Name: Heike Young
College & Majors/Minors: Anderson University, BA, English; Minor, Spanish
Current Location: Los Angeles, CA
Current Form of Employment: Content Marketing Writer at Salesforce
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work for Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Content Marketing & Research team as their Global Content Lead. Wha-whu-eh-huh? Yep, that’s a lot of tech and marketing jargon—but it means I work for a big tech company as a writer of multimedia content. I write everything from infographics to research reports to video scripts (and that’s my voice, too!). Everything I write and edit centers on helping digital marketers do their jobs better with content that guides marketing strategy and execution. I also interview important people in marketing and technology for our corporate blog, which sometimes lets me meet cool people like John Green.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job!
Oh, boy. The short answer for English majors who prefer the Emily Dickinson poem-length story: I persevered until a publishing company finally let me edit their books.
The long answer for Infinite Jest-reading friends: Having loved books my whole life, it was my goal upon graduation to edit them. English degree in hand, I secured an interview at Wiley on the For Dummies team as a temporary editorial assistant. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job. I was utterly disappointed, but I tried to remain gracious about it, and I continued to apply as I saw other openings at the company. I really liked the For Dummies brand and knew it would be a great experience to work on the books.
(Pictured on left: Heike Young served as the primary editor of 'Hypertension Cookbook for Dummies.')
Several months and a temporary job at a film festival later, I earned another interview as a copyeditor, which was actually one step up from that original editorial assistant role. The interview was accompanied by a grueling three-hour editing test! It went so well that I was called back to interview for a different job as a project editor, which was a step up from the copyeditor job and two steps up from the job I initially interviewed for. It worked! I was finally a project editor for the For Dummies series, meaning I worked directly with authors on Tables of Contents and full chapters to refine and develop their books. In a strange turn of events, I ended up being pretty thankful that I didn’t get the first job, as it would’ve been less challenging and rewarding.
While I enjoyed developing content for books, I eventually wanted a more fast-paced job where projects didn’t take upwards of 8 months to complete. This led me to a job in digital marketing. At Salesforce Marketing Cloud, my new team appreciated the experience I had working on books, as well as my experience managing social media accounts while working at an agency. In this role, some of my projects are longer-term (like research reports, which can be 30+ pages and take a few months to complete) and some are quick hits (like blog posts or short slide decks). It was a great fit. My interview required me to submit several writing samples, and books I had edited were hard to fit in that mold, so I was happy for the freelance experience I’d garnered at Indianapolis Monthly and my experience at a social media agency (more on that next).
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Between my job at Wiley and my current role at Salesforce, I worked at a social media agency as a social media account executive. This was an important link in securing the job I have now, because before that, my digital copywriting experience was limited to my personal Twitter account. At the agency, I did social media writing and content marketing for national brands in the form of blog posts, tweets, Facebook posts, and more, and I learned so much about what works online vs. what works in a print book.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I tried to get as much writing and editing experience in college as I could. Editing our university yearbook, a newswriting internship at a local TV station, an on-campus job that involved social media, and freelance editing all kept me busy.
I tried to look for writing and editing opportunities in unorthodox places—for example, my university's alumni office had an office assistant-type job that required writing event promotions, so I took the job. It wasn’t through our English department and it wasn’t exclusively a writing job, but it eventually led to more social media publishing responsibilities.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I’m no expert—I’m just a few years out of college myself. But here are two important things I’ve learned:
- First, maintain grace under pressure, like your old pal Hemingway always said. In my job-hunting tale above, you read that my first publisher interview resulted in nada—but they gave me two subsequent interviews after (even months after) that led to my first job as a project editor. I made it my goal to stay positive, friendly, and gracious with the company after they didn’t give me the job. That way, I’d be the first person to come to mind next time an opportunity arose. If you get a “no” phone call or email, try to respond gracefully, even if you’re disappointed. This positive attitude may soon work in your favor.
- Second, always be adding skills to your repertoire. I graduated with a fantastic understanding of how to write a Thomas Hardy research paper but no clue how to write a whitepaper—so I’ve slowly added to my skill set to remain marketable and give myself freedom to explore new jobs. Try a course on Codeacademy or code.org if you want a blogging job; those HTML skills will come in handy during a Wordpress snafu. Poke around on YouTube or Google Analytics if you want a social media job; social media success weighs heavily on metrics success, not just writing posts.
Writing and editing are absolutely critical skills in our content-saturated age, and I think English majors are nicely poised to find jobs. It’s all about positioning yourself as a well-rounded professional. And that English major attention to detail and punctuation? Keep it. The world needs it.