By Rakaya Fetuga, Penguin Random House
Hello, Rakaya, tell us an interesting fact about yourself:
Pharrell Williams is my birthday bro.
What have you been doing during your work experience placement?
I have been doing all sorts of jobs for the Vintage Publicity and Marketing teams, such as liaising with literary editors and using the online databases Biblio and Gorkana. I have also helped design flyers, press releases and showcards; displayed articles about Vintage Books on the office news board and transcribed an author interview. One of my biggest jobs was to send hundreds of new book proofs and press releases to various newspapers, magazines and online journalists. There was so much work to be done in the department and everyone found different ways for me to help out.
What have you enjoyed the most? Have you found anything challenging or surprising?
The whole experience has been really interesting and enjoyable because of the wide variety of tasks I have been able to try. It was so exciting to work with new books that aren’t even in the shops yet! Over the two weeks, I came into contact with so many different books and it was great to hear what the publicists thought of the novels and non-fiction titles they were working with. Of course, free books are a student’s dream, so being able to fill up a couple of Bodley Head tote bags on my last day was definitely a highlight!
In terms of challenges, my time management skills were tested the whole time. I would sometimes have several tasks to do at once, so I had to work out which were most urgent, prioritise these and plan how best to use my time.
What advice would you give to someone interested in doing work experience?
The first bit of advice I would give to someone who is interested but hasn’t secured a work experience placement yet is to apply through the work experience section on the careers website and to be willing to try something new.
Another piece of advice is to ask lots of questions. If you aren’t sure about how to complete a task, make sure you ask for help – it’s much better to get the job done correctly than to struggle by yourself. As well as this, if you want to know more about the company or the books you’re working with, take advantage of your time in the office and find out. All the people I’ve met on my placement have been really friendly and I was lucky to speak with some of them to learn more about Vintage Books and publicity more generally. So when the people around you aren’t too busy, take the opportunity to find out as much as you can about what they do and why they love it.
The last thing I would say is just to do your best work and enjoy it. I would recommend the work experience placement for anyone interested in the publishing industry and curious about how things work in such a big, successful company – it’s a great experience and lots of fun!
And finally, all-time favourite book/story?
I find it so difficult to pick a favourite book, but my top five books that I’ve read this year are To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Hari Kunzru’s Transmission and Our Sister Killjoy by Ama Ata Aidoo.
Thanks to Vintage, right now I’m reading Toni Morrison’s Jazz and Emma Cline’s brilliant debut The Girls!
This interview originally appeared on the Penguin Random House careers blog in July 2016.