Name: Sarah Su
College & Majors/Minors: University of California, Merced; B.A. English
Current Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Current Form of Employment: Community Coordinator at HotChalk, Inc.
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at HotChalk, an online education technology company that has created an education software-as-a-service model, which enables partnering universities to broaden their reach by providing online degree programs. Making learning available for everyone, everywhere, HotChalk’s turnkey solutions power all phases of the education lifecycle: recruitment, enrollment, instruction and graduation.
As a Community Coordinator, I work specifically with university ambassador programs to help connect students and alumni who have had positive experiences with our graduate online programs to encourage them to refer interested friends and colleagues to become potential, new students. Some of my tasks include: creating and finding content to stimulate engagement and discussion on various social media platforms, writing bi-weekly newsletters, monitoring contests and giveaways, and constructing and designing marketing campaigns to spotlight our online students. Because it is a developing company, every day is different and things can change instantly so I am not limited to just a certain number of tasks. I love the fast-paced environment and being able to work on different projects constantly. Currently, we are also in the process of developing a mobile app!
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.
I consider my current position my first ‘real world’ job which is pretty exciting because I am a recent graduate! Upon entering college, I never imagined myself ending up in a business, corporate setting; in fact I had aspirations to become the next John Green. My mindset, however, gravitated midway through my college career when I realized I didn't exactly posses the will power to punch out a 200 something page novel. I wanted a more immediate response to my work while having the opportunity to work in a team environment and devote my time to multiple projects, not just one. Being unclear on what my other possibilities were available to me, I went to my school’s career services where they gave me a list of jobs you can attain with an English degree. I became interested and started exploring the advertising and marketing industry, especially since a career counselor told me a large portion of the industry relies on effective writing skills and creativity.
One of the coordinators at the career center had told me that there was an opening for a marketing internship at HotChalk and that it may be a good match for me, so I decided to apply and was eventually offered a position for the summer. Working as an intern for the company taught me that I am much more capable than what I had originally given myself credit for. I have to admit, at first I was very anxious and timid, and feared that I didn’t belong due to my minimal background in regards to the business world. But thanks to the culture of the company and specifically my team, they appreciated my creativity and encouraged me to be innovative, while always being open and to my contributions and ideas. This gave me the confidence to utilize my skill set and current knowledge, but also challenged me to go above and beyond. I have also always been an advocate that the privilege of attaining a quality education should not be limited by personal privilege, which is a philosophy that the company strongly stands behind, and because of this I worked extremely hard to contribute all that I could to help the company thrive.
At the end of the summer, I was offered a full-time position and I was ecstatic! Not only did I grow fond of the company, I am proud to be an example that having an English degree isn't 'useless' or will result you in being jobless. The beauty of an English degree is the ability to adapt and succeed in various fields due to the fact that good communication and writing skills are invaluable and will never go out of style. My degree also comes extremely in handy because a large portion of our online students work in the education field, and I have a well-versed background in literature and believe strongly in fighting for better literacy outcomes.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
In my senior year of college, I was a Social Media and Arts Marketing intern for a local art center in my college town. The center had minimal knowledge in regards to how social media worked, so I was basically thrown in with little assistance and it became my responsibility to update their various social media platforms on upcoming events and happenings. I have always been an internet junkie, so when I heard that social media has become extremely relevant in terms of marketing, I hopped on the bandwagon. With this internship, I took over their once inactive social media platforms, and in result was able to build a presence and voice for the center virtually.
Most importantly, I learned how to write more concisely and for a broader audience, and it taught me to write in a more informal manner which I had little experience in since my writing background revolved primarily on research papers and essays at the time. I never thought I would be able to make my love and knowledge for the internet into a job, but I did!
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I didn't necessarily have the widest range of experience approaching graduation, but my school's career services helped me highlight my strong suits and interests to tailor my resume and cover letters to meet the requirements of each job application. Working with a career counselor gave me a sense of reassurance and made me realize my personal worth. I highly recommend taking advantage of the resources your school has to offer and speaking with a career counselor to go over and explore the different fields you may be interested in.
College is also a great time to experiment and gain new perspectives. I took a wide range of classes from marketing to public health, and even more 'unconventional' English classes like environmental literature. I am most proud of the fact that college has enabled me to think and analyze material and situations much more critically, and in exchange it has also humbled and made me more empathetic which is vital in any work environment.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
For students, I know thinking about your post-grad life can be pretty daunting, but start your job search early on! I researched extensively on open positions around my area. Especially so early on in your career, I think it's also important to take time to test out the waters to help you determine what you like or don't like, but remember to also never settle for something less or confine yourself to the limitations set forth by society in terms of the capability of your degree. I love my what I do, and I am so happy to have taken the risk to go out of my comfort zone to get to where I am now.
It's also important to surround yourself with like-minded individuals who see and acknowledge your full potential. Whether it be a a professor, counselor, advisor, or even a colleague at work; find someone who believes and gives you the necessary support needed to help you achieve your goals. I know that it can be very discouraging to be an English major sometimes, especially if you're constantly getting comments on how 'impractical' or 'useless' the major is in this day and age. But if that's where your passion lies and it's what you want to major in, then go for it! I always take discouragement as an ignition for motivation, and it results me to work even harder to make my dreams into a reality.
At the end of the day, this is your degree and you are the one who decides on how you want to utilize and make the best of it. Having a degree in English provides you with a range of skills and honestly you'd be surprised by how many employers in various work fields find an English degree to be impressive. It's easier said than done, but never give up and believe in yourself, and always be proud of the fact that you majored in English!