Jean Baur: Self-Employed Writer & Speaker

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Name: Jean Baur    

Age: 71

College & Majors/Minors: Lake Forest College, English Major with Honors

Current Location: Connecticut

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed: writer and speaker

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home and write books, and I also create and give presentations to a wide range of industry groups, from librarians to insurance executives.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first really good job was working in NYC as a corporate trainer. I researched the company, found connections, and went after them until they hired me. I was hired to teach business writing, but soon also taught presentation skills. And then they asked me and one of the account executives to revise the writing program, which we did.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I worked as a freelance writer for many years and learned that I could write just about anything if I understood what was needed. I wrote for the food industry, Time Life Books, a small publisher, ETS, and so on. This gave me confidence and diverse opportunities.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Not much. It was a tricky time as the war in Vietnam was raging and many of us were focused on social issues—stopping the war, race relations, poverty—without any real career path. I took the GREs, but knew I didn't want to go to grad school. It took me a long time to realize that my degree in English had prepared me for many types of work.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

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Take advantage of internships, and your career counseling office at your school. Don't worry about not knowing what you want as you'll discover that as you try out different jobs. For some, the job will simply be a way to make money so that they have time to write, while for others, the job itself matters more. Remember, every organization needs people who have what you have: great analytical skills, deep knowledge of human behavior and strong writing and editing skills. It won't be easy and your career path, like mine, may zig and zag a bit. But you'll never be bored and as long as you keep reinventing yourself, you'll be fine. I've been a corporate trainer, a creative writing teacher, a freelance writer, an author, a career coach, a florist, a mother, a therapy dog handler and a speaker. So much fun!

If you want to learn more about Jean, you can visit her site at JeanBaur.com. You can also check out a few of her books here: 

By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur

Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writing, Writer.

Jimmy Daly: Marketing Director

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Name: Jimmy Daly

Age: 31

College & Majors/Minors: English

Current Location: Vail, CO

Current Form of Employment: Marketing Director at Animalz (a content marketing agency)

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m currently the marketing director at a startup agency called Animalz. We specialize in content strategy and creation for software-as-a-service companies. The company is based in New York City, but we have employees all over the world. I’m lucky enough to call Vail, CO home.

My current focus is on launching a company blog. It’s highly strategic—you won’t find information like this on other content marketing blogs.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

Every job I’ve had since graduating college 10 years ago has come through a personal connection. I first put my writing skills to use for a family friend. He ran a web design company and needed some to help with email and content marketing. That job led to connections, which led to another opportunity, which led to more connections and more opportunities.

One great thing about working in content marketing is that all of my work is public on the web. My current boss hired me after reading work I’d published for another company. 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Early in my career I worked for an agency that required me to write 2-3 articles every single day. It was a grind, but I learned more about writing in those two years than I have before or since. I learned to be efficient, to quickly identify great ideas, and to create archetypes that I could use over and over again. There’s nothing like shipping new work on a regular basis to hone your skills.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Honestly, nothing.

I studied English because I liked writing, but I spent a lot of time fretting about what I would do with the degree. What I didn’t realize at the time was that writing is the foundational skill of many jobs in the tech sector. If you can write, you can find a good job.

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What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

A lot of people are going to ask you some variation of “So, what are you going to do with that English degree?” Ignore them. Keep an open mind. Your options are nearly limitless.

I never thought I’d spend 10 years working in software and tech, but it’s been a great adventure and I’m really excited at my future prospects. 

Most of my work is featured on the Animalz content marketing blog  including a post on commercial writing skills that I think would be useful to any English major. I also send a weekly newsletter for marketers and other creatives called Swipe File.


Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Marketing, Interviews, Interview.

Michelle Swanson: Self-Employed Resume Writer

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Name: Michelle Swanson

Age: 39

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Current Location: Edwardsville, IL

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed Resume Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I own and operate MichelleSwanson.com, a resume writing and job search consultancy serving senior business executives worldwide. I offer a range of services designed to help my clients document and communicate their professional value. My focus is on developing resumes/CVs, executive bios, LinkedIn profiles, and letters, but my clients also rely on me to edit business plans, presentations, emails, press releases, and other business and career-related communications.

“I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force.”

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force. I found my first post-college job through a staffing agency and, after about 2 years, left to start my own company.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

My military service included serving as an Intelligence Analyst. In that role, I wrote reports for intelligence agencies and decision-makers at the highest levels of government. This early experience serves me well in my current career because I learned how to gather and process large amounts of information, cut through the clutter, distill the information into its crucial pieces, and communicate a message in a way that supports decision-making.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Unfortunately, I did very little to prepare for my career during college. I regret not pursuing internships or professional training such as certifications.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

My advice to students and graduates would be to stay open to all the career opportunities that are out there! In college, I was aware of only about a dozen possible career paths for someone with an English degree. I wasn’t even aware that professional resume writers existed! I’ve been in business for more than 10 years, and I’m still amazed by the sheer variety of paths you can take. If you think you’ve thought about all your options… you haven’t. My clients with bachelor’s degrees in English include an IT Project Manager, Vice President of Crisis Communications, Health Insurance Product Manager, Business Analyst, Senior Director of Digital Video, Television Production Assistant, Advertising Sales Manager, Director of Marketing and Investor Relations, Award-winning Independent Film Producer, Television Director, and more. Your degree is just the beginning and does not limit your opportunities!

To learn more about Michelle, you can visit her site at michelleswanson.com. You can also connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.


Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writer.

Brittany E. Williams: Digital Advertising Copywriter

Name: Brittany E. Williams

Age: 29

College & Majors/Minors: Fort Valley State University, Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Master of Arts in English Literature

Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Current Form of Employment: Copywriter

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m a Digital Advertising Copywriter at The Home Depot.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

Shortly after finishing grad school, I was contacted by a recruiter with a large staffing firm who found my resume on sites like Career Builder and Monster. It was a contract (temporary), project-based position with an industrial lighting company as a Graphic Designer/Production Artist. Not what you’d typically expect for someone with two English degrees; however, my previous experience with my collegiate newspaper and yearbook allowed me to learn programs like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, which helped me land the gig. This job also required extreme attention to detail and the ability to thoroughly proofread to ensure all copy was clear and accurate. 

Fast-forward to my current job, and once again, I was sought after by a recruiter with a smaller firm that specialized in placing talented candidates at a variety of well-known companies. A former contractor had just been promoted to a full-time position, so they were in the market for a new SEO Content Writer. I interviewed and was offered the job on the spot!

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

“I consulted a resumé writing service to help me rewrite my resumé, created an online portfolio of my more creative freelance work that more accurately reflected the type of work I was seeking, and even made up some projects just to showcase what I could do if given the opportunity.”

Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with several writing-related opportunities throughout my career thus far, but I’d say there were two pivotal roles that led me to where I currently am today. The first was a short-lived contract position with a large financial institution here in Atlanta. There was no creativity involved and little to no direction on the writing I was producing. It was very constricting, which made it difficult for me to grow at the time. I wasn’t a good fit for the culture either, which plays a huge role in how successful you’ll be with any organization. Even though this position paid me the most money I’d ever made, it simply wasn’t in line with my ultimate career goals. 

The funny thing is, I didn’t truly know what those goals were at the time. I figured since it involved some form of writing at the corporate level, and I was making great money, surely I was heading in the right direction. I was ultimately let go from that job, which was pretty devastating at first, but it wasn’t until then that I realized just how much I dreaded the job! Being let go was one of the best things to ever happen to me because it forced me to make a career shift. 

Up until then, I’d been doing mostly technical writing, with a few freelance opportunities here and there to really write creatively and produce original content. I consulted a resumé writing service to help me rewrite my resumé, created an online portfolio of my more creative freelance work that more accurately reflected the type of work I was seeking, and even made up some projects just to showcase what I could do if given the opportunity. 

Eventually, after many long days and nights of applying to several positions, I landed a role as a freelance Jr. Copywriter at a boutique advertising agency called Shared Vision Marketing in Atlanta, GA. This position stretched me in ways I never imagined. I was challenged everyday to come up with original ideas and execute them in clever, tangible ways. I worked with their in-house Social Media Manager, Art Directors, Account Managers and Creative Director to brand a variety of small consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to develop web copy, blog articles, direct mailers, scripts and more. I even had a chance to continue honing my graphic design skills by laying out the official program for a non-profit event we sponsored. 

In just two months, I was able to significantly improve my portfolio with tons of fun, creative projects that truly showcased my creative abilities. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me that working as a creative writer in the business world was possible. It forced me to pursue a much more fulfilling career, eventually landing me at my current job as a copywriter for the world’s #1 home improvement retailer. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I’d have to say mastering the art of critical thinking is a big one—and ongoing. Learning how and when to ask the right questions; especially “why?” will take you far. You’d be amazed at how many people, especially in the working world, don’t do this. I also believe that my participation in extracurricular activities such as my collegiate newspaper, yearbook and various honor societies, clubs and other on-campus publications like our literary magazine and departmental newsletters, was a big help. I learned to network and build strong relationships as well as how to problem solve.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

“I personally think it’s one of the best kept secrets in academia.”

My number one piece of advice is to never allow anyone to box you in. When I was an English major, most people assumed that I would become a teacher or a professor. These are great career paths if that’s what you truly desire, but this assumption is often because most people don’t understand what obtaining an English degree entails other than reading and writing. There are so many paths available to you as an English major. I personally think it’s one of the best kept secrets in academia. English requires you to study several other disciplines to truly understand the intent of a text. You learn to thoroughly research in addition to studying individuals from various backgrounds, beliefs and experiences, providing you with unique insights that make you a much stronger candidate, writer and employee. 

It can be difficult when you’re first starting out, but don’t give up!  Think outside the box and learn how to sell yourself. Always think “big picture” and then convey how all the fine details work to create the big picture. Be a writer, but also be a thinker and a doer. Understand how to best implement your ideas into something tangible that will have the best impact on the intended audience or medium. Always be working on and improving your portfolio and always be willing to learn new skills to help you leverage your writing in new and exciting ways. Keep asking the right questions and be naturally inquisitive. Steadily build your network and keep in touch with recruiters and colleagues as you move throughout your career – you never know when you may need them again! An English degree equips you with all the tools necessary to be successful in a variety of career paths, but keep in mind that some roles may require you to be more than just a good writer. 

To learn more about Brittany and the work she's done over the years, check out her portfoliowebsite, and blog. You can also follow Brittany on Twitter and Instagram or connect with her on LinkedIn. Brittany is also a contributing editor for Neu Neu Magazine, which you can follow on Instagram here


Posted on March 22, 2018 and filed under Copywriting, Interview, Interviews.