Many students in the Editing and Publishing programs at BYU grew up with a love of books. We were those kids who brought home piles of books from the library, devouring novels left and right. For many of us, the editing dream started with a desire to work on books similar to those we grew up loving. This was how I got started. I loved writing reviews about books and analyzing what worked and what didn’t. My dream started with a desire to edit young adult bestsellers for one of the “Big 5” publishers.
Then I came to BYU and started in the Editing and Publishing program. Two years later, I’ve since discovered that while I would still love working in fiction publishing, my niche is magazine publication and technical editing. How did I end up here? And how does one discover what their niche is? Read on, friends.
Why should I find a niche?
The Editing and Publishing program is one of the few undergraduate programs in the US to focus on the publishing industry—therefore, it sets a strong editing foundation for students hoping to enter a field. Those who graduate from the major or minor will be qualified to work as an editor anywhere someone will hire them. That said, having an editing niche or specialty can help you in a few ways:
- A niche provides personal purpose and clear direction on how to continue personally developing your skills. There are so many things to learn, but if you have one area of focus you can become a master.
- A niche makes it easier to market yourself as an editor because you now a clear audience in mind. This is especially true if you are a freelancer.
- A niche will broaden your job search. You will be a qualified applicant for both general editing positions and specialized positions within a certain industry.
How can I find my niche?
There are so many exciting opportunities for networking and learning at college. Here are ten ways you can start to discover your editing niche.
Pay attention to the things that interest you in your classes. When I took DIGHT 230: Introduction to Print Publishing, I fell in love with the magazine layout project. This was one of the first experiences that taught me I have a real interest in editing for magazines.
Develop the different skills you have. For example, do you like art? Perhaps you decide you want to edit for the arts. Consider taking more art classes so that you are familiar with the arts and can edit for those fields. Part of finding your niche is learn about the niche, not just working in it.
Volunteer with different student journals. There are over 20 student journals at BYU— from Leading Edge, the science fiction and fantasy journal; to Intuition, the academic psychology journal; to Criterion, the literary analysis journal; to AWE: A Woman’s Experience, the Global Women’s Studies journal. With so many journals to choose from you can gain editing experience, earn major credit, and figure out what content you enjoy working with! To get started, come to the Student Journal Fair hosted by STET at the beginning of the Fall and Winter semesters!
Interview professionals. Look up former BYU editing alumni or editors at companies you really admire and might be interested. Reach out to them and ask for advice and information about their career. Most people are happy to spend a few minutes answering questions in order to help you get a good start in the industry.
Talk to the editing professors. The editing professors are some of the nicest people you’ll meet on campus. They want you to succeed, and as current professionals, they know how to help you. Additionally, they each bring a different background in editing. They can give you advice about the fields you’re considering, and even give you contacts who you could reach out to for informational interviews.
Think about the books and articles that you like to read. Choose a topic that you know you love and go from there.
Offer editing services to your friends. Do you have roommates who write lots of papers? Or friends that like to write novels or poetry? Offer to help them with their work. While it may take valuable time, you’ll not only be practicing your editing skills but also figuring out what type of content you like to work with. Working with real content is so helpful in deciding what interests you.
Try something new. Perhaps you don’t think you’ll like technical editing because it sounds boring. That’s okay, still give it a try! You might find that you really like it.
Get an editing job on campus. You might be surprised at how many editing jobs are available at BYU alone. You can work for professors individually, college departments and organizations, and other clubs. Look for job openings or announcements on the BYU jobs board, or on the Linguistics email list and see if you can snag one that interests you. This can provide editing experience in different fields from science to media arts. For example, I work in the McKay School of Education editing PR material. This job has helped me realize that I like editing news articles.
Come to events! The STET club *wink* and the Linguistics department throw many events throughout the academic year that can help you determine your interests. For example, STET has the previously mentioned Student Journal Fair, and every Winter semester the Linguistics department hosts an internship fair where many employers with various editing needs come to campus. Watch for helpful events and make them a priority!
Even will all these awesome ideas, don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the pressure to pick a niche now. You’ll be at school for a couple years, you are earning a strong degree, and there are so many opportunities available to you! Start exploring and having fun with different projects, but don’t pressure yourself to pick a niche now. Chances are that as you engage with the people around you your niche will come naturally.
WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW: Decide where you are in the learning process and pick something (either from this list or another idea) that you can do to explore available editing opportunities.
Written by Hannah Mortenson.