The Careers Adviser: 'Without experience, can I get into publishing? And how do I qualify to teach adults English?'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Out of academia

Q. I am a 28-year-old English literature student about to complete a PhD. I started out thinking that a career in academia was what I wanted; I now want to run as far away from it as I can. I would like to pursue a career in publishing, but feel over-qualified and under-experienced.

It is possible you could go into publishing – you would probably have to start some way down the ladder and earn your spurs on the way up. This may not feel ideal, but you are not offering vocational expertise like marketing or design, and you will be facing competition from those who have come into the business at a younger age or with some publishing experience.

If you are aiming at an editorial function, you could take a basic proofreading course for up to £400 (see, which also has extensive and realistic careers information). It is possible to move up the career ladder as a copy editor and even move on to become a commissioning editor, but nowadays, those who commission have not always moved up via the editorial department.

If you can afford it, you could even look up the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook or Publishers Association websites for information on companies from which you can seek out an (unpaid) internship.

The other, and possibly more productive route – unless you feel energetic and positive about publishing – is to start with a clean slate and explore areas totally unrelated to literature.

Face-to-face careers advice, which could include psychometric testing if you would find that useful; or research and some lateral thinking, might mean you come up with something which really inspires you, and not something you feel you might end up doing almost by default.

Write move

Q. How do I go about getting a qualification that would allow me to teach adults writing skills? In my current administration post I frequently see reports which are confusing, poorly written, overly technical or that simply miss the point. I am a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives and have a degree in English.

In England there is a requirement for adult literacy teachers to gain a full teaching and a subject specific qualification. There are plans to develop learning-support qualifications in the areas of adult literacy, numeracy and ESOL – English for speakers of other languages. However, you live in the Isle of Man, where the system is different.

Mark Boothroyd at the Isle of Man Careers Office (, which offers advice to all age groups, says there are no courses as specialised as this in the Isle of Man, although the Isle of Man College offers relevant part-time teaching and teaching assistant courses.

There may also be opportunities for voluntary teaching in basic skills, though paid employment opportunities are limited. He suggests that if you can get hold of relevant teaching materials, possibly from distance-learning providers or from other courses at the college which offer "business writing" as a module, you may be able to carve out a niche.

However, this is unlikely to lead to full-time employment, if that is what you are seeking.

C areers adviser: Anne-Marie Martin, director, 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