Laura Kurki: “I have always loved reading and to be able to do that for a living is just unbelievable”

As a language student, it can get really frustrating when everyone is always assuming you only have two career options: will you become a teacher or a translator? But what if you wish to become neither one? There’s no shame in feeling a bit confused about the professional options you have as a language specialist that do not involve translating, teaching or doing research. Laura Kurki, HerCampus Helsinki’s founder and former Editor-in-Chief, turned her internship at publishing house Gummerus into a job, and now sheds light on her budding career in publishing and marketing. Our interview with her also offers concrete tips for book enthusiasts on what it takes to get into the business.

How did you end up applying and receiving an internship at Gummerus?

I had been applying for jobs for almost a year, everything from part-time jobs to internships and summer jobs. I applied for anything that was even close to my own field, since I was almost finished with my master’s in English philology and I had already spent many summers working in a field that had nothing to do with mine. Every year I had applied for positions in publishing, but the industry is really hard to get into since they usually only accept those who have studied Finnish at the university. I was actually just about to leave on a trip when I spotted an open position in Aarresaari as a marketing and communications intern in Gummerus. There were only a couple of weeks to apply and I sent in my application just two days before I departed. I was in the middle of the Scotland moors with no access to the outside world, so when I finally got wifi access in a dingy bar, I was thrilled to find an invitation to a job interview waiting in my inbox. So after returning home and nailing the interview, I got the job and started working at Gummerus in August last year.

What kind of experience did it require for you to get the job?

I had experience in writing for an online student magazine (Better Than Sliced Bread) and for a Finnish literary publication for the youth. Experience in writing in Finnish was really helpful, since I had not done any Finnish studies at the university. And then there was of course Her Campus Helsinki. For BTSB and Her Campus Helsinki I had also updated their social media and had had my own blog for a while, which I’m sure were really helpful aspects in my application. Many companies lack behind in their social media department, so applicants should definitely bring out more of their social media skills. Many people of our age underestimate their skills, but for example in Gummerus there was no one who would have regularly been in charge of their Instagram account, so taking over that ended up becoming a big part of my internship. Now we have also finally opened our own Twitter account @gummeruskirjat.

What would you say is the best part of your job?

On my first week they gave me a couple of manuscripts to read and my first thought was “Okay, if right from the start my job is to read books, this cannot be anything but amazing”. I have always loved reading and to be able do that for a living is just unbelievable.

In the future, do you have any hopes or plans regarding your career?

Even though I like my job as a Marketing and Editorial Assistant, my initial dream was to be a book editor. After my internship ended my superiors were concerned about who would do all the work that had been my responsibility, and after some deliberation they were able to offer me a temporary position as an assistant. What is even better, I now get to work half of the time in the editing department, “learning the trade” so to speak. In the future I would love to secure a permanent job in a publishing house, but even if that won’t be the case with this job, I know I have received invaluable experience that will be a massive help in my pursuits in the publishing industry.

What would you say to anyone dreaming of a career in book publishing?

When I applied to Gummerus, I hadn’t done any literature or Finnish studies, which are usually required, but I just loved to read — so in the end it was my own passion that got me the job. Already at an early stage of my studies I realized that I needed to start doing something outside the university that would showcase my passion and talents. It really is all about showing how motivated you are, and having something concrete to show for it really makes a difference. In terms of personal qualities, being a wallflower might become a hindrance, since networking and creating contacts are a big part of the industry where everyone knows everyone. This might also sound a bit silly, but plain common sense will get you through a lot. And of course ability to write and express yourself fluently is really important. Just going through university will give you a lot of experience and skills in analyzing and producing high quality text.