The Publishing Post
The Value Of Work Experience, An Interview With Becca Sealy
By Kayley Stanbridge
This issue we speak with Becca Sealy who had the opportunity to do two weeks work experience at Penguin Random House (Penguin General) back in 2019 before the pandemic had slowed down work experience opportunities within the publishing industry. With the lifting of restrictions in the UK this past month and the world slowly returning to some level of normalcy, with some people returning to the office and more work experience opportunities beginning to open, we thought it useful to hear from a hopeful who has completed work experience to motivate us, as we apply to such opportunities ourselves.
Doing work experience for the first time, especially if you have never worked in an office before can be nerve wracking but exciting as Becca explains, “I had never worked full-time in an office before, so it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about how that kind of environment operates. I feel that my organisation and prioritisation skills developed immensely in those two weeks as well, I can’t begin to tell you how many to-do lists I wrote each day to keep track of the workload!“
Becca worked for the communications department of PRH covering marketing and publicity and tells us of her experience, “because I was working in the Communications department, a large portion of my time was spent sending proofs to journalists and influencers. This varied from sending one copy of a book to a blogger, all the way to organising a mailout of fifty plus proofs. Alongside this, I put together press releases, created showcards and provided administrative support.” One highlight for Becca during her work experience was getting to meet and assist Bernardine Evaristo when she came into the office to do a book signing for Waterstones. “I’m still not sure how we managed it, but a thousand copies of Girl Woman Other were signed, stickered and packaged up in one afternoon!”
In terms of the work environment Becca tells us, “I worked at the Strand office, which was an open-planned space, so it didn’t feel hierarchical at all. Everybody was friendly and approachable and I’d even get emails from people in the department just inviting me for a coffee and a chat! I think because the people working there have been publishing hopefuls at one point, they’re more than happy to offer anyone advice and an encouraging word. In all, I have nothing but positive things to say about the people I met and the general working atmosphere.”
Having worked at a publishing house for the first time, we asked Becca whether she felt that there is a steep learning curve going into this type of work, Becca explains that, “on one hand, it was sometimes daunting to be responsible for tasks I had no experience of. However, the girl who had started work experience a week before me showed me the ropes and everybody in the department was happy to answer any questions. PRH doesn't expect you to have publishing experience after all! Thanks to this level of guidance, I was able to do most tasks without a second thought within a couple of days.”
In terms of whether the role was as she expected Becca explains, “I’m an anxious person, so I did a fair bit of research beforehand, but I was surprised at the level of responsibility I was given: it felt great to be trusted with important things that contributed to the development of current projects. At the time, Penguin General was gearing up for the release of This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel and they kindly invited me and the other work experience girls to sit in on a meeting where they discussed the book and brainstormed ideas for the marketing and publicity campaigns.”
On the value of this experience Becca tells us, “As a publishing hopeful, it was an invaluable experience as it’s given me plenty of things to add to my CV. We all know how difficult it is to break into publishing if you have no experience or inside knowledge, so getting the opportunity to learn more about the industry from the inside – even for just two weeks – was a privilege.”
In terms of the publishing roles that Becca is interested in, she explains that she is “drawn to the editorial side of things but, at this early stage in my career, I’m open to anything entry-level!” On what had interested her about working in the publishing industry Becca explains, “I realised that it was something I wanted to pursue when I worked for a company that provides education software to schools. Working with children’s and YA books was a central part of my role and after I was made redundant, I was determined that books would continue to be my bread and butter. For me, it’s the idea of contributing to something that touches the hearts and minds of readers that I find so appealing.”
A special thanks to Becca Sealy for speaking with us! You can find her on Twitter or Instagram.