Name: Erik Hanberg
College & Majors/Minors: Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. English degree.
Current Location: Tacoma, WA
Current Form of Employment: Self-Employed/Writer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I am a business owner (a marketing and design company I own with my wife) and a self-published writer with six books published (three mystery novels, two non-profit guidebooks, and one sci-fi novel).
My professional background has mostly been in non-profits, especially in communications and marketing. Every job I've had needed extensive writing skills. I wrote the tourism brochure for our county in marketing for one job, and edited a high school alumni magazine for another.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I had one business internship, but my most helpful preparation for a professional career was temping in a big corporate office during the summer. I made pretty good money and I learned very quickly how a corporate environment works. I haven't worked in the corporate world since, but the professional experience was important.
I also worked during college at the Career Center, which gave me a good idea of the diversity of jobs available. There really is a lot you can do!
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I have volunteered my way into most jobs. I have a lot of experience in the non-profit sector, and in two cases, volunteered with an organization before getting hired. As to writing, I've never taken a writing test, but having a portfolio of work has been great. Keep magazines, letters, or any other piece of writing you're proud of in a folder. It will be helpful later.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
First, you can get practically any job with practically any major. The key is talking about skills versus degree or title.
Second, EVERY business needs writers. If not writers, then communicators. I promise your skills are in high demand. Work for a nonprofit in marketing or development (fundraising) for awhile and you'll amass a good portfolio of writing. You can either move up the chain in nonprofits or find your experience will be valued in a better paying corporate gig as well. Strunk & White's book on writing, The Elements of Style, was a great help to me post-college. Writing an academic paper and writing a fundraising pitch are not the same things!