Name: Jess Huckins
College & Majors/Minors: Emerson College, Master of Arts in Publishing and Writing; Suffolk University, Bachelor of Arts in English (Creative Writing Track) with a Print Journalism minor
Current Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Current Form of Employment: Editorial manager
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I'm an editorial manager at Skyword, a content marketing company and platform. Besides editing, my job involves selecting and training freelance writers, topic ideation, associate editor mentorship, and managing deliverables. I wrote more about content editing in this piece for Boston Content.
I also take on freelance editing, writing, and web development projects I love, but only when my schedule allows.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first job out of college was a temporary proofreader position at an educational-publishing giant. I found it through Craigslist and was ultimately hired a week before graduation. It was supposed to be a three-month assignment, ending when I started graduate school in the fall, but my manager instead offered me a term-of-project contract and promoted me to lead proofreader for a specific content type. I worked there throughout my time as a full-time grad student, staying for nearly two and a half years. (Pro tip: Don't take three graduate-level courses in one semester if you also have a demanding job and value sleep.) As a term-of-project employee, I was eligible for partial tuition reimbursement, and I made good use of that perk—it helped make this busy period worth the stress.
I also found my current job online, though it was more serendipitous: A Skyword editorial director added me on LinkedIn. I didn't know him, but I accepted and checked out his company. I wasn't satisfied with my job at the time, so when I noticed the editorial openings, I applied. I felt an instant connection with the startup atmosphere and the people I interviewed with, and I'm much happier now. For more on my journey from traditional publishing to content editing (because I haven't covered my in-between jobs here), check out this article.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
The job I mentioned above—the one I wasn't happy with—was instrumental, even though it wasn't right for me in the long term. I was a marketing copyeditor for a flash-sale retailer, and the experience in both editing and blog writing put me in a great position for moving into my current role. I wrote weekly blog columns for nearly two years, which helped me start blogging for the Content Standard when I got to Skyword. I also learned how to build and maintain a brand style guide. I now do this for several brands at a time, so gaining that foundation was more important than I ever suspected!
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
To prepare for life after college, I took every opportunity that came my way, including editing the student-run literary magazine and working three on-campus jobs. I was a work-study in the English department first, and the rapport I build with professors there led to two more positions: tutoring in the Writing Center and interning with Salamander, an elite literary journal my poetry instructor founded and still edits. She even continued to hire me for freelance proofreading after I graduated.
Current students, don't be scared to experiment and really get a feel for what you want to do with your life. I took college courses in everything from Shakespeare to contemporary American fiction, from literary magazines to playwriting; in grad school, I made sure to study Internet writing and web development for electronic publishing. You're in school to learn, so break down that comfort zone and absorb all the knowledge available to you. When you find your focus area, everything starts to fall into place.
In my case, I wanted to be a novelist when I started college; I still do, but I figured out it's tough to make a living that way and decided I'd be better off also learning the business side of publishing. I'm so glad I did—my career path has zigzagged around a bunch, but things are really good right now.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Ensure your future marketability by gaining experience in as many writing- and editing-related fields as you can, even if it feels like "selling out." In my experience, marketing and digital jobs generally pay better and offer more skill-development opportunities than straightforward publishing and writing jobs, and they still let you work with words.
Also, and I'm sure you've heard this before, but use your network. I wouldn't have gotten the flash-sale job without having attended grad school with the person who held it before me, and I may not have made the jump over to Skyword without talking to people I knew who already worked there. The world of publishing, editing, writing, and even marketing is a smaller place than you think! Plus, when you're settled in a job and your friends are the ones looking, referring them will most likely earn you a bonus. Staying connected is a win-win-win for you, your network, and your employer.
Most of all, though, be ambitious and confident. It's not easy out there, but you can do it if you hone your skills and work to move yourself forward every single day.