I met Livvi in the final round of The Scheme 2015. She works in publishing now and I don’t, which gives you some indication as to the result of that recruitment process… ahem. If you’re interested in getting into publishing – be it as a marketing or editorial assistant – read on to find out how Livvi Thomas got her foot in the door of the biggest publishing house in the world in a notoriously cut-throat industry.
Occupation: Marketing and Publicity Intern at Penguin Random House *shortly after this went live, Livvi was offered a permanent Publicity Assistant role – HOLLER*
Which means that you: Have essentially been doing the ULTIMATE form of work experience for a year, and been paid for it, which is quite nice.
Did you always know that you wanted to work in publishing? I always knew that I loved books, I didn’t however always know that I wanted to be in marketing or publicity. I think it’s easier to think of things you’re good at and match those skills to a relevant role, rather than think of what you want to be.
Did you go to university? I did. Studying English was an easy choice for me, luckily. And I was recommended my course by my favourite English teacher at school. Sussex opened my mind to a new mode of radical left wing thinking and I got to live in Brighton for three years. Dream.
What was your first job after graduating? After graduating, I moved back home and was quite honestly depressed. I essentially went to bed for four months, not wanting to see my friends or even look at my phone. The dreaded familial question of “so what do you want to do sweetie?” really freaked me out. For the first time this didn’t feel like a summer holiday, it was just life stretching out before me. Having done alright at school and uni, there was suddenly this huge expectation to just find the PERFECT INTERESTING COOL WELL PAID JOB. And that didn’t happen. So after failing to even get interviews within arts jobs, I put my CV on Reed and ended up as a Business Development Executive selling procurement software sales. It was a small business down the road from my parents, and no, it was my dream job but it was really good ‘adult’ practice and I’m glad I did it for 11 months!
How did you end up in your current role? I applied to The Scheme last year, along with Olivia. It was the first year of PRH’s rigorous and innovative new recruitment process. They ran it again this year. It was and is such a great opportunity for those who don’t have a degree as HR don’t see your face until the second/third round and they don’t see your CV – ever! It’s all based on you and your ideas, which I think is great.
What do you love about your job? It allows me to look at, think and talk about books every day. For me, that is f**king wonderful.
Every job has its downsides – what’re the downsides to yours? Because reading and books are my BIG LOVE in life, almost a part of my identity, working within that industry can sometimes be hard because you care so much. So it’s hard not to take things at work personally, or switch off from them as much as I did at my first job, for example.
Where do you see yourself next? At the moment I’m trying to secure a permanent role at Penguin after doing my 13-month internship… fingers crossed!
What has been the hardest part about getting to your position? The internship I got a place on was extremely competitive, so that was probably the hardest thing I’ve done! It was given a fair amount of air-time within the company and on social media, so living up to that expectation has been pretty tough, too.
Has your job turned out to be what you expected? It actually has. Yes, there have been parts where I’ve learnt something about the industry I couldn’t have believed true before starting. But the office life itself is much as you would expect. Lots of interesting, busy people running around making books happen!
What does a typical day at the office look like for you? I try to come in early at about half 8 before everyone else because I tend to do all the hard invoice/processey stuff when it’s quiet. Then, when the team arrive, we all grab a tea (Yorkshire, of course) and a gossip in the kitchen, answer emails and the day begins! Meetings, sending out books, answering the phone, etc. Occasionally there are book launches or authors coming in, which is very cool.
What’s the dress code at work? It’s really casual. I don’t have to think about what I’m wearing to work, or worry about my nose ring, which is really great. The office is mostly populated by women so it’s great to check out other women’s outfits which are always SO GREAT.
What are your achievable goals? I would love to run my own successful marketing or publicity campaign for an amazing book.
If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would it be? I’d be a writer. Or work for a festival company, choosing and scheduling the acts!
What’s the best way to make a good impression? Eye contact, smiles, asking questions and – more importantly – listening to the answers.
What are two of the most likely interview questions you might get asked when going for your job? Tell us about a time when things have gone wrong – how did you fix it? What do you think you can bring to this role?
And finally, what one piece of practical career advice would you give to your younger self? I’d get out there and do work experience, see what you like and what you don’t like and write down every task you do so that you can mention them in future interviews. Your CV shouldn’t be about your education but about all the other stuff you enjoyed doing besides it.
If you would like to know more, you can catch Livvi here.