This had been my fourth time applying for work experience here with Penguin Random House – the moral of the story is to be persistent – and so, when the offer for this position finally came through, I was ecstatic. I’d never done anything in marketing or publicity before, but it sounded really interesting and so was looking forward to getting started and getting a glimpse behind the scenes as to how books are promoted and marketed.
On the morning of the first day, I was feeling a bit nervous (alongside being very excited) but as soon as I got to Penguin Random House’s offices I felt much more relaxed; everyone was so friendly and welcoming. An induction was the first thing on the agenda, which gave us a brief overview of the company, an introduction to some of its imprints and departments, but best of all: I got to meet the others here on work experience placement. This also meant that I didn’t have to travel to the Pimlico office on my own – which was nice! Throughout the placement, it’s been fascinating to hear what the others have been doing in other departments and imprints. Plus, it gave me someone to go to lunch with!
Once I finally got to the Ebury office, the work began! I’ve been given a whole variety of different tasks to do which has been really interesting and given me a fascinating insight into how a marketing office runs. I’ve done everything from writing tweets, posting out promotional material or proofs, reading manuscripts and writing copy for blogs. I have even had a go at planning out a marketing campaign for an upcoming release, which was amazing and gave me a good insight into how everything fits together.
One of the best things about working here at Penguin Random House has been the atmosphere around the office. Everyone is really helpful and keen to help me learn and make the most of this experience. Plus, you’re surrounded by and working with amazing books all day long, so of course the work is enjoyable. Though, writing out a tonne of addresses for posting can get a bit monotonous, I will admit. It is still good to do though, as it gives us a realistic idea of what the job might be like, not just all the fun stuff.
Overall, if I was going to give any advice to someone about to start work experience it would be to just get stuck in as much as you can. Oh, and ask questions. You really do get out what you put in.
I suffer from an anxiety disorder, amongst a few other mental health problems. A lot of young people deal with mental health problems, and just because I have an anxiety disorder does not mean that I’m not ambitious, hardworking and wanting to make the most of my time on my Penguin Random House work experience placement. I’m certain a number of other applicants also feel this way!
When I’m in a new situation, such as a new office, no matter how organised I am, I can never be sure of how my anxiety is going to affect me.
Throughout my two week stint on the glorious Penguin Random House rollercoaster, on good days it barely affected me at all, and I was free to simply enjoy the ride. However, occasionally, anxiety almost got the better of me.
I know how stressful new situations can be for anxious beings like me, so here’s my list of “anxiety hacks” that helped me a lot during my placement. Even if you don’t struggle with mental health issues, everyone gets nervous, and I’m sure a number of these will be applicable to just about anyone that’s feeling a little bit stressed or worried!
Believe in Your Story
My mum always told me there was no point letting opportunities pass me by.
But I find that despite her wondrous ‘mother’s wisdom’, there’s a fault to her logic. Working at Penguin Random House has so many opportunities that it’s virtually impossible to try engaging with every single one. Not that you should ever let that stop you from trying.
Doing two weeks of work experience in the Penguin Random House Cornerstone Editorial Department opened my eyes to a lot of things. I had no real idea what to expect or how to approach the teachings of ‘office life’.
For the love of books, in whichever genre, throw out whatever preconceptions you have. If you expect to come into an office where people are miserable, are chained to their desks, and don’t want to come into work on a daily basis, you will be delightfully mistaken. The people working in Penguin are as bright as the orange on their logo and just as warm. Always smiling, their banter, friendship and trust welcomes you into the office, and whether you’re introverted or extroverted, you will be made to feel like family all the same. And the great thing about family is that there’s no pressure. They’re a team dedicated to helping one another and are there to help satisfy every drop of your curiosity. So don’t be afraid to ask those questions! If you don’t ask, you don’t get! If you’re not sure what kind of questions to ask, start out easy. Ask people’s names, how they started working here, and what they’re working on. Maybe try asking about the pulp box. (I love the pulp box.)
That first day, being given your key card and sat down to your desk… it’s nerve-wracking! You don’t know what you’ll be asked to do and there’s that fear of the unknown. But, thanks to the induction, you’ve met so many people just like you who are ready to take that step and dive right into the never-ending depths. They, like you, are finding their feet and are looking to boost their confidence and future prospects.
I cannot express the importance of making friends with your other work experience colleagues. Yeah, you’ll be in different departments, doing different things, but that’s the beauty of it. Being able to message each other at lunch to meet up and then talk animatedly about what you’re doing is incredible. You learn not only through your own experiences but each other’s.
After those first couple of days you fall into the rhythm. The rhythm is ever-changing in terms of what you’ll be doing (keeping you busy and far out of boredom’s reach), but you grow used to it and excited by it. In Cornerstone Editorial I was doing everything from photocopying over 300 pages, to being engrossed in novels, to sitting in on meetings that decided the fates of those novels by the day.
Working at Penguin has paved the way to show me how amazing it is to work in a job you love. The day never drags. You don’t watch the clock. You don’t feel exhausted when you come home. All day long, we work with stories. Fictional stories, non-fictional stories, educational stories, real-world stories. Everything we can find, we help shape it until it becomes the best version of itself that it can be, from conception to print. We want to know and learn things about books that we didn’t know before.
But the story we least expect is the one we create.
The people you meet, the experience you gain, the fun you have, and everything you learn about the publishing experience is invaluable. They will give you memories to look back and smile upon; giving you the confidence you need to continue as you’ve started. The Penguin Random House experience will help shape you into being the best version of yourself you can be. So, when you come and start creating your story, ask yourself: “What story do I want to be able to tell?”
I know mine, now. Thank you Penguin Random House!
“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?”
― Yann Martel, Life of Pi
The summer between academic years is always a strange time.
For me, they typically involve online classes, a mountain of books to read, Netflix, and far too much time on my hands. Coming to the end of my second year at University, I wanted to do something different. I’d done marketing work experience in the past, but it had never answered the one big question racking my mind recently: what industry do I want to work in?
There was no doubt that I wanted to be somewhere creative. But, I’m passionate about so many things – literature, video games, film, and the list goes on. Lucky for me, marketing skills are transferable and work in every industry on my radar. Therefore, I want to take my time to dip my toes in every industry I can, learn the skills I need and gain experience in order to determine my career goals.
Initially, I’d remained local in my search, looking at small businesses that could use an extra hand for a week or two. Then, a friend suggested that I broaden my search. Instead of looking locally, she suggested that I look for something in a major industry in a different city. With that boost, I managed to find work experience opportunities at Penguin Random House.
One thing that attracted me to Penguin Random House (aside from the fact that it was Penguin Random House!) was that it pays. For a struggling student who would have to book time off work to partake, the pay really helped. In fact, the work experience seemed to tick every box: marketing experience in a creative environment, with a company I adored, in London, and it’s paid. Perfect.
The application was simple and the idea of random selection really took the pressure off. First time I applied I didn’t get it; which was fine because I had a mountain of University work to focus on. The second time though, I got chosen and placed in my first-choice department: Childrens’ Marketing and Publicity.
From here, the gears got turning. I didn’t get the subsidised accommodation, so I got in touch with James at the Spare Room Project. The project dedicates it’s time to helping interns from outside of London find a spare room with a publisher. This meant that for my first week, I got to stay with another Penguin Random House employee in his spare room for free. The room was only a 25-minute walk to the office, which meant a sleep in and time to grab a coffee on the way.
For my second week, I managed to book a cheap hostel even closer to the office; this offered a unique chance to meet other people from across the worlds who were visiting London. Plus, with the help of my University and the Bright Futures Fund, my travel was covered.
Once I got to London, everything happened so quickly. I wanted to take the opportunity to experience everything I possibly could, inside and outside the office. One brilliant thing about Penguins Random House work experience is that you have a host to act as your point of contact. You’re there to help them, just as they are there to help you.
To anyone considering Penguin Random House Work Experience, should you get a place, make sure you use your points of contact. Talk to them, ask if they can help arrange meetings for you, take the initiative to help them. If there’s a part of the business you wish to learn more about, ask to have a coffee with someone in that area. I learned so much from taking the time to have coffees with multiple people and asking about their careers, what motivated them, the advice they’d give new starters.
Remember, you only get out what you put in.
I’ve had such a lovely and positive experience in a kind and open working environment, where everybody genuinely cares about what they’re doing. Everyone believes in their work, their mission, and is dedicated to inspiring readers around the world. There’s never any pressure or person breathing over your shoulders waiting for you to mess up. It’s a wholesome, supportive environment.
I definitely hope to return and work with Penguin Random House in the future.
I did a one-week publicity work experience at Transworld Books.
This is actually my second time doing work experience. In comparison to the first, this was less busy but no less enriching. It was a delight to be interacting with the world of books once again, however brief. Now with this post, while I’m not trying to downplay my work experiences, I wanted to highlight the stuff I learnt from and around the experiences and make an advisory piece. Both of my work experiences were in the Publicity department so that colours the thoughts below.
The majority of my time was spent handling press mailings. This is when you post books out to reviewers. There are a lot of books that need to be sent in a given day and one such mailing for a single title got into the triple digits! I personally didn’t mind and I don’t mean to say this to dissuade, but merely to paint a fuller picture of what publicity does: when they get a book out there, they really get a book out there.
The other end of this is checking newspapers for coverage on Transworld’s books. Journalists in newspapers physically and online, as well as bloggers, will have reviews or commentary of books they receive and choose to cover. The publicist records these instances. Other tasks included research and in my first work experience I wrote press releases and designed show cards for author events.
On top of the work itself, I attended a Q&A with author Curtis Sittenfeld who was engaged, intelligent, and illuminating. It’s nice to see the creators that are influenced by the decisions in the industry. It’s not guaranteed to happen during a placement but if there is one I would recommend attending one where possible.
Below are things I picked up along the way.
Say yes. Sometimes people will ask you to do ad hoc tasks, maybe even from a different department. I was asked to carry out some research for a marketing campaign, for example. I enjoyed branching out and doing something new that might one day contribute to the future visibility of a book. I would recommend that you say yes to these opportunities within reason as you get an insight into how other departments work and what it is they get up to. It will give you ample opportunity to ask about their work as well.
Be curious. Curiosity will help you dispel mysteries about the industry and I cannot recommend asking questions enough. It sounds very simplistic but there are many benefits to asking colleagues or sometimes people outside of your department about things. Be willing to ask a lot: I was a bit self-aware from the sheer amount of questions I wanted to ask because I was worried I should have been more knowledgeable or was taking up too much time. Don’t feel self-aware. The point of work experience is that it’s a learning opportunity so what you don’t learn on the job is what you can ask about and I encourage you to do so. People are more than willing to answer and if they don’t have the answers they’ll put you in contact with those who can.
Try to prepare some questions you’d like answered, although naturally, you’ll think of some during the conversation. Ask them all. If you want a picture for getting your career started, for example, I would recommend asking about the career paths of your colleagues, if only to hear a path less straightforward than you would think, which leads me nicely onto the next point.
Don’t think too linearly. This is for those who are considering a career I publishing beyond your work experience. The perception of the natural career progression is as follows: You do work experience, you do an internship, and then you do an assistant job and move on from there, at least from the ground up.
What you should be thinking about is the kind of skills you want to use and develop. You’ll find that certain skills and activities that you’ll be making use of elsewhere will be relevant to a career in publishing. These might be part of what makes you unique.
For example, office work, team working, and organisational skills are all things you would need in a career in publishing but not exclusive to it. Also, not all of the people I spoke to got their jobs through internships: some had non-publishing jobs and some people did no internships but did temporary contract work before landing their first assistant job. Like the word “paths” imply, sometimes paths are not direct, but that does not mean that they don’t lead to the intended goal in the end.
For those not looking to go into publishing, this can still help build skills and can contribute to future endeavours. I was told to take a note of all that you do during a placement and add that stuff to your CV and it’s useful to grasp what you’re able to do and what you can offer employers.
At the end of it all, it’s a worthwhile experience for the lovely people you interact with alone, not to mention the books that you’ll be able to have access to.
I hope this helps and good luck!
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.
I’ve known I wanted to go into Publishing for a few years now – which means I’ve kept an eye out for any internship or work experience placements being offered to international students in the UK. Early in January, while spending too much time on Twitter a tweet from PRH Careers UK caught my attention – they were offering work experience placements on a random allocation basis and you didn’t need a (UK) degree to apply. Since I had a right to work in the UK with my visa, I decided to give it a shot. I got a rejection email in February but decided to apply for the next batch anyway, hoping I’d luck out the second time – I did. I got placed at Penguin Random House Children’s with Marketing and Publicity around the end of May.
Now that I had been allotted a placement, I was a bit worried – what if my offer was retracted once they realized I could only work a certain number of hours per week? But I needn’t have worried – they were very understanding about my restrictions and allowed me to come in according to my weekly hours. I was allowed to set my own hours – either come in every day for a few hours or for three full days in the week. Wanting to get a well-rounded experience from the placement, I chose to come in for four to five hours every day.
At Children’s Marketing and Publicity, the team was warm, welcoming and encouraging – I never felt as though I was a burden on any of them, in fact, they valued my input and my help and always made sure to say so. My duties included managing fan-mail (both email and letters) for authors and some website curation (I handled some mail for Jacqueline Wilson which had my eleven-year-old self squealing). I also mailed out a lot of books and bookish swag – as a blogger who’d been on the receiving end a couple years ago, I had a new found appreciation for those who had done it before me. I also created some assets for marketing – for websites and apps where authors shared and interacted with their fans which were really exciting and allowed me to exercise my creativity – seeing some of it online was also a huge bonus.
I was also incredibly fortunate as during my placement there were talks held with people from Rights, Production and Editorial so we were able to ask several (probably repetitive) questions and understand what it took to make a finished book and beyond. These talks shattered a lot of preconceived notions I had about working in Publishing and helped me realize that there were a lot of avenues I could get into and use my skills in.
Possibly my favourite bit about working in Children’s was when during a team meeting I displayed so much excitement about Rick Riordan and the Percy Jackson books that I was later invited to talk/brainstorm about a newsletter about the books (this had my present self squealing) and the fandom itself. PRH Children’s was also different in the way they allocated mentors to every work experience intern – my mentor guided me and had a chat with me where I was encouraged to ask any and all questions I had about publishing which to a clueless but passionate student is immensely useful. Along with my mentor, everyone in the team was welcoming and encouraged questions – they wanted me to get as much as I could from these two weeks which I found very kind and I’m grateful for.
Having finished this placement, I have gained some invaluable skills such as using Biblio3 (the metadata system used by most publishers to store data) and I have a new found understanding of my strengths which has made Marketing & Publicity my first choice instead of Editorial along with making Children’s and Young Adult the primary genre I’d like to work in. Plus, I got paid and got free books so that’s a win-win too.
An avid bookworm, I have always been interested in the idea of working in publishing – but not quite sure what it would entail, or how to join the industry.
When browsing for applicable work experience, I found Penguin Random House – both a well-known company whose titles I loved and somewhere offering paid work experience; the latter something very important for a skint student from Wales. After a moment’s deliberation, I plucked up the courage and applied (which only entailed answering a few simple questions, outlining the dates I was available, and ranking my preference of departments). Then the wait for a response began… Not enough places. When a new slot opened, I tried again. And again. And for a fourth time, this time not really able to do any of the dates but decided I could take a fortnight off University if needed.
This time, a positive response! Offering me two weeks work experience in the International Sales Department (I’d put “Sales” as my second choice).
I’m now at the end of my placement, and I can honestly say it has been a fascinating, transformative few weeks. When I arrived I was greeted by my work experience supervisor, who took me on a brief tour and set me up at a desk, introducing me to the department as she went. I was given a schedule of one-on-one chats with employees in different roles throughout the fortnight, and a couple of wider meetings throughout the company to sit in on. The highlight of the week was probably spontaneously being invited to sit in on a senior meeting introducing the main new focus titles for the summer months.
The vast majority of my time, however, was spent helping out in the department. But what do those doing work experience do?
It varies greatly according to your department and what needs to be done that week. I spoke to a girl doing experience in editorial, and she was reading through submissions and writing a brief report on their strengths and weaknesses. As I was in sales at the beginning of January, there was a lot of 2018 children’s’ catalogues to mail!
Regardless, there are a few staple activities you should expect: writing and receiving emails, creating presentations, mailing promotional material, proofreading, working with data from Biblio (their IT database system), and of course munching on a seemingly never-ending supply of biscuits. I also did some ordering, crosschecked amazon book publication dates, and responded to Net galley requests (aka reviewers, librarians, booksellers etc. asking for free access to ebooks).
The activities you do probably won’t be too complex or riveting – but still, if you’re anything like me you’ll be enthused by it all nonetheless thanks to the friendly, bookish atmosphere. For example, scrolling through titles on Amazon and crosschecking their publication dates may be a monotonous task, but not when they’re for Dr Who Books!
There are so many recognisable titles everywhere; the office itself is lined with books you’re free to read or some even take home. I’ve spent the last two weeks in a dazed fan-girling state. The International Sales department is just down the corridor from the home of Elmer the patchwork elephant, my favourite childhood book. Every time I get a cup of tea from the kitchen I freak out a little, passing a nest of Elmer rugs and toys and merchandise, let alone hundreds of books translated into every language imaginable. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Penguin Random House is responsible for so many huge titles I’ve been fortunate enough to help on (even if it is just sending out promotional material or updating the covers in a PowerPoint): Roald Dahl, Jojo Moyes, Rick Riordan, Eric Carle, James Patterson, just to name a few! Plus the people are so friendly and welcoming, within a few days I felt at home.
Ultimately, what I’d like to say is – if you’re considering putting yourself forward for this opportunity, go ahead. I’ve had a really wonderful time, and I’ve come from two weeks ago wanting to know a little more about the industry to now being dead-set I want to work in it.
As I was browsing some of the unpaid internships in London, I could feel my heart sinking. How the heck was I going to afford this? Was my dream of working with books going to be unceremoniously squashed because I didn’t have the money for an Airbnb, or a conveniently located family member living in London with a sofa?
Then I stumbled across work experience at Penguin Random House. First of all, it was paid. Big tick. Secondly, it was only two weeks. Okay, if I was paid and it was only for two weeks, I could probably get an Airbnb or a hostel or something like that. So I applied. The first couple of times I didn’t get a placement, but then in September I struck gold and got a placement at Michael Joseph in the Marketing and Publicity department.
Just before I started ploughing through the internet again looking for affordable accommodation, I got an email asking if I would like to enter the ballot for accommodation provided by the Book Trade Charity for £75 a week. Yes please! I figured that loads of people would opt for this so I might not get it, but I think I underestimated how many people had strategically located family members. I did get the accommodation and was put in contact with the lovely Glenda.
The Book Trade Charity was established all the way back in 1837, and one of the things they have done is build The Retreat. This is a collection of houses, bungalows and flats nestled amongst little gardens and big trees in Kings Langley, aimed at providing a home for people in the Book Trade. So the Sunday before my placement, I piled my suitcase and half of Tesco (Thanks, Mum!) into my car and headed down south from rural Worcestershire.
I’d heard stories about the M25 being the world’s biggest car park, and I’d never driven anywhere near our great capital before in my life so I was a tad nervous. It turned out to be a really easy drive with lots of service stations to stop at for emergency meatball sandwiches from Subway.
As I said, I had quite a lot of food in my car already, but I thought I’d stop at a supermarket before heading to the Retreat to pick up milk and maybe some frozen chicken dippers. I googled supermarkets near Kings Langley and a Tesco in Hemel Hempstead popped up. Dear reader, if you learn only one thing from this post, let it be to never drive to the Tesco in Hemel Hempstead. If you do, you will encounter the Plough. I have been driving for a few years now, but nothing prepared me for this.
It’s a roundabout that gave birth to six mini roundabouts and it is quite possibly the most confusing thing I have ever come across. You definitely wouldn’t want this on your driving test! On the plus side, the locals didn’t seem to know how to drive on it either which made me feel a lot better. If you need milk, drive to the Sainsbury’s just outside Kings Langley, or walk 20 minutes to the Spar from the Retreat.
After the high octane drama of the Plough, I drove on to the Retreat and turned down a drive that curved between the cottages, bungalows and the manor towards the community centre that housed the office. I met Glenda and she showed me to No. 8 which would be my home for the next two weeks.
I absolutely loved my time there. There’s a gate on the far side of the property which leads to a path that goes under the M25 and pops out on the train platform. From No. 8 to 80 Strand it took me pretty much bang on an hour door to door which wasn’t too bad at all. Half an hour of that is on the train to Euston which is enough time to get stuck into a book. I came home in the evenings, cooked up some chicken dippers and settled down in front of my TV. There’s a DVD player and fortunately I’d packed some DVDS so I was able to snuggle down to some of my favourite films. The shower was decent, the kitchen was fully equipped and it really felt like a home away from home. The best bit was that I was given a key to the library in the old manor so I could tuck into a good book in the comfy armchairs.
I loved my work placement and I loved staying at the Retreat. So go on, click the button and apply for that work experience! You won’t regret it.