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Graduate Stories: Penguin Random House Marketing Assistant Shaniah Shields talks candidly about the publishing industry

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Featured image: Shaniah Shields


Our new Graduate Stories series uncovers the diverse experiences of Manchester Met alumni, exploring the reality of life after graduation and highlighting career achievements. We shed light on the different paths graduates take, share relatable and honest advice, and provide practical tips for students who may feel uncertain about their next steps.


Shaniah Shields, 24, completed her undergraduate studies in English and Creative Writing in 2020, before gaining a masters degree in Publishing in 2021. After landing a job as a Marketing Assistant at Penguin Random House, she talks us through the nitty gritty of publishing and how to get the necessary experience to succeed.

Can you tell us about your experience studying and graduating during the pandemic?

My end-of-university experience was a bit different because I graduated during the pandemic. I didn’t get a graduation until a few years later and wrote my undergraduate dissertation in the first lockdown. I then went on to do my masters in lockdown and got 95% on my dissertation. I remember when I got the grade, I thought it was fake and emailed my tutor as I was wondering if it was a typo. That was one of my proudest moments.

Can you describe your experience with interviews?

The process is long. I had four rounds of interviews spanning over two months. It’s circumstantial, so it depends on the time of year and whether the team needs someone immediately, but publishing is so competitive. Not just from the Big 5, but even with smaller indie presses, there’s still a lot of competition. I’m from Manchester and I didn’t want to move to London. But that held me back. I soon realised I needed to apply to London publishers. You have to make sure that your CV and your cover letter are as good as they can be and I think networking helped too. Put your name out there and hopefully, you’ll get something.

What are some of your career highlights?

I was at the Hay Festival with Jeff Kinney, who wrote Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I read those books growing up, so it is surreal for me to now work on the marketing for those campaigns, that’s a core highlight.

What kind of responsibilities do you have as a Marketing Assistant?

For me, it’s half personal admin, booking meeting rooms, organising events and external talks, and working very closely with the other marketing assistants and PR assistants. The other half is marketing, which involves creating ideas for campaigns and going to meetings, brainstorming and social media. The higher up you go in terms of progression, the more you step away from the admin side of things and begin to get more campaign responsibilities.

What was your experience on the BA English and Creative Writing and Publishing MA?

When you’re in publishing or any sort of creative role, you have to be organised, especially as an assistant. Time management is really important and so is networking. I worked a lot during both of my degrees and did as much as I could. I attended virtual events and networked with the people in my course. You and the people on your course are probably going for the same job, so you’re eventually going to be in the industry together. Keeping those connections after graduating is key.

About the author / 

Georgia Pearson

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