Name: Chris Strom
College & Majors/Minors: B.A. & M.A from Central Washington University
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Form of Employment: Marketing Copywriter
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I'm pleased to say that I have just accepted a new position working as a marketing e-mail copywriter. I suppose, though, I could speak more to what I had been doing prior since I've not gotten into my new digs just yet.
I have been working as a copy editor for zulily.com, where I edit all kinds of copy that goes onto the site or into e-mails. In a nutshell, my job is to uphold voice and style according to brand and make sure writing looks presentable for the public. I also work one-on-one with writers to help them develop their own work copy and dabble in some special projects.
Currently, I work with designers and other copywriters to put together marketing e-mails for clients.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? What kinds of extracurriculars did you participate in?
Is it extra-curricular if you got paid? I guess I'm not sure. I wish I had more to present here, but I don't. To be honest, a lot of the extra things I put into my college experience were really helping me to prepare for teaching, which was my interest for a very long time. I worked in the writing center, acted as a TA and taught my own composition courses. Additionally, once I had gotten into grad school, I submitted several papers to literary conferences. If I was looking to actually become a college professor, I was on a great path.
However, this isn't to say that none of this shaped my career now. These were instrumental in developing my editing abilities, and I believe wholeheartedly that learning the basics of tutoring, teaching and public speaking also made me into a much better coworker and communicator, and I've prided myself on my interpersonal skills. They translate over!
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). What was it like applying?
At first, terrible. I did not expect it to be so hard. If you think you're the only one struggling in your job search, you're not. I use this as a way to preface my statement with a ray of hope. As hopeful as it may make you feel to know that your misery is in company. It's just that I had to learn this the hard way once my morale had taken quite a beating. I looked very hard for a couple of months, and all the responses back were rejections. And that prompted me to, well, give up. I thought that it was me and that I wasn't talented all along, and this is where I mean it would have been nice to know I wasn't alone.
Finally, I took a chance and decided to get in contact with an old college friend of mine. My preliminary message was just to ask for advice on where to look and maybe get some other contacts. She was very nice and insisted I send in my resume to her work because they were looking for an editor. I got very lucky. It kicked off the entire interviewing process where I did phone screenings, an editing exercise and eventually an in-person interview.
I've had other interviews since then, including the one for my new employer. It definitely got easier as I built up my own professional confidence, but I still don't think I know what people are looking for. Of course, they want all of the normal things like multitasking and great under pressure. In fact, it's listed right in their job postings, but that makes those things boring. You should be able to demonstrate basic professional skills, but they shouldn't be your focus. I think employers want to see you beyond the cookie cutter responses they're used to getting in interviews with people hellbent on impressing them. You have to be you. The person you're meeting face to face is also human, and they're going to be looking to make a personal connection as much as a professional one.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Everyone is going to tell you to connect, connect, connect. Get out there and network, and it's true that the two main jobs I've been able to grasp onto first started out with my own professional/personal connections. So, always keep people in mind down the road.
I think, though, judging from my own experience and past, I'd most like to say don't be afraid to start small. If you expect to get your dream job straight out the gate, well... you might, but chances are you won't. Those people want experience, and your name will get shuffled right out (maybe/all speculation/educated guessing). My first job out of college was not my dream job, but it certainly got a better job to look at me after getting a year+ experience under my belt. This is the beginning of your dream, so don't try to get to the end so quickly.