On the 23rd March 2020 the UK, along with the majority of the world, went into lockdown. Last week marked one year since that date. For many, myself included, working and studying from home would become the norm. Two weeks before Boris Johnson called the national lockdown I had been accepted on to the MSc Publishing course at Edinburgh Napier University starting in September 2020. Back in early March, September felt like a long time away and I thought by then lockdown would be over and life would have returned to normal. How wrong I was.
I was not used to remote learning and therefore the unknown was nerve-wracking. There were many thoughts running through my mind; What would people think of me? What happened if my technology failed and I couldn’t take part? Did I unmute myself or have my camera on? And, more importantly at the time, how would I make friends? The first week boosted my confidence, I was able to share my screen confidently and managed to mute and unmute myself at the appropriate times. Then later in the term using InDesign for the first time and manging to place the image of a book cover within the correct guides without distorting the image, I was on cloud nine. In addition to this, even in the first weeks as a publishing student, it was impressed upon us how important networking and building relationships within the industry was and how who you know can open up doors. However, the thought of sending an email or tweeting someone to start that conversation, was something I never thought I would be able to do.
Fast forward to March 2021. When I look back at myself from only six months ago, a girl who was scared to turn her camera on in that introductory session to the person I am now, the difference is inconceivable. Not only have I dipped my toe into networking, which I still find a scary prospect but no where near as terrifying as six months ago. I am no longer nervous speaking up, offering my opinion or reaching out to my lecturers, cohort or publishing professionals for help or advice.
One of my biggest personal achievements during this course has been my placement. Securing experience in an industry with a local publisher has boosted my confidence beyond belief, especially during a time when many publishing houses are turning down placement students because of the pandemic. While completing the placement, I have learned I am more capable than I believed. While I was not nervous about the quality of my publishing knowledge, I was not confident showing my newfound knowledge and skills. This is where I feel remote learning has helped my confidence. Not being in an office environment has meant I have been able to go at my own pace to complete tasks without feeling as if someone were watching over my shoulder, which I am sure wouldn’t happen with the staff at my placement. But also, it has encouraged me to undertake tasks which have forced me to work completely independently and to achieve them within a reasonable timeframe.
Throughout my placement, I have been given the opportunity to do the final proofread of upcoming resources, to ensure changes have been made and that they are up to the standards of the publishing house and suggest changes while maintaining the integrity of the content created. As a student new to the publishing world, suggesting ideas and giving constructive feedback can be an intimidating prospect especially if you feel you don’t have the experience to do so. However, I have learned how to give feedback or suggestions in a constructive manner which will be an invaluable skill in the future. Because of this new found confidence, I felt I could contribute my ideas to the publishing house for an upcoming marketing strategy.
Undertaking a masters online has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. While it at times has been tough working at home, being constantly on a screen and not being able to meet my course mates, I have used this experience to prove to myself that I can work independently and I should have the confidence to put forward my ideas, even if they aren’t exactly what is being asked for. This year has taught me two things, to ask questions and speak up when you have ideas because you never know what may come of it and send that email to make a connection within the industry. It does take a huge amount of confidence to reach out and ask an industry professional to give you an opportunity. However, in my experience, people in publishing love to talk about their industry and want to help publishing hopefuls in any way they can. It starts when you have the confidence in yourself to push that send button.
(Image Caption: My own study space at home)