Kiara Kent; Toronto; @kiarakent
Let’s say we’ve just met at a cocktail party. How would you describe, in a nutshell, what you do?
I’m an editor at Doubleday Canada and Bond Street Books, Canadian imprints under the Penguin Random House umbrella. I’m also the fiction editor for Hazlitt.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I went to McMaster University for my undergrad, where I studied philosophy.
What was your first paying gig out of school? (In your field, or not.)
My first paying gig out of university was for a catering company on the Halifax pier.
What was your BIG break? How did you land it?
My big break was landing an internship with the publisher I work for, Doubleday Canada. I had enrolled in the publishing program at Ryerson and applied after my first semester. It got my foot in the door.
Describe the moment in which you first realized, I think this is actually going to work out?
My moment of realization was probably getting hired full-time—going from intern to employee is when I realized I might actually be able to work in publishing. Before that I was still contemplating my next move (back to catering, most likely).
What would you say has been your biggest failure or shortcoming, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I’ve had the privilege of working for the same company since I was hired six years ago, so my career failures and shortcomings so far are all rooted in the everyday challenges of being an editor: bidding on a book or author I believe passionately in and losing out to another editor or publishing house (which is devastating); having difficult conversations with agents or writers and feeling like I didn’t succeed in that moment to alleviate their worries; having to make speeches in front of large crowds and mumbling through them with hearty blotches on my neck and cheeks. In terms of bouncing back, showing up the next day and trying to do better, be better, is pretty much the only way to move forward. Otherwise I’d likely be undone by my shortcomings and would never leave the house.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
I don’t really give career advice often—I feel very unequipped to do that! But I sought out publishing thanks to a friend in university who was listening to me despair about what to do with my useless philosophy degree (she was pre-med), and she pointed out my love of reading and editing with a shrug. So, my advice would be to surround yourself with practical science students who are smarter and more observant than you.
What’s the worst career advice you’ve ever gotten?
My worst career advice was to keep my head down and just do the work. It came from a man.
Did you deal with barriers in your field because you are a woman? If so, what were they?
Publishing boasts a significant percentage of women in the industry, but like all industries, the majority of the people at the top are men. Since I am not at the top, I feel lucky to be surrounded by countless brilliant women who support and understand one another.
Are you making a fair income for your work? Why or why not? Do you have a side hustle for extra cash? If so, what is it?
It is well-reported that salaries in the publishing industry are low. I get a lot of creative and emotional satisfaction from my work, but paying bills can be stressful.
What’s the worst stereotype you’ve heard about millennials at work?
That we’re entitled and that we don’t stick around. If I have noticed anything from the millennials I know within my industry and otherwise, it’s that we are all just looking to do our best and pay our bills and build a life and career, all while trying to find some semblance of joy and satisfaction in the process. And if achieving that means speaking up, or seeking out new opportunities, or switching careers, or trying to carve interesting spaces for ourselves in a job economy that seems to consider us lazy, narcissistic burdens, so be it.