Our alumna, Bea Fitzgerald, on moving from a degree in English literature to a career in publishing

Are you wondering which careers might follow a degree in English literature? Bea Fitzgerald graduated from the University of Reading with a first-class degree in English literature in 2017, and has recently embarked on a career in publishing. Here, she talks here about her time at Reading and on how she chose her career path…

What’s your current role, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I’m a Marketing Assistant at the publishing company, Scholastic. I work on lots of different business areas but mainly education and that includes the thing we’re best known for – Scholastic Book Fairs. My favourite part is probably book fair social media because I get to see schools sharing pictures and stories of their Book Fairs and aside from being really cute, I love seeing kids that would never get taken to a book shop get books from their school. The constant free books floating around the office are also a big plus.

In what ways did your degree in English help to prepare you for the career you have now?
I loved my English degree and if I could do it again (though preferably without the assessment) I definitely would. The best part was going to seminars and study groups and just talking about books. Most of my best essay ideas came from just talking to my course friends about books and my favourite parts of them. In a nutshell, marketing in publishing is getting paid to talk about books – just in various forms like social media, emails, posters, events and hundred of other ways. My degree encouraged to embrace my passion for books and let me ramble on excitedly about the topics that interested me which was the perfect lead into my job. Between second and third year I got an internship at Mills & Boon – a placement I got because I’d worked on the archives down at the London Road campus.

What advice would you give someone thinking about studying English at university?
I was the first in my family to go to uni and my parents were really not keen on me doing English. Law had a direct career path in a way English didn’t but doing any subject you love keeps your options open. I was always going to study law at uni until my school started talking us through personal statements and I found myself planning it for English. All their “talk about what you love!” just didn’t apply to law the same way. If you have a subject, like English, that excites you then go for it – you’ll never get as a high a grade in something you aren’t passionate about and as stressful as uni sometimes was I never lost interest in my subject. I even still enjoy the books I studied for my dissertation! Study the subject you enjoy and figure the rest out later – especially with all the help available at the uni.

Do you have any tips on how to get into a career in publishing?
Publishing is one of the most competitive industries out there. It can be quite demoralising job hunting in it because each entry level role has so many applicants. The good thing is that the industry is awakening to this problem and encouraging applicants from different backgrounds with transferable skills. My back up plan was always to get any marketing job and then to move across. It’s hard to get in but once you are it is so, so worth it. It’s also full of some of the nicest people I’ve ever met! I’d recommend joining the Society of Young Publishers if you want to get into publishing and going to some of the events (everything from lectures to pub quizzes). The website is https://thesyp.org.uk/.

About English Literature at Reading

The Department of English Literature at Reading has been an internationally recognised centre for research and teaching in English Studies for over a hundred years. Our teaching system, with its emphasis on seminars and tutorial work, encourages our students to discuss ideas with tutors and other students in a relaxed and supportive atmosphere. All of our students have access to dedicated study advisors; our academic placement scheme and 'professional track' programme provide invaluable preparation for subsequent careers.
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