On 25th February 2021, the Comparative Literature department hosted an online alumni panel event inviting former comparative literature students from King’s to
talk to current students about their careers since graduating. Progressing into careers including marketing, theatre, publishing, acting, film and digital production, these former students all graduated from King’s within the last 5 years!
As a second-year student myself, it was fascinating to hear about such diverse career paths from graduates not that much older than me – a definite confidence boost in what my own degree will help me to achieve.
The event began with a round of introductions, as each alumna summarised the paths they’ve followed since leaving King’s. Interestingly, no two paths were the same. Ranging from post-grad degrees to international internships, rounds of interviews to taking time off – we quickly learned there is no “right” way to launch a successful and rewarding career. The flexibility a Comp Lit degree offers was something valued by all the speakers, especially if you don’t have a concrete idea or plan yet.
Current students were also given time to ask their own questions for an ensuing discussion. This was my favourite part of the evening – the speakers drew attention to how Comp Lit is a more culturally diverse degree, and how this offers a broader way of thinking about literature in general – something employers love to see.
Personally, I felt a strong sense of community at the event, despite the new online format – thank you, Microsoft Teams – which included not only former students but also the staff who hosted the event. Department-run events like this are always exciting, and really worth attending. It’s wonderful to see how willing everyone is to help us undergrads get where we want to be, even if we’re not sure exactly where that is yet.
What I learned:
An important thing all the speakers touched on was how to tap into our comparative literature degree and utilise the skills we develop. These are transferable skills such as research, communication and analysis, all of which we develop daily in a Comp Lit degree. Another point that came up was that, interestingly, the beauty of a broad degree like this is that few people actually know what it is. This can set you apart, and allow you to explain it to employers in your own words – a bonus feature, I think!
The best piece of advice I took from this event is to remember that the path to success is not always linear. The alumni encouraged being open-minded, believing in our abilities and not being discouraged by initial setbacks, as setbacks don’t equal failure. And really, venturing into the working world armed with a Comparative Literature degree from King’s College London, we’re off to a good start.
I was fortunate enough to speak to some alumni from the event, learning more about how their degree in Comp Lit has helped them in their careers. In colour-coded form, here’s what they had to say…
Joana Petrova is a marketing professional, who has worked in a variety of industries including tech, beauty, fashion, finance, food & drink.
Ilina Yosifova is a Foreign Rights Sales Assistant at the Welbeck Publishing Group
1) Marketing must be such an exciting and varied sector to work in. What part of your Comparative Literature degree do you feel best prepared you for this?
Joana– Thank you, it truly is exciting and so varied. I think a Comparative Literature degree prepares you really well for some parts of the job – like the creative and the copywriting parts for sure. However, it also helps with the analytical side of a marketing job. I think what a lot of people don’t realise is that a lot of marketing roles include maths, analytics and targets, and not just the creative side of things. It’s not as scary as it sounds, but you definitely have to “wear a lot of hats” so to speak – something my degree prepared me for.
2) In Comp Lit, we’re introduced to a variety of texts from around the world that we may not otherwise have encountered. How has this variety come in useful working when in the publishing industry?
Ilina– Yes, especially for my role, it helped me think about publishing in a more global way. Wherever we publish in the English language, I need to place it in different countries and having studied comp lit helps me think about different cultures more globally in general. When I had interviews with various publishing houses they commented on my degree and asked me about it… it shows interconnectivity and also knowledge of globalisation, so it’s really good!
Joana-I definitely fell into it a little bit, with a Student Brand Ambassador role I got while in my third year at King’s. In retrospect, it really makes sense that I got into marketing. I always loved photography and writing, so it is a perfect field for me. But starting to work in the field and realising how much there is to do and how many new things there were to explore was great. I love organisation so balancing a variety of sides of marketing and advertising really brings out the best in me. I think studying Comp Lit at King’s definitely shaped me as a person and analytical thinker, which helped me get where I am today – the soft skills and people skills you acquire in your degree are also incredibly important in your career.
Ilina-It was both, a little bit. Literature was my favourite subject and I loved reading, so I always knew I wanted to work with books. But it’s difficult to know exactly what that can lead to, so I would say studying Comp Lit helped me develop that love for books but studying also globally helped me.
Also, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do a masters straight after my course, but the department helped me fall into that and were really supportive of doing my reference.
4) What skills do you feel are most valuable in your job that studying Comp Lit helped you to develop?
Joana- Critical thinking, people skills, presenting, sharing ideas… almost everything we did and learned in Comp Lit and King’s, in general, I use on a daily basis. While a lot of it doesn’t always directly relate to marketing, being able to express myself well and understanding what emotions will be elicited from the text, imagery or advertising in a customer is essential for my day-to-day too.
Ilina- As an assistant, I do a lot of admin and contracts and a lot of market research. As most of the work we do in Comp Lit is write essays, reference and research that helped massively – I’m very speedy at doing research now! In any publishing job you have to read a lot, so having to read four books a week in my Comp Lit degree definitely helped, but research the most for sure. Also, English is my second language so I basically learned to write during my degree!
5) When applying for/interviewing for this industry, was there anything from your degree that you found particularly useful to talk about? Do you think it sets you apart?
Joana- It really depends on the industry you’re applying to work in. Marketing is such a broad field and practically every company will be looking to hire someone in that department. While I was really lucky to have opportunities in fashion, tech and food brands because those were fields that most interested me, you have to figure out the specific field, industry or type of company you want to work in, and how you can leverage your degree there.
Some great places to start are companies in the arts or creative industries, publishing or writing – anywhere you can find a direct link is a great start. But do dig into your interests to make sure you’re getting into something that won’t bore you either!
Ilina- Translation helped me massively in this role. But it was mostly to show that you’re not only familiar with one market, and you have a wider understanding of literature, including contemporary works. Researching and transferable skills like writing are useful but it depends on the job.
6) Do you have any tips for how to best utilise a Comparative Literature degree when going off into the wider world?
Joana- Record all the projects you worked on and make sure to reflect on the skills you acquired on the way there. Create a portfolio or showcase your work somehow, make sure to put yourself out there so you have visibility, every step of the way. Remember that everyone has a different perspective on life and work – you just need to try new things so you figure out what’s right for you. And a Comp Lit degree definitely prepares you for that – you already understand that the world has so many perspectives to it, affected by so many different lenses – your journey will be defined by how much you reflect on yours and how you want to pave your own way.
Ilina- I think it’s important to stay in touch with your personal tutors, dissertation tutor etc. Also, I would say when it comes to it, make sure you do something that you love in your dissertation because that can also propel you. I was interested in translation so I did something on that, and that helped me when applying to my masters and in interviews as well, it shows your individual interests. Thinking long-term, this is really useful.
To explore the King’s Comparative Literature BA course page, click here
To read Giovanna’s blog posts, ‘Top 5 Favourite Things about Comparative Literature’, click here
To read Paige’s blog post, ‘Day in the Life of a Comparative Literature Major’, click here