Introducing JobHack – a unique insight into the world of publishing


Last month we launched JobHack, a day of creative, publishing-oriented workshops aimed at reaching 18-24 year olds who would not necessarily have considered publishing as a career choice before or had easy access to opportunities or information about our industry.

Our first event was at The Impact Hub in Birmingham on the 22 July. Alex Watson, Talent Advisor, gives us an insight into how the day went...


We wanted to reach those who have a passion for storytelling and curiosity for what’s going on in the world, but who aren’t on our front doorstep.

The attendees were a diverse group: between 18-24 years old, 30% were from BAME backgrounds and included a computer scientist, a law graduate and a few people fresh from doing their A-Levels. We didn’t want it to be like any other careers event. And we definitely didn’t want it to be death by PowerPoint.

Instead we wanted to involve and inspire attendees, and give them an opportunity to ask questions and get a taste of publishing and the creative challenges we face every day.

So, in a room bedecked in books and wayward balloons (that never quite managed to line up to spell ‘JobHack’”), with a penguin kidnapped from the Children’s department and some branded M&Ms, we began...

Partnering with colleagues from across the whole of Penguin Random House, we created interactive and engaging workshops that put them in the shoes of an editor, a marketer, a recruiter and a digital producer.


The day started with Human Bingo – an immense and competitive ice breaker, followed by a surprisingly challenging task where groups were instructed to map out the publishing process beginning to end. 


Mainga Bhima, Assistant Editor from Penguin Random House Children’s, then spoke about what editors really get up to day-to-day – from sourcing new talent to working with Jacqueline Wilson – before leading a creative copy-writing session where the teams re-wrote copy for new audiences. The winning team, very impressively, transformed the blurb from Assassin’s Creed to appeal to a middle-aged non-fiction reader. This feat of lexical dexterity won them three proofs – Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon and Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven.


Before lunch, we snuck in a Speed Networking session, which is a little like professional speed dating. The attendees had a chance to quiz Neil Morrison (HR Director), Mainga Bhima (Assistant Editor), Stacey McDermont (Digital Project Manager), Yasmin Mahmoudi (Resourcing Coordinator), Maddie Hanson (Scheme Marketer) and Jasmine Joynson (Press Officer) on their department and career journey for 5 minutes each.

Jasmine and Maddie then spoke about the changes to the publishing industry and how there are so many more ways to tell stories thanks to digital. They shared some of the exciting projects from the Enterprise and Children’s team – including the surprising popularity of Peter Rabbit with Japanese women aged 20-40 – before moving onto the Marketing workshop where the teams had to create a campaign for one of our Alice in Wonderland anniversary editions.


The team who pitched the most creative and targeted campaign won the opportunity to send in a practice Hirevue video interview for feedback from the Penguin Random House HR team.

We then put attendees in the seat of a recruiter, providing teams with a job advert and three CVs and cover letters, asking them who they would choose to put through to interview. Rather than give them a list of stale CV tips, letting them come to the answers themselves helped them identify what a recruiter will be looking for in their own applications.

For the last session, Stacey spoke about other ways we tell stories and attract new audiences through our digital projects like STRATA, Your Fry, Summer of Penguin and Twit or Miss. The teams had the opportunity to brainstorm a digital product for some of our biggest brands - Jamie Oliver, Dan and Phil or Roald Dahl. The winning team won a basketful of audiobooks kindly sent in from our Audio team.


The day came to a close with lots of requests for email addresses (and a one group of new friends going off to catch Pokemon together). The attendees were very engaged and bubbling with questions for everyone there. Here’s a few comments from them on the day:

“Absolutely loved it. Lovely staff, hugely influential.”

“I absolutely loved how interactive the tasks were so we could learn so much more about the industry”

“Lit my passion to get a career in publishing!”

“I came in not knowing much of the big picture and this has really explained what publishing is about. I have come away excited about roles I didn’t even know existed.”

“I really enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere and the fact that we could ask the staff about their individual roles. It was thoroughly enjoyable to work in teams and face challenges that are still relevant now.”

“It was very informative and inclusive”

“Fantastic day, 10/10 would recommend.”

“One of the most entrancing events I have ever attended”

JobHack is the first of its kind, but not the last.

We’ll be touring the UK with more events like these in the autumn, featuring even more departments – so watch this space.

You can find out how the whole day went on Storify or read blogs written by two of the attendees.

For more information on future JobHacks, follow Penguin Random House Careers on Twitter and for more information on our efforts to make the publishing industry more inclusive, see here.

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