Name: Alicia Cook
College & Majors/Minors: Undergrad: Georgian Court University, English Literature Major, Journalism Minor. Graduate: Saint Peter’s University, Masters in Business Administration
Current Location: New Jersey
Current Form of Employment: Associate Director of Admission & Communication Coordinator
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I currently work at Saint Peter’s University in Jersey City, NJ. I am of two Associate Directors in the Office of Admission. I am also the Communications Coordinator. I wear many different “hats” with this job, and I love that writing and editing is one of them. I take part in the writing, editing, and execution of all targeted electronic communication to prospective students in our office. It is definitely more technical and informational writing, but it’s writing and editing nonetheless.
Prior to being hired at Saint Peter’s, I was briefly employed with a nonprofit organization as their Program Director. In this capacity, I wrote their monthly newsletter and assisted in grant writing. I have occasionally freelanced for local newspapers as well, though news reporting is not a passion of mine.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.
I applied to my first job at the nonprofit before I even graduated college. Applying for jobs in general is quite nerve-racking! So many qualified (and even overqualified) people are applying for the same position as you. An advantage someone with an English or writing background may hold over other applicants is their strong voice in their cover letter. As an English major I really learned how to write in a concise, engaging, and compelling way while avoiding the cliché statements found in every cover letter.
I had always known that I wanted to go on to graduate school. I love learning new things and broadening my knowledge base. A few months into my first job, an opportunity with Saint Peter’s presented itself and I knew they had graduate programs employees could enroll in with no outside cost to them. I was not looking to accrue debt, and higher education careers always interested me, so I thought this was a wonderful chance for me to move forward. One of the first things that were mentioned in my interview at Saint Peter’s was that I had an English background. They saw that as a “plus.”
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Like I said, I write technical and informational pieces every day. However, my real passion is creative writing, though it is not paying the bills right now. So, another writing-related job that was important to me as a writer, but not to my current career per say, occurred in October of 2012. Superstorm Sandy had just devastated the Jersey Shore, where I am from. On the night of Halloween, I wrote “An Open Letter to the Shore Kids” and posted it to a blog site. My friends began “sharing” it with others. By the next day it had gone viral and major news, including USA Today and CNN, picked it up. I received hundreds of emails from people all over the tri-state area and beyond who felt the desire to share their memories of the shore. This was the first time my writing touched people on a major scale. It is a wonderful feeling and gave me the confidence to start posting more of my writing and poetry online.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Though I do believe writing is a natural talent instilled from the start, practice does make perfect. I joined anything in college that could help me hone my writing and find my voice. I joined the college paper as a staff writer. This helped me better adhere to deadlines and constructive criticism (there’s nothing like the first time you see your article two paragraphs shorter than it was when you submitted it!). I was also one of the editors and a contributor to the annual poetry magazine. And any time one of my peers asked if I could proofread their work, I did.
I also picked up a Journalism Minor. I did this because in my English classes I was constantly writing 10+ page papers. I felt like I needed the minor to learn how to say a lot in a much smaller space.
I went to a very small school so many of my English professors I had more than once. In one of them, Dr. Woznicki, I found my mentor. Whether he signed up for the mentor-role or not, he was mine! He pushed my writing and red-penned my work like no one had ever done, and I am a better writer for it. I can’t thank him enough.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
If you want to study English, study English. Don’t let anyone tell you that any subject within the Liberal Arts will not translate in the job world. That’s not true at all. I have had plenty of job offers, all with writing being at least one component of the position. The job world has finally caught up with the fact that not everyone – no matter how skilled they are in other fields – can write well. And yet, every single job requires some level of writing. More and more hiring companies are looking for multi-faceted people. Some skills can be learned over time, but high quality writing is a rarity. If you have that skill, you are one hot commodity!
I would advise minoring in something else as well to make you a better rounded candidate. Or even double-major in something if you can. I went on and got my Masters in Business Administration because as I grew older I realized though I loved writing, I do also like the business world. And guess what? Most of my MBA program required writing!
If you can find a way to blend your passion with a livelihood, then you’re set. It is my opinion that if you love to write, then you love to write even when a paycheck isn’t attached. I post a lot of creative writing and poetry on my Instagram account to share with fellow self-proclaimed writers. If you never share any of your work, how are you ever going to get noticed? Write daily.