Emily Im is a final year student studying BA English at the University of Exeter. In 2020, she took part in Ask An Alum (previously eXepert) where University of Exeter students and recent graduates connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask questions about their careers.
What is Ask An Alum?
Ask An Alum is an information gathering employability programme connecting students and graduates with Exeter alumni. AAA facilitates a short-term email exchange allowing students and graduates to ask questions and get advice. There are over 500 alumni available during term-time to contact from various sectors and organisations giving you a range of options.
Why did you apply for Ask An Alum?
During my first year, I was thinking of ways I could learn more about the publishing industry and I found information on Ask An Alum in a Careers newsletter. I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.
“I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.”
How did you apply?
I submitted an application form detailing my interests and which alumni I wanted to speak to and within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction. It was super quick and easy!
What kind of alum are available?
If you’re a student, you can access the Ask An Alum database via Handshake and on there, you’ll find people who work for Bloomsbury Publishing, Oxford University Press and Routledge to name a few companies. You can also see what they studied while they were at Exeter. I think it’s useful knowing so many alumni have degrees that aren’t directly related to their current jobs and there are multiple career paths you can go down no matter what you’ve done at university.
If you’re not interested in publishing, there are alum who work in law firms, healthcare companies, higher education, marketing, etc. There are so many different job titles—you can even get in touch with CEOs.
“Within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction.”
What did you ask your alum?
I had so many questions and luckily, she answered all of them. We talked about her career journey since her time at university, what work experience she did, things that I could do to stand out, her daily tasks, her work-life balance, HarperCollins’ blind recruitment process and much more! There’s a useful list of questions on the Ask An Alum website if you need some inspiration on what to ask.
We started emailing around the end of January and were still in contact when the pandemic hit so I was able to enquire about how the publishing industry was being impacted and what it meant for people seeking internships. I didn’t ask for an internship since that isn’t allowed but she did let me know publishing companies had no remote working opportunities available. Times have changed though!
How do you think Ask An Alum has helped you?
It was great gaining a more personal perspective of the publishing industry and learning about the journey she took to get in. She told me things a quick Google search can’t. It was also reassuring to know she didn’t have much experience when she left university and had multiple roles at different companies before she eventually landed at HarperCollins.
“She told me things a Google search can’t.”
What advice would you give to a student interested in applying to Ask An Alum?
Apply! There’s no pressure. Although it’s a professional connection, it feels like a relaxed conversation. The person you’re emailing wants to help you so don’t be afraid to ask hard questions too.
Would you use the scheme again?
Absolutely! I would still love to work in publishing but I’m also looking into other sectors. There’s an unlimited number of times you can apply, and even after you graduate, you can participate in Ask An Alum for up to three years so I know that when I need some guidance, I can come back to this programme.
Discover how you can get ahead with your career and make powerful connections, learn more about Ask an Alum