The Careers Adviser

Do I need more study to enter magazine publishing? Can I get into the local produce sector?
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The Independent Online

Publish or be damned

Q. I studied media and cultural studies at university for four years before going into marketing. I am not enjoying it as much as I expected. Magazine publishing and design is my real passion, but I do not know how to get into it. It seems you either need at least two years' experience or a postgraduate degree in publishing. I don't want to go back to university as I am in debt already.

A. The real difficulty here may be not your lack of qualifications but a lack of focus. Publishing and design are very different things.

Magazine publishers are overwhelmed with job applications, and you won't stand out without making it clear exactly where your passion lies. If it is in working on magazines dealing with design, and you have some experience in the area, you could capitalise on that by making some approaches in this niche sector. The best way to get published is to write something for a niche magazine or website.

If you are more interested in design as in the layout and illustration of pages, it will be difficult to establish yourself without training. Think about what aspect and sector of publishing you are interested in: is it consumer/general interest; special interest (see www.myfavouritemagazines.co.uk); business to business (or trade ) magazines; customer magazines; or in-house publications? You don't have to go back to university - there are Periodicals Training Council (PTC)-accredited short courses available (see www.periodicalstrainingcouncil.org). The PTC publishes Your Future in Magazines, a guide to jobs. You could also seek to use your existing skills in marketing.

Food for thought

Q. Having graduated, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a theatre director. I took a temping job and they offered me a permanent administrative role. I am now facing up to the fact that a theatrical career is impossible to sustain without alternative skills and income! I am passionate about the promotion of organic, local and sustainable food. How do I find a job in this field? What experience do I need to get on to my CV?

A. This is a new, vibrant industry where enthusiasm and commitment is still sought after rather than qualifications, though business acumen and a creative approach rate highly. Box schemes supplying locally grown fruit and vegetables from one or more farms are booming, and graduates who joined as customer service staff have been known to end up looking after buying or becoming MD; there's that kind of opportunity.

Tracy Maxted, HR manager at one of the biggest operations, Abel and Cole, which delivers in the Home Counties, London and the South and West, says you need "the right attitude and professional skills" - initiative and commitment to service. Abel and Cole grew from a staff of three in 1988 to 230 this year. Riverford Organic Vegetables offers franchises (and training to run them), but you could need capital of £20,000 to make the start-up.

Talk to people at one of the bigger box schemes near by, or local retailers. The Soil Association ( www.soilassociation.org) lists a surprising number of groups and organisations working to promote local, sustainable food. Farma, which looks after all aspects of selling direct by local producers, has a website ( www.farma.org.uk).

Careers adviser: Andy Jackson, head of C2, the Careers Group, University of London.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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