Name: Chrystal White
College & Majors/Minors: I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno as an English Literature major with a minor in Linguistics and Language.
Current Location: California
Current Form of Employment: Technical Editor
Where do you work and what is your current position?
Currently, I work as the sole Technical Editor for an engineering consulting firm. My duties involve assisting the engineering staff with review of the documents they produce for our clients, correspondence and reports for corporate staff, and editing of confidential documents and correspondence for members of the Board of Directors. During my first year I was tasked with creating a style guide for the Western Region; five years later the guide is still used as a reference by administrative staff and others in lieu of specific style direction from our clients. Recently, I was asked to try my hand at developmental editing, which included working with the engineers at the beginning of a project rather than seeing the report just before it is to be delivered to the client. This has been an interesting challenge and I continue to work to develop that skill.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first “official” editorial job was the result of discovering a need shortly after being hired as a seasonal employee to perform data entry of information collected from the field. I overheard some of the scientists complain about how their manuscripts were rejected even before being read because they hadn’t complied with the journal’s publication policy, so I offered to review their documents on their behalf and study the different journals’ style requirements to ensure all style guidelines were met. This worked very well and I was able to convert a summer job into a 10-year permanent assignment until I eventually moved on.
My current job was the result of a cold-call by a recruiter who saw my resume on Monster.com. I had just been the victim of a reduction-in-force at my previous company due to the collapse of the housing market so this was very fortuitous.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Right now I work as a volunteer editor/proofreader for my church’s two newsletters (one weekly and one monthly) and only recently have been asked to give writing a try. This is a challenge as I have not been asked to write since creating the style guide for my current company. It is forcing me to develop my writing skills and is also teaching me a new form of writing. This has the added benefit of helping me appreciate the process from a writer’s point of view.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
In college I started by offering my services as a typist for students requiring assistance with their research and other class papers. It was a way to earn a few extra dollars (something every college student needs), and I found that some of the students I typed for suffered from poor spelling and sentence structure. So I began offering, for an additional fee, to correct spelling and sentence structure errors and to help with clarity when needed. Word of mouth referrals kept me quite busy and helped me to hone my editorial skills. At the time I had not considered editing as a career. As it turned out this was one of my best learning experiences; not only influencing my future career choice, but teaching me how to tactfully work with writers.
Once I determined my career focus I took advantage of other editors in the company– asking questions; seeking their expertise; and offering to assist with editorial backlog just to gain more experience. Soon I was sent on details (short-term work assignments) to offices nationwide that were in need of editorial assistance with report completion for a study or to publish the proceedings of a symposium. This taught me how to “hit the ground running” because to be effective I had to quickly get up to speed on the project, learn the objective, and become productive in a short amount of time.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
My best advice is to know your strengths and look for opportunities where one might not be advertised or readily apparent. It is how I got my start.