Advice on Job Hunting

Several months ago, a friend of a friend emailed me. She had just applied for her dream job, editorial assistant at DC Comics. After reminding her of all the reasons this was a terrible idea I couldn’t recommend, we talked about how to go about it.

She already had plans to move to New York, which was a good start. Being on the spot meant making connections at social events as she followed her interests, and many positions are advertised in the local paper. More importantly, she already had relevant editorial work experience, and she wasn’t counting on her love of comics to be enough.

So where did I start? With the warnings. DC knows that there are people who would die to work there, so employees are expected to work long hours for little pay and be incredibly loyal to the company even against their best interests. If you’re serious about working for a comic company, be ready to take in roommates, live with family, or reside at the other end of an hour commute in Jersey or upstate.

To the best of my knowledge, there are three routes to getting on staff at DC (or Marvel, although my experience was at DC):

  1. Watch the Times for ads for the mailroom and similar grunt work. At the time I was there, most assistant editors were hired from people who were already working there. (See previous comment about valuing loyalty.) Alternately, get hired in marketing or licensing or another department and try to transfer to editorial, although sometimes that’s frowned upon.
  2. If you’re still in school, intern to make connections and get your foot in the door.
  3. Meet people. Go to conventions. Talk to editors. Become visible through good fan writing or similar. When I was hired, I already knew the people I’d be working with because I’d been writing reviews and going to cons for three years. I happened to drop them a note at the same time my predecessor was leaving, so they thought of me at the right time. (And I had uniquely applicable experience for online editor work.)

If you’re already going to NYC, widen your scope. Try to get a relevant job (editorial assistant) elsewhere if you can’t get hired at a comic company right away. Go to comic-themed events and meet people. Put your name out there and don’t be fannish, if you know what I mean. Be prepared if an opportunity presents itself, but don’t be pushy or selfish.

At my first convention, I had a terrific conversation with an editor because he wasn’t that well-known and so not terribly busy. If you go to a convention, see if you can talk to people at major booths who aren’t writers/artists. They may be able to give you help, or at least guidance on what it’s like to work there.

Standard job-hunting advice applies: treat it as a chance to get information that will help you, not ask for a job. Consider that they’re working, so be polite about asking if they have time to talk with you and if not then, would sometime later be convenient. Look for the folks with matching company logos and/or headsets. Introduce yourself, and say if they had a spare moment, you’d like to ask them about their experiences at the company. Also ask them if there’s anyone else they would recommend you speak to. They may be able to introduce you to whomever’s staffing the booth currently.

A lot of those folks are from marketing, and they’re great people. If you act professionally and not someone who wants to suck up or berate them about what happened to Green Lantern, you’ll stand out favorably.

Here’s another source of advice: how to get promoted from intern.


One Response to “Advice on Job Hunting”

  1. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » Feb. 1, 2007: Learn to draw with Belldandy Says:

    [...] promotes Michael Freeman to the post of Direct Market administrator. Want to work at DC yourself? Johanna Draper Carlson offers advice on how to do it. Further advice: Don’t refer to the company as [...]




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