want to be a copyeditor? Or do you want a professional job that involves lots of writing and editing? They are not the same thing.

It sounds to me like you're a good casual writer and editor, but copyediting professionally is a pretty specific skill set. Take a class or get a certificate, and then get an internship where you can suck at being a copyeditor for a while. (Just the rhythm of looking everything up -- knowing that you have to look everything up! -- takes some practice.)

But it sounds like you have plenty of skills for a non-publication job that involves writing and editing. Highlight them in your cracking cover letter!
posted by purpleclover at 1:59 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agreed with purpleclover, regarding copyediting. Something that may work in your favor, though, is that if you are one of those people that can look at a page and have all the errors jump out at you, your specific experience or degrees won't matter nearly as much. It is a field in which what you can do matters so much more than where or if you went to school, what you look like, or what your social skills are. (Clearly, since I seem to be able to land jobs. ;] )

Nearly any place you apply for an editing/copyediting/proofreading job will give you a grammar and spelling test, so even if you don't have clips (years of my experience are from places where I wasn't allowed to keep any samples of my work) you can still put your money where your mouth is.

And also agreed with those who have said to freelance as a way to get your foot in the door -- yes. Not only will you probably make some good contacts (editing is a small, small world) and build up your resume, you'll get practice, which you can't ever have enough of.
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:58 PM on June 5, 2012

I went from executive assistant to assistant editor. People covered a lot of what I was going to say, but I'd be happy to chat on mefimail if you have any questions!
posted by fillsthepews at 10:18 PM on June 5, 2012

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