January 28, 2019, by Katy Johnson

How I Used University to Get My Dream Job

By Elise Jackson, University of Nottingham English Language and Literature alumna.

I’ve been in my job as Marketing Executive at Trigger Publishing for five months. With only two weeks between my final exam and starting here at Trigger; the last year has been a whirlwind of change, all thanks to my university experience.

I was relatively lucky coming into university as I knew already that publishing was an industry I was interested in. Having said that, first year was first year, and I barely thought further into the future than how far I could make a £20 food shop stretch. Fast forward to my second year, and I’m sitting at my desk, confronting the fact that sooner than expected, adult life was going to be upon me. Now that it is, I’m looking back and realizing just how essential university was in getting me where I am now. So here’s how to make the most of it:

1. Use the Careers team

This one seems obvious, but I had to properly convince some of my more panicked friends to visit the people in Careers for advice. I first went to talk through the best routes into publishing, where I could be looking and what sort of thing I should be doing to boost my CV. They told me to start a blog to show my interest in the field, to look for free events and familiarise myself with the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook (they have copies of these in the office and library as they’re really expensive to buy!). The second time I took my newly signed contract and, although they aren’t allowed to give legal advice, it was so useful to hear what was standard in a contract.

2. Use your department

It’s not a cliché that in the arts, it’s often about who you know. Being outside of London as we are, publishing professionals are few and far between, so making the most of the relationships you have is vital. The English department offer placements around the city, which I applied for in the generalized area of marketing and publicity. Luckily, I got a social media placement at Bromley House Library and learned some invaluable things there.

3. Look wider

It is well worth following your university’s various social media accounts to keep on top of things. In November last year, I saw an Insight into Publishing event at Hachette in London retweeted by the Department of English and registered on a whim. Only 60 people were given a place, but two of us were from Nottingham, from English, and from the same Virginia Woolf seminar! When these events come up, go for it. Your tutors won’t mind you missing a class and if they’re in London and of good stature, they’ll often pay your travel expenses. If not, your faculty may pick up the tab – but you don’t get it without asking. It’s also worth getting involved in things that are not necessarily career-related. I volunteered with Student Minds and, as serendipity would have it; the interest I had in mental health translated into a job in mental health publishing.


This is the most important one, I would say. In the second and third years, I attended the Spotlight On: Publishing event put on by the Careers team, and in both years I got a lot from it. The first was mainly getting a feel for the kind of roles and people in the industry. But the second, I had the determination to meet people; I approached the speakers at the end and added them on LinkedIn, saying thank you for their insight. After a conversation with one lovely editor, I took her card and, serendipity again, I now share a desk with her every day.

5. Check the Careers feed!

Lastly, use the job portal, MyCareer. Just scrolling out of interest, sighing at the number of engineering placements and lack of art ones, I came across this job advert. Marketing Executive at Trigger, a publisher based just half an hour away looking for someone with an interest in mental health and with strong communication skills. So I clicked, typed, and took the hot train journey out of Nottingham in April expecting nothing, and walked away with a job.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my university – the Careers team and the Faculty of English. Attend the events they work so hard for. Use the systems they put in place. Talk to people! I’ll repeat the advice given by one of those fantastic speakers at the Spotlight On – to succeed in publishing you only need to be two things: extremely kind, and extremely sarcastic.

Good luck! And if you’re looking for advice, tips or just want to chat, feel free to contact me at elise@triggerpublishing.com.

Check out our job and sector insight events taking place this term and find out more about the sector and make contacts. If the sector isn’t covered, have a look at our Career paths webpages with lots of great advice written by our advisers. You can also chat about your plans with our team – just book an appointment through MyCareer.

Image for this blog has been provided by the writer

Posted in Alumni Stories