Home | Why English? | Your skills | Reflective practice | Thinking ahead | Career planning

What do graduates of English actually do?

Alumni case studies

Gemma – Editorial Assistant

'After completing a first degree in English Literature, I continued with an MA and started to pursue opportunities in publishing. I applied to about 30 - 40 publishers in London for work experience, including my CV and a covering letter outlining my career ambitions. I heard back from just four companies (!) and then completed the following work placements:

  1. 1 week at Pickering & Chatto, academic publishers – a very small company - only 10 employees and no separate departments, so I was able to experience everything
  2. 2 weeks at Penguin Press editorial department - history books and modern classics. Worked closely with assistant editor on all aspects of editorial; had meetings with key people in the division from all departments. (I also spoke to Human Resources and signed up with them as a temp)
  3. 2 weeks at Bloomsbury spread across reference division, web page department, and editorial fiction.

'At this point I received a call from Penguin to say a temp was needed in Penguin reference & classics department. I did this for 6 weeks and was then taken on in another temporary role, this time on 6 months maternity cover for the assistant editor I had worked with during my work experience. This proved a fantastic 6 months during which I learnt the basics and established the foundation for my career. As the end of the contract came to a close I began to look for job openings. I applied for two - one as assistant in the fiction department at Bloomsbury where I had done work experience (job advertised in the Bookseller - lots of adverts here, as well as interesting articles - suggest read this publication every week) and another as an assistant in the commercial imprint at Penguin General ( the fiction side of Penguin) I heard about this through a girl in the General Division whom I had met during my temping.

'I had two rounds of interviews at both places, with two interviewers. I was offered the job at Penguin, but not Bloomsbury, although one of the interviewers did call me later and offer me a job as her PA. I took the Penguin job, and now work for three different editors which is very hard work!  Have been here for 14 months and I do everything from everyday administration to project managing illustrated books.

'My advice would be - DO WORK EXPERIENCE. Be prepared to work in any department and do anything when you are there, and be keen and enthusiastic at all times. A lot of it is luck and being in the right place at the right time, so keep your eyes and ears open and speak to lots of people.'