Posted 12.07.18 by Alex Watson
Come September of my third year, I had no idea what to do with my degree. I had seen the Penguin Random House work experience programme and hadn’t expected to get in but decided trying couldn’t hurt. After being able to work in the Marketing and Communications department of Penguin General, I am so glad I did.
I was so nervous on my first day I arrived two hours early and sat around waiting for my supervisor Corinna to collect me. As soon as she arrived I knew I had worried for no reason. She was so friendly, as was everyone in the department. A lot of people constantly talk about how nice the people in their department are and what I quickly found while here was that it is all true. Every single word. I have literally never been so supported in a work environment ever. Publishing does not attract people who are hard to work with at all.
While I was there I mailed out a lot of books, made show cards and press releases, made phone calls to help arrange events among general admin work. People in my department would email me tasks and I would put them on a to-do list and be helped with prioritizing what needed doing. You should usually have another work experience person helping you as well.
Personally, I found mailing books weirdly therapeutic and it was exciting seeing all the new titles that different people were working on. It also gave me a better idea of what kinds of books everyone in the department was into, which is always an interesting point of conversation. I had the opportunity to work on a Showcard for the Waterstones in my hometown which was really exciting. I can’t wait to walk past it in the shop and have someone stop me from screaming I MADE THAT! professionally gaze at it while quietly feeling accomplished.
I also learnt a lot from just watching the people around me do their jobs. Sitting in on meetings was especially inspiring because Penguin Random House meeting rooms were full of passionate driven women who had a platform to talk about the stories that were important to them. Even people who were new to the department had the opportunity to talk about their work and look completely badass while doing it. Even if you don’t want to go into publishing, it was worth applying just to be inspired by them all. I left those meetings feeling really inspired each time. They also gave me a real insight into how campaigns were organised and what they were about.
If I had one piece of advice it would be to talk to the people in your department. Everyone in is going to be phenomenal at their jobs and the opportunity to pick their brain and find out how they got into what they are doing is invaluable. They were also more than willing to help, even when they’re really busy, which I was really touched by. What I found was that everyone had taken very different paths into their jobs and as someone who had never applied for work experience before now, I found that really reassuring.
Penguin is probably the most accessible publisher I have come across thus far. They really care about diversifying their company and this has become even more obvious this year as they’ve changed The Scheme to a positive action programme for those from a socio-economically disadvantaged and/or BAME backgrounds to apply.
I also got even luckier and was able to stay at The Retreat with The Book Trade Charity, which was a whole separate experience within itself. The Retreat is run by the lovely Glenda and is every book obsessed person’s dream. It is a little bungalow that is available for people to stay at if they need to while doing work experience for a subsidized fee. You have your own bathroom, small kitchen, books that you might like around the bungalow a library for you to use on site. While I was there I managed to use my evenings to rekindle my love for Zadie Smith and William Shakespeare.
(clearly one of them did not love me back)
I also read You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris and cried a lot on my last night, but it was a brilliant book and I would recommend it for some light emotional reading. I wish I could have taken more pictures to share with you, but you’ll just have to apply and see for yourself. You’re going to love it.