Written by Florence Reeves-White on 26 June 2018.
The smell of a new book, fresh off the press, no creases down the spine, no pages lost to the Spanish sun after a series of ‘melting glue’ catastrophes. That was what first made me romanticise the idea of marketing for a publishing house as renowned as Penguin Random House. Although it sounds a little silly, this fresh-off-the-press fetish was a dream very much realised in my two weeks at Penguin Random House. If you like books, there will not be one corner of these offices in Pimlico that won’t draw your gaze towards it. The offices were like an English student’s Eden. Hours could be spent wandering the walls of well-thought-out blurbs and very particularly selected quotations, floating over the covers of these printed stories. My role, in the Marketing and Publicity department of Vintage books, was to help to brainstorm for these blurbs, and research reviews and quotations in order to promote these delicious novels, and to provide for them a stage on which to showcase their multitude of talent.
I’ve knocked up a list of tips for anyone looking to embark on the Penguin Random House Work Experience journey, to ensure you make the most out of the tiny two-week window.
1. Talk to anyone and everyone! – This may sound like common sense, but when you become accustomed to the fairly serious atmosphere which comes naturally to the hard-working staff at Penguin Random House, it becomes easy to forget that it’s OK to make small talk. The work experience placements at Penguin Random House occur more often than you hear me say ‘the diet starts Monday’. Staff are so accustomed to there being an intern on deck that it may take a little more than a morning grin or a ‘have a nice weekend!’ to get yourself noticed. The scrunched up ball of publishing career dreams is very much in your court here. If you want to use this as a networking opportunity you are going to have to make the first move. Confidence is key. Think Emperor Penguin.
2. Tailor your tasks to the experience you’d like to gain – in the first week it is easy to feel bogged down with what seems like a fairly large workload for an intern, but what may be surprising is how willing all staff are to mould their tasks to what you really want to get out of the experience. I had a great mentor called Will Smith (although West Philadelphian vibes may spring to mind, he wore far fewer chains and sounded a lot more like Prince Will than the Fresh Prince). After telling him exactly what I wanted from the weeks ahead, which was mainly some copywriting experience and to sit on some exciting meetings, he organised my timetable around this without hesitation. Remember when asking for extra work, you have nothing to lose here!
3. Read at any chance you get – This will probably come naturally to many of you applying for such work experience, but my passion for reading and my experience at Penguin Random House really did have a symbiotic relationship. I was reading standing up on the tube, reading on my walk to work whilst awkwardly bumping into people that I semi-recognised from the office meeting the previous day. The offices provide bins on each floor of books which are to be given away as freebies. If you couldn’t find me at any point during those two weeks you could be pretty sure that I’d be hanging out of one of these plastic bins, legs floundering in the air as I attempted to get a feel for all the giveaways, before inevitably deciding to stuff them all into my already overflowing rucksack. If I hadn’t have been paid for this mini-internship (yeah, that’s right, they pay you!) I would have been perfectly happy with the payment of books which I received as a substitute. I’ve got my work cut out for me on the reading front for the next few years.
In short, this Work Experience placement has it all, but to get the most out of it you need to talk, tailor tasks, and trawl the book bins! Good luck!