Career tips from an Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House
By Manpreet Dhesi, on 19 March 2015
This blog post originally appeared on the Develop your Career blog
Paul Kilbey, Editorial Assistant at the Royal Opera House, shares his experiences in Arts publishing.
How did you get into your role?
I’ve wanted to work in publishing for a long time. I studied music at university but was always more interested in writing about it than performing or composing, so I gravitated towards jobs where I used language. After a while teaching English as a Foreign Language abroad, I moved to London and was lucky to be able to do a couple of internships, building up my professional experience. There were then a few years working in and around classical music for startups, and I got my current job in the Royal Opera House’s Publishing and Interpretation team a couple of months ago. I am also a freelance writer specializing in classical music; I write for a few magazines.
Over the last few years I have written a lot of articles for a number of predominantly online publications. This has been really important for developing my writing skills, although it hasn’t always been the same as a conventional grounding in journalism or publishing – it has all been fairly off the cuff, and online is totally different from print, both in terms of how it works and also the standard expected. All the writing made me well qualified for my current role – I’m an Editorial Assistant – but I still have plenty to learn.
What do you do day to day?
It’s very varied, and the workload changes depending on what projects are coming up. There is always work to do preparing for future productions, although of course it gets busier in the immediate run-up to a show. I have work to do in a number of areas including writing, proofreading, liaising with advertising clients and also working with publishing software.
What are the best things about working in your role?
My colleagues are very nice, and it’s an exciting place to work, with the rehearsals and performances happening all around us backstage. And after a few years with very small companies, I am still hugely enjoying the perks of working for a major employer – cafeteria, IT support, payroll department, etc. Most of all, the job is an ideal mixture of my interests – classical music and publishing. I’m lucky to be able to work in both at the same time.
What top tips would you pass on to a student interested in this type of work?
Firstly, it’s worth remembering that any sort of office experience is good. Employers want to know that you can be trusted to correspond with people in a professional manner. I had done very little office work on graduation, and this probably set me back a bit.
As for writing online – there can be huge benefits to doing this, but only if you’re serious and sensible about it, and aware of its limitations. Blogging can lead to all sorts of interesting things, and so can writing for the many websites out there that will take your content, publish it, and not pay you. But, unsurprisingly, doing this can also be very unrewarding, both financially and professionally. You shouldn’t confuse success in these media with professional experience in journalism or publishing per se. My advice is that if you’re considering writing for a blog or another website, it’s crucial to remember the value of what you’re doing. This means two things: firstly, that you know what you stand to gain from your writing, even if you’re not being paid (are you gaining useful experience? Exposure? Nothing at all?); and secondly, that you only write things that you’re confident are good enough to merit publication.