Graduate Position – Corpus Manager – Cambridge University Press

Contributor: Claire D

What? Corpus Manager – Cambridge University Press

Why did you choose this place? Once I’d seen the job advertised, I just had to apply – there really aren’t many jobs that matched so closely to the degrees that I’d done. It seemed really interesting, and despite not know anything about ELT, I felt that I had enough knowledge about Corpus Linguistics to apply. At the time, I’d applied for a few academic teaching jobs but had had no luck, so I was interested to find out if a job in the commercial sector might suit me.

How did you find the application process? As someone who quite likes interviews, I actually quite enjoyed the interview process. I had an initial 45 minute interview in Cambridge where I gave a presentation about corpora in ELT. After this I was asked the expected range of questions about me, the job and the subject area. Before the second interview I had to complete a task detailing how (and what) I would collect in order to build the perfect corpus for ELT. The questions at the second interview were much more relaxed, and indeed the interview took place over lunch (which at the time was pretty stressful – trying to give intelligent answers and not choke on a ham sandwich!) But, it all worked out fine and I got the job.

What do you do here? I manage the development and collection of corpora needed for ELT publishing. The job is pretty varied and no week is really the same. The job involves three main things: collecting corpus data; showing others how to get the most corpus data; and using the corpus to improve ELT teaching materials

We work in partnerships with universities and other organizations on research projects in order to collect spoken and written data. This involves lots of project management: identifying what data we might need and what is possible to collect; arranging data collection and transcription (if applicable); drafting legal agreements and formatting and processing files for upload to our corpus software.

I also provide all of the training and ongoing support in using the corpus resources we have (e.g. by writing user guides and giving group and individual training sessions). This includes both editorial staff working in Cambridge offices around the world, and out-of-house authors, researchers and project managers.

I also manage and undertake project-specific corpus research. A huge amount of our ELT publishing is corpus-informed, and often editors put together a brief that raises questions about particular grammar or vocabulary areas that will be covered in their materials. I then either commission freelance Corpus Researchers to undertake this research, or carry out the research myself in order to provide a report to the editors and authors that they can use when writing their books.

The good things: I’m not sure I could have found a job more suited to my skills, so it’s great to feel that the years of study did have a point after all! The job is very flexible and there’s lots of room for new ideas and creativity. I also get to travel from time to time – I’ve been to the Cambridge office in New York to run corpus software training, and to a good number of conferences both in the UK and in Europe. While it is a commercial job, there’s still a good dollop of academia in there, and this is a nice balance.

It’s a great place to work – my colleagues here in Cambridge are really nice, there are lots of facilities (bar, gym, good restaurant, green space). Along with that, Cambridge is a really beautiful place to live.

The bad things: Sometimes I do get frustrated by the administration side of things and with the slowness of some of the processes and procedures, but I’m sure this would be the case with any job. The department I work in is very small, so there isn’t the same opportunity here for career progression and promotion (as compared to e.g. an academic job). I also finished the final part of my PhD while working in Cambridge full time – this is not recommended!

Outside of work, I’m a northern girl, and Cambridge is very different to and very far away from Sunderland!

Anything else we should know: Consider Corpus Linguistics as a career! While there may not be tons of jobs going, I’m proof that that do come along sometimes. If Corpus Linguistics is your thing, why not also consider working as a freelance Corpus Researcher?

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Internship – Editorial Intern – Gollancz, Orion Pubishing

Contributor: Ceri

Where? Gollancz, Orion Publishing

What? Editorial Intern

Why did you choose this place? This is the job I want in the long run, and I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan when it comes to literature. But this one was through a connection as well – a friend of a friend had just had his own book published by Gollancz, and was in the process of finalising the print of the second (while writing the third). He snuck me into a party full of influential people and I got to chat to the head editor, and from there I was able to set up a two-week internship.

How did you find the application process? Making contacts was actually pretty nerve-wracking; even though I had an ‘in’ with my author friend, I had to make my own impressions on the right people to seem keen, knowledgeable and, above all, suitable. In many ways filling out an application form might have been easier, but I think the benefits of having my face in their minds when my name appeared in their inboxes were huge, and giving them the chance to make their own character judgments seemed to be advantageous as well.

What did you do here? Work was slower at this internship – as it wasn’t as long, and as I was only filling spaces at desks during other people’s holidays, there wasn’t the chance to develop any long-term responsibilities or learn anything too complex. There were different office tasks than at Firefly – binding, copying up blurbs from old book covers, proofreading cover designs before they went into print – but perhaps the most interesting was reading unsolicited submissions from authors who hadn’t come through agents. It was a simple job but I was essentially the judge of which authors went through for further consideration and which were put aside. While the work was sometimes sparse, many of the editors made time to talk me through the processes they went through in their jobs, which was immensely educational and interesting (as well as being beneficial for future interviews!).

The good things: The empty time between tasks encouraged me to make my own work, and I ended up writing reports on each of the submissions I read to pass onto the editors, detailing my decision based on content, style, linguistic ability and so on. The editors seemed pleased with my work, and I was happy to have the chance to be a bit creative and helpful. I also ended my internship with at least four free books – it does not hurt to mention to an editor who your favourite authors are, especially if said authors were published by them.

The bad things: I ended up taking an hour-and-a-half commute to this unpaid internship for two weeks, which wasn’t cheap – I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry on for much longer than I did. There were also long periods when I had very little to do – although I was only asked to read through the first few chapters of submissions, I finished one of the manuscripts completely in between tasks. This was partially my own fault for being too shy to ask for things to do too often, afraid of going beyond seeming keen and becoming a pest.

Anything else we should know? Showing willingness to learn meant I did, because I heard far more via word of mouth about the publishing processes than I ever have from reading about it. I personally think it’s a shame that these days it’s near impossible to get a job without connections and contacts, but learning how best to make them is a worthy skill, as well as how to utilise the ones you already have.