At London College of Communication (LCC), our students graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to develop successful careers across the creative industries. Whether working in-house or establishing their own businesses, they go on to shape creative communications in ways that make a positive impact on the wider world.
For many students, taking the first step into industry can feel quite challenging. It may be difficult to envision where their skills fit into a particular sector, or the steps needed to achieve their career goals, while others may not have access to the professional contacts who could offer more holistic insight into their chosen field.
One of the ways in which students can be supported to overcome these barriers is by connecting them with mentors who can share their own journeys and provide useful guidance around application processes or career progression. While some students source their mentors through academic contacts, industry collaborations or networking events, others are matched through more structured initiatives like LCC’s Industry Mentoring Programme.
In Autumn 2020, an opportunity to deliver specially tailored mentoring support to LCC publishing students was developed in collaboration with one of the UK’s most influential publishing houses, Penguin Michael Joseph.
"In a crowded market, our books shine"
With a history stretching back almost 9 decades, Penguin Michael Joseph was originally established by its eponymous founder with the vision of ‘bringing brilliant stories to the wider world’. It became a commercial imprint of Penguin Books in 1985 – taking on the ‘Penguin’ of its name - and is now a division of Penguin Random House.
Today, it continues to honour Michael’s legacy through an emphasis on nurturing writers and developing bestsellers across the genres of women’s fiction, crime, thriller, cookery, memoir and lifestyle. Its team also have a profound understanding of the need to encourage greater diversity in the industry, bringing together different voices and experiences to better reflect the spectrum of interests found across the writers and readers of the UK.
The Penguin Michael Joseph mentoring initiative was first launched with LCC's MA Publishing course, matching students to mentors from their Editorial, Communications, Sales and Design departments who had recent experience of the job market and appreciated just what it takes to make successful job applications in the contemporary climate. Connecting online through a series of 1:1 sessions, they were able to bring their knowledge and personal stories to offer practical and emotional guidance around navigating the publishing landscape.
Following the success of the postgraduate collaboration, the programme has now developed further with BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Publishing students at the College.
"Help from my mentor pushed me to achieving my goals"
Hanifa Frederick, Marketing Assistant and mentor at Penguin Michael Joseph, emphasised the importance of the project in helping students feel less daunted at the prospect of making the first move into their future careers.
“I believe mentoring in publishing is really important - the industry can seem very daunting and unapproachable for the ‘average’ student,” she said.
“I remember when I first started studying publishing, I didn’t think that I would make it in, but help from my own mentor pushed me to achieving my goals. I want to be that mentor for someone else, and I think working with this scheme will help!”
Fellow mentor Charlea Harrison, Creative Metadata Executive at Penguin Michael Joseph, agreed that being able to identify with young creatives has offered further motivation for supporting their goals.
“Partnering with London College of Communication has enabled me to support students whose position I was in just a few years ago,” she said.
“Having the opportunity to share my experiences, and the invaluable lessons gained from them, has been a rewarding and truly enjoyable experience in itself!”
We chatted to Louise Moore, Managing Director at Penguin Michael Joseph, and Catherine Le Lievre, PA to Louise and coordinator of the mentorship initiative, to discuss how the collaboration grew organically, enabled the publishing house to support emerging creatives, and shaped valuable learning experiences for their own team.
How did the initiative begin, and why did you feel that LCC was a good fit for collaboration?
Penguin is an international publishing house, but we as a team have our HQ in Vauxhall, and we’re always looking for ways we can get involved with the local community to share our love of storytelling and hear new voices. The partnership with LCC took shape really quite naturally, as we were lucky enough to meet Frania Hall, Course Leader on MA Publishing, through Louise’s work as a UAL Governor.
So far, it has proven the perfect opportunity to connect local students who are interested in starting out in publishing (which can be hugely daunting) with young industry professionals who can offer a snapshot of what it is we do and how we all got here while offering practical support and guidance on career direction and development.
In addition to supporting our students through invaluable insight into industry, how has the initiative made an impact on the staff members who have generously donated their time as mentors?
There's been a lot of excitement around the initiative as it's an amazing opportunity to demystify the industry. Setting the scheme up has been engaging and hands-on, with lots of creative brainstorming around what we can do to tailor our time with our mentees to make the experience as beneficial as possible.
Our mentors are eager to see that they’re making a difference, however big or small, and we've been inundated with glowing reviews about what an incredibly bright and driven bunch the latest intake of mentees from the BA (Hons) Magazine Journalism and Publishing course are too. Hopefully, we'll be able to inspire a few to join our ranks!
And even if some of the students aren't necessarily interested in going into book publishing, it's still a great way to be able to offer the support and advice many of us wish we'd had when we were starting to think about the first steps in our careers.
Why do you think it’s important for Penguin Michael Joseph to nurture the future of the creative industries?
The Penguin mantra has always been: 'we make books for everyone because a book can change anyone'. Whatever age you come to them, books possess a unique power to open up the world.
We all have those stories - whether it is a childhood favourite or thought-provoking new memoir - that stay with us and continue to inspire us long after we've returned the book to the shelf, so at Penguin, we’re committed to fostering not only the future of the people who tell us stories – our authors – but also the careers of those who discover and help craft them: our publishing teams. By nurturing creative talent, we're able to speak to and empower the teachers, thinkers and leaders of tomorrow.
We know that this passion for creativity and innovation is shared by LCC and its students, and hope that through our partnership, together, we’ll be able to help the voices of our future journalists, writers and artists (to name but a few!) break through.
"I came away from the scheme so much more confident about my publishing journey"
MA Publishing student Jack Matts felt that the opportunity enabled him to develop both his industry knowledge and his confidence as a practitioner.
“My mentor became a huge inspiration throughout both my personal practice and university work. His openness and kindness made the mentoring sessions thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile; I came away from the scheme so much more confident about my publishing journey,” he said.
“I also enjoyed the relaxed nature of the sessions as there wasn’t any pressure to focus upon particular topics or themes. I gained an incredible insight into the creative industry that my mentor worked in, and the route he took before working in his current role.”
Julia Ramrath highlighted the importance of accessing mentor support at such a crucial time in her professional journey.
"[My mentor's] advice on applications was incredibly helpful and generally made me feel more at ease," she said.
"I think when you’re just leaving uni and applying for jobs (especially in the middle of a pandemic), the process can feel quite daunting. Having someone within the industry who could guide you through and share their wisdom with you was quite a relief."
Kirstie Peters explained that being able to discuss the range of potential routes into industry was particularly invaluable.
"I met with my mentor virtually, and we discussed our circumstances and interests. She showed me her path into publishing, which was really interesting, and since then, she’s been on-hand to review my CV and give me advice on job applications. [...] She also advised me to think of other entry points to the industry, not just the ones I might already have known."