Name: Brandy Bauer
College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in Women’s Studies (Smith College) and MFA in Creative Writing (Minnesota State University, Mankato)
Current Location: Washington, DC
Current Form of Employment: Communications Manager at the National Council on Aging
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work as Communications Manager of the Economic Security division of a national nonprofit dedicated to helping older adults age well. My job means that I have a hand in writing or editing everything that my division puts out, from e-newsletters to press releases to website content to proposals and reports. I also do a bit of public speaking, at conferences and on webinars.
I’m lucky that I get to write every single day—in fact, that’s about 70% of my work. I’m also fortunate that I don’t take work home with me, so I still have a chance to do creative writing in my spare time.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I got my undergraduate degree when the Internet was in its infancy, so finding a career-type job was more difficult. I bounced around a bit, working at a bookstore, as a volunteer coordinator at a museum, and in an after-school program.
When I finished my MFA, I came to a crossroads. I was offered an adjunct position teaching Composition 101 at a southern state university, and also a position as an Editorial Assistant for the Cancer Information Service. I thought the latter sounded more interesting, and had better job security, so I took it and never looked back at academia.
Fifteen years later, I’ve held a variety of editorial and writing jobs, all with a health and human services focus.
What was another job that was important in your career?
I’ve learned a lot from all of my jobs, but one of the most interesting and challenging opportunities I had was the three years I spent as a Communications Editor in Kabul, Afghanistan.
I’d always wanted to live and work abroad, but wasn’t sure how to leverage my background in writing and editing into development work. In graduate school, I had a professor who told us that there was a market for literature in translation, especially in more obscure languages. Knowing that there was a rich literary tradition in Persian, I studied that language for two years here in DC. That got my foot in the door to work at a think tank in Afghanistan (where the local language, Dari, is a dialect of Persian).
Working with people from all over the world, I learned a tremendous amount about how to convey information in clear, plain language that non-native English speakers and non-technical experts can understand.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I wish I could say I had a lot of foresight to prepare for post-grad life, but I didn’t! Networking really wasn’t a thing back then, or if it was, I didn’t know how to do it.
I did, however, take advantage of the resume writing classes offered by my college’s career office.
Also I tried to treat each day as a job, allotting specific blocks of time for class, studying, going to the library, and exercising/socializing. That helped a lot in transitioning to full work days and learning how to balance work with fun.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Just remember: Everybody gets a break. When I finished my B.A., I worried so much that I’d be working retail/food service forever. But you don’t ever meet a 40-year-old college graduate who’s never had a real job. Your first (or second or third) job may be boring or not draw on your skill sets, but eventually you’ll find a good fit.