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Mentor Corner:  Zakiya Jamal

Marketing Manager, Atria Books / Simon & Schuster

What was your first job in publishing?

My first full-time job was Digital Marketing Assistant at Tor Book Group.

What was your career path like getting to your current role?

It was long. When I first got interested in publishing, I thought I’d be an editor like a lot of people do. However, after three internships, I realized that wasn’t the path for me. My fourth internship was in marketing/publicity and that really clicked for me. Still, it took some time after that before I got my first job. I didn’t start working full-time until three years after I graduated from college, and so while I loved my first job, I think I would’ve done anything at that point. I was there for a little over a year before I got another job as a Social Media Manager, where I stayed for two and half years before quitting for a lot of reasons but mainly low pay. After that, I freelanced for a bit before a friend told me about the Marketing Manager position at Atria. The job sounded perfect for me, and I actually knew someone there who thankfully passed along my resume, and the rest is history.

What advice would you give to those who are either just starting out or are in their first few years in publishing?

I would say publishing, no matter what department you’re in, can take a lot more than it gives. I think when I first started, I thought working overtime and stretching myself thin was the cost of doing what I love. But it’s not. You can love the work that you do and still recognize that loving it isn’t enough to sustain you. You need to use your vacation days and find a work-life balance. And you need to speak up and advocate for yourself, even when it’s scary. Also, find your people, whether that’s your coworkers or other publishing folks. Find the people you can vent to who get it, because they’ll keep you afloat.

What did you learn in your time away from publishing after quitting your Social Media Manager position?

When I quit my job, I definitely had this fear that I had made a mistake. I had worked so hard to get to where I was and I knew there were so many people who’d love to have my job. I think that’s why we accept the low pay that we do and feel guilty about taking time off or complaining. We have been led to believe that these jobs are amazing and important, and we’re lucky to do them and we should be grateful. That isn’t to say what we do isn’t important, but ultimately what I realized once I was gone was it was actually just a job. I was great at it, sure, but it didn’t define me. I didn’t become less important without my title. And if I wanted to, I could do something outside of publishing. I tried new things through freelancing and temping, and when I applied for jobs I cast a wide net. It just so happened that I found a job in publishing again that I was actually really excited about, and the pay was good, so I came back. But now I know that if I felt I needed to leave, I could.

Check out more from the Early Career Committee.

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