Name: Emily Williamson
College & Majors/Minors: University of Central Arkansas, BA in Writing with a minor in Linguistics. Northwest University, Masters in International Community Development.
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Form of Employment: Marketing Coordinator for Rainier Health & Fitness
Where do you work and what is your current position?
Currently, I work for Rainier Health & Fitness, a gym in South Seattle’s diverse community that’s dedicated to providing high-quality fitness services at affordable prices. The gym is a program of Urban Impact, a non-profit focused on community development. In this role, I get to write everything from e-mail content to blog posts to brochures. I manage all of our social media channels (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google Plus), created a new website that I update regularly, attend networking events, establish relevant partnerships and manage the front desk two mornings each week.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first full-time job as a writer was for zulily. I actually started working there as a temp in the studio because I had severely injured my back and didn’t think I was capable of a desk job. My second day there, I heard the company was hiring copywriters so I inquired about it and saw that they accommodated people who had injured backs with stand-up desks. I connected with the recruiter, emailed him my resume and completed a writing test. After that, I was called in for a three-segment interview that included an on-the-spot writing test. At zulily, they were looking for creativity and speed. I learned a lot about time management and cranking out massive amounts of copy while working there (the craziest was 500 product descriptions in 10 hours for a sale that went live the following day).
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
During my final semester of grad school, I began working for Lusso Bags as the Social Media Manager and Communications Director. Lusso Bags was a social business that sold travel bags made by women at Freeset who are able to leave the sex trade of Kolkota to work as seamstresses. I toured Freeset while in Kolkata doing fieldwork for Sari Bari (see below) and connected the Lusso Bags founder Nicole to their operation. Nicole then asked me to come on as their communications persona and manage the social media channels. I got a lot of hands-on experience with Twitter, Facebook, blogging, e-mail marketing and SEO from that experience. I learned that twitter could be a powerful networking tool and that websites can drive a lot of traffic to them through relevant blogging.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
In grad school, I was in a very idealistic program (“international care and community development” was the full title— come on now!). Our program director encouraged us to do thesis projects that could be immediately useful to an organization. He steered me in the direction of social media, so I wrote my thesis as a handbook for non-profits and social enterprises on the topic. The handbook was built around research I did on the topic and a case study of Sari Bari where I had done my fieldwork. Sari Bari is a social enterprise located in Kolkata that enables trafficked women to leave the sex trade to work as seamstresses. They make beautiful blankets and bags from discarded saris and sell them through their website.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Figure out where you’d ideally like to work and what topics you’re interested, then volunteer to write them for free. Charlie Hoehn talks about this approach in “The New Way to Work” TEDTalk. Either you’ll prove your value to the company and they’ll choose to hire you, or you’ll round out your writing portfolio a bit more and have something to show the next relevant potential hire.
Leverage LinkedIn. One of our guest speakers in grad school who works in HR told us that many employers will disregard your resume if you’re not on LinkedIn. I’ve been active on LinkedIn ever since. It’s also where Alyssa and I first connected.
Start a blog and post consistently on it. Share it across social media platforms.