Employability Round Up! by Beatrice Massa

Employability Series:  Here’s a recap of what happened last semester

I am sure many of you are aware of the talk series run by Dr Alexia Bowler, our very dedicated Employability Officer. However, in case you are thinking of joining Swansea University next year and want to know more about this initiative or, due to the current pandemic, you have lost track of it, here is a quick recap of last semester’s talks and advance notice of the next few!

5th November 2020: Getting into Publishing

Is publishing for you?

Cathy Scott works as Senior Editor at Palgrave in the Language and Linguistics division, and she came to talk to us about her experience getting into publishing. Like many of us, Cathy studied English Literature and Language for her undergraduate and, when she decided to pursue a career in the publishing industry, she completed a master’s in Publishing and did some internships in small publishing companies, helping out in various departments.

Cathy’s typical day

Cathy’s work-life balance is rather good: she usually works 9 to 5, sometimes from home (even before the pandemic). Her typical day consists of looking at book proposals, organising peer reviews, writing and replying to emails, participating in internal and external meetings, and preparing for conferences. Conferences usually take place from March to September and, in normal times, involve a lot of travelling, which Cathy indicates as one of the perks of her job, as well as one of academic publishing in general.

Cathy’s tips

Publishing is a very competitive field, but getting a foot in the door is not impossible. Here are Cathy’s tips to make this possible. 

Don’t be picky: even if young adult fiction is your favourite genre, do not just focus on young adult fiction positions, because it will greatly limit your options. Furthermore, speaking from experience, Cathy told us that it is better to keep what you read for pleasure separate from what you read for work.

Check editorial press: websites like The Bookseller and The Society of Young Publishers have specialised sections dedicated to publishing jobs, as well as articles about the publishing industry.

Get experience: internships in small publishing companies allow you to get exposure to the various departments and roles. Doing some copywriting and copy-editing jobs is also helpful, as it develops your writing skills for more commercial purposes.

18th November 2020: TESOL and Travelling the World

Destined to travel the world? Why not combine work and travel?

Justin Barrass is Head Teacher at SungKyunKwan University, in South Korea, where he has lived for the past 15 years. Before arriving at SungKyunKwan University, Justin had a rather interesting life. He completed a BSc in Mathematics at Bangor University and then decided to take an English teaching job in Ulsan, South Korea, straight after graduation. He worked there for a year teaching young and middle school children. He then moved back to the UK and took a CELTA course (like the one that Swansea University offers), thus becoming a qualified ESL teacher. After that, Justin taught students of all ages in Turkey, the UK, and South Korea. One summer he even bought a bike and cycled across Europe from Istanbul to Newcastle! He eventually landed a job teaching academic writing to students attending SungKyunKwan University and, 5 years ago, he was promoted to Head Teacher and has been in charge of hiring and of developing the curriculum since – he even created his own English for Scientific Purposes programme!

Justin’s talk was fun and informative, especially if you are interested in teaching abroad at academic level. It definitely made me feel like getting on a plane and going somewhere exotic to teach English, and I am sure I was not the only one!

2nd December 2020: From a language degree, via linguistics and teaching into language testing… an unexpected journey!

Who is behind all the language testing we do in schools?

Lillie Halton and Emyr Davies from the Welsh Joint Education Committee (WJEC) came to talk to us about working in language testing, a field that does not always come straight to mind when we think about and English Language and Applied Linguistics degree. Lillie and Emyr arrived at WJEC through two very different paths. Lillie was a former student here at Swansea University and then did an MSc in Forensic Speech Sciences at the University of York. Now she works as a Research Officer at the WJEC: her role involves a lot of statistics, as she processes data related to assessments. She also works on many projects on assessments’ readability and difficulty, which she often presents at conferences. Emyr, on the other hand, worked as a Welsh teacher and as an Examination Officer before joining the WEJC. He is involved in developing language exams and making sure that they are accredited and regulated. 

Language testing is the cutting edge of applied linguistics and is still a rather small field. People working in language assessment usually have a background in either statistics or language teaching, as demonstrated by our two guests. Lillie and Emyr’s talk was interesting and eye-opening: when considering which possible career paths one can pursue with a degree in linguistics, teaching and research often seem to be the only two options, but now language testing can be added to the list.

Despite the pandemic, this past semester the Employability Series was top-notch and extremely informative. If you did not have the chance to take part in some or any of the talks, I hope this quick recap filled you in on what you missed and maybe convinced you to take part in the ones coming up in Teaching Block 2. Alexia has invited some pretty cool guests to talk to us all about all the opportunities that an English Language and Applied Linguistics degree can offer!

9th February 2021: Working in a Publishing Company – MultiLingual Matters

Who decides what books get published?

We were lucky enough to have Tommi Grover from MultiLingual Matters come to talk to us about getting into publishing. Tommi is the managing director of this independent academic book publishing company. Founded in the 1890s by the Grover family, Multilingual Matters/Channel View Publications Ltd currently focuses on book production and the company publishes in the fields of applied linguistics, literacy education, multicultural education, immigrant language learning and second language acquisition (Channel View Publications Ltd focuses on Tourism Studies including research areas such as issues around sustainability, ethics and public transport).

Tommi was an engaging speaker who knew the business inside out and offered us a wealth of information not only about what their company does and the different roles that each department undertakes (from commissioning editors, copy editors, sales and marketing to actually producing the end product), but he also addressed some of the main concerns in the brave new world of online publishing and e-books. No two days are alike for Tommi and his team; activities can range from reading book proposals, having meetings with the staff to external meetings, to visiting conferences where books are sold and contacts with researchers in the field are made. One of the highlights for Tommi and the team is to read such varied and interesting material all the time and having a broad overview of the discipline about which they are passionate.

Along with the The Society of Young Publishers and The Bookseller, mentioned above in an event we had in 2020, Tommi mentioned some excellent resources for keen graduates interested in working in the industry such as Bookbrunch, a news website and newsletter that provides updates on the publishing industry and job advertisements. As well as this, Tommi mentioned The Publishers Association which is the industry body in the UK and can give descriptions of the different sectors in which the graduate might be interested in working. He also listed the The Independent Publishers Guild, which is the industry body for smaller and independent publishers (it has an active jobs board and resources that are committed to increasing the diversity and inclusivity of the publishing industry). Finally, Tommi also told us about The Scholarly Kitchen which he said was an interesting daily blog that can give the interested graduate an insight into current ideas and thoughts about academic publishing.

Generous with his time, and passionate about his industry, Tommi answered many of our questions, giving us plenty to think about (and so many resources to explore).

Coming in March 2021!

2nd March 2021 How to get into journalism!

Who would you interview?

Dr Richard Thomas will talk to the students about getting into journalism! Richard is a senior lecturer in media at Swansea University and is a co-editor of JournalismKX (an online forum where both scholars and journalists can discuss key issues related to news media). He is also the editor of The Swansea Mumbler which features work by staff and students from the Media and Communications department. Richard also writes for Wisden Cricket monthly magazine and appears on BBC Radio to discuss news, politics, elections and sport. Richard will discuss his top tips for getting into journalism for the graduate student!

23rd March What can I do after graduation?

The Applied Linguistics Society will be running an event aimed at exploring the different options open to the Applied Linguistics student on graduating from their degree. Speakers will include Keighley Perkins, PhD candidate in the department, and Dr Alexia Bowler who is the departmental employability officer. It promises to be an informative event with Information on what the employability office and the Swansea Employability Academy (SEA) can do to support students during their time at Swansea, as well as what placements might be available. We will also discuss the many success stories of what students have gone on to do after their graduation.