Name: Elizabeth Enochs
College & Majors/Minors: Southeast Missouri State University: BA degree in English-Writing with a minor in Small Press Publishing; Three Rivers College: AA degree in English.
Current Location: Long Beach, CA
Current Form of Employment: Staff Writer at Mercy For Animals and freelance writer on the side
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I’m a staff writer at Mercy For Animals, an international non-profit animal advocacy organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies. I also freelance for a few websites, like POPSUGAR, and I’ve had pieces published in Bustle, AlterNet, Girlboss, and a few others.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I found my first freelance writing job through my cousin. A friend of hers from high school, who grew up in the same small Missouri town that we did, ended up moving to Manhattan and getting a managing editor job at Complex, a New York-based website focused on youth culture. I emailed her my resume and samples of my work, but I remember feeling so nervous about the whole thing that I almost didn’t reach out to her. I had no idea what I was doing, or how to pitch an editor, so I just winged it. Shortly after that, the editor got back to me and asked if I could write articles about new technologies, like smart homes and apps. I knew almost nothing about tech at the time, but I took the job anyway. Less than a week later, I turned in my first paid writing assignment. My editor loved it!
I found my current job through an editor I worked with at Bustle. Shortly after she was hired at Mercy For Animals, she called me to see if I would be interested in applying for the staff writer job I have now. It wasn’t as easy as answering the phone though—I went through an application process that spanned several months, and I had about six interviews before I got the job. I also did a ton of research to prepare. The summer before I got the job, I watched every documentary about factory farming that I could find. Then I moved to Los Angeles so I could pursue my current job even more seriously. To hold me over financially, I freelanced for several websites and secured a paid editorial internship at Girlboss, a Los Angeles-based media outlet. Incidentally, that internship made me an even more desirable candidate for my current job.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I wrote for Bustle — a feminist news and lifestyle website — for almost three years, and I feel like that job launched my career in many ways. I learned so much about essay writing, pitching, and journalism during my time there. I learned how to interview sources, how to report on an event, how to write a profile piece, and I spent countless hours researching everything from women’s health to solo travel to politics. I often joke that working for Bustle was like going to graduate school, except they paid me. Writing for Bustle enabled me to move to Brooklyn for a while, which was an incredible experience and career move. Perhaps more importantly, Bustle is where I met my current supervisor.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Not enough. Don’t get me wrong, I worked hard in college—I graduated from my university’s honors program and I completed an internship in small press publishing as well. I also worked throughout college so I wouldn’t owe an exorbitant amount of money when I graduated. But college didn’t really teach me how to get a job, how to pitch an editor, how to network, or how to use the internet to get writing jobs. Everything I learned about writing and pitching in college was exclusive to academic and fiction writing, so I felt very unprepared for the real world after I graduated college.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
The internet is your friend! Whether your specialty is writing, editing, or even teaching, get online. Even if you don’t find a job to apply for right away, you’ll probably learn something. Take advantage of whatever connections you have, and don’t feel bad about it. Be afraid to take risks, but do it anyway. Study the people you admire, or people who are doing the kind of work you want to do—research how they got to where they are now, and try to apply their tactics to your own life. Be prepared to work really hard, but also take time to rest so you don’t burn out. If you think you might find more success in a bigger city, and you have close friends living in that city, see if you can stay with them while you look for jobs. Most importantly, don’t give up. You’ve got this!