Posts filed under Digital Media

Alaina Leary: Social Content Curator & Freelancer

Name: Alaina Leary

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: Westfield State University, English with a concentration in Writing, Editing, and Media (Bachelor of Arts degree, May 2015); Emerson College, Publishing and Writing (in-progress Master of Arts degree, expected May 2017)

Current Location: Boston, Massachusetts

Current Form of Employment: Full-time, regular, plus I have several ongoing freelance roles

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Right now, I'm working at Connelly Partners / Breaktime Media, and I'm a Social Content Curator on several different client accounts. I'm involved in a lot of different aspects of social media, including community management, content audits, analytics and regular reporting, strategy development, creating posts (writing the copy, contributing design ideas and video concepts), scheduling posts, running social media ads, and working with bloggers, user-generated content, and social media influencers. I also work with some longer form content, including print and online magazines and blogs, and help out as needed with the publicity and PR side of social.

I'm also involved in a few ongoing freelance projects, including Her Campus, Luna Luna Magazine, We Need Diverse Books, Dear Hope, and Doll Hospital. In these projects, I have varied responsibilities, mainly tied into social media, editing, writing, graphic and web design, marketing, and publicity.

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 at a start-up that owned 19 local websites. I worked mainly on the feature stories program—seeking sources, reaching out for features, interviewing sources, editing content written by our freelance writers, curating photos, writing headlines and subheads, and electronically publishing. I did a bit of copywriting, social media, and community management work as well.

I found that job on Craigslist jobs, which I've always found kind of ironic. I was afraid of using Craigslist to look for work, but at the time, I'd been applying since December of my senior year (more heavily since February of that year). I'd used every career website, but I'd never used Craigslist. So I gave it a shot, and the interview process went so well, so I accepted the position. I really enjoyed working there, and it gave me the opportunity to use more than one skill set, which was fantastic.

“As it turns out, I wasn’t right for a senior role, but the recruiter told me not to give up, and I didn’t. I reapplied for another position in March, and she asked me if I’d be interested in joining the team on the client-facing side, as part of the agency.”

I found my current job in an interesting way. I connected with a recruiter at Breaktime Media in January for a senior editor position for an entertainment website that my company owns. I was really passionate about working at the company, but I didn't have quite the experience level that was necessary for the open role. After talking with the recruiter, I was even more convinced that this company was right up my alley. When she and I talked company culture, I tried really hard not to imagine myself getting the job. I didn't want to get too excited. As it turns out, I wasn't right for a senior role, but the recruiter told me not to give up, and I didn't. I reapplied for another position in March, and she asked me if I'd be interested in joining the team on the client-facing side, as part of the agency. I've worked in an agency setting before, and I loved it, so I said yes. The interview process convinced me even more that this was the right fit for me, and I'm so glad that I didn't give up! It just goes to show you that showing particular enthusiasm about a company or a type of role can go a long way—and so can finding a recruiter who you click with!

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

While I was still in college, I worked at a media agency, as I mentioned before. In that role, I wasn't dedicated to one branch, like I am now, because it was a much smaller agency in Western Massachusetts. I started there on co-op and was hired on as staff afterward. That job was crucial to getting where I am today. Not only did I learn a variety of skills and get to use more than one skill while I was there, but I also learned what it's like to work with clients directly, which was extremely beneficial for me later getting freelance work and now, working at an agency. In that role, I had an opportunity to work with writing, editing, graphic design, journalism, video editing, social media, PR, publicity outreach, and even customer service and administrative tasks. And the biggest thing that stuck with me? My incredible relationship with my supervisor, who I still speak with on a regular basis. She was my mentor throughout the process, and we really connected. I can't tell you how important this relationship was for my career development.

“And the biggest thing that stuck with me? My incredible relationship with my supervisor, who I still speak with on a regular basis. She was my mentor throughout the process, and we really connected. I can’t tell you how important this relationship was for my career development.”

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

I took on three internships and several other professional development roles, including working freelance with two area nonprofits (Habitat for Humanity and Hope For Limpopo). I took a career prep class that gave me the opportunity to do mock interviews, practice my "60 second elevator pitch," and have my resume and cover letters critiqued. I took several other unique and useful classes, including special topics in freelance writing and advanced prose, which helped hone my skills and sharpen my ability to edit and refine my work.

I was an honors student, and I decided to do an in-depth thesis project on social media's influence on our relationships, which has been really helpful in my capacity working with social media and learning about human behaviors online and why they happen. It also gave me a chance to work one-on-one with a team of advisors, including a main advisor who I met with every week, and who gave me incredibly beneficial constructive criticism. 

I also worked on campus as a writing consultant at the reading and writing center, and as a tutor in almost 20 different subjects. My work as a writing tutor—and in the class I had to take to prepare to become one—was hugely helpful. My professor was adamant that all of us learn the importance of revising, and it actually changed the way I see the editing process for the better. She also inspired all of us to work on campus social justice issues. Because of that experience, along with three fellow writing tutors and the Student Veterans Association, I wrote a proposal for a veterans' center to be created on campus—and it's now in the process of becoming real.

I presented my work at five conferences, which was wonderful for my public speaking and presentation skills, and gave me the confidence I really needed when I was asked back as an alumni speaker for my college's annual English department award ceremony. 

Making connections was the best thing I did in college, though, as much as every professional experience gave me useful technical skills and practice. My work on Dear Hope came directly from the writing tutor veterans' center project, because DH's founder was a part of our four-person group. He and I have remained really close, and we believe in the same things, which is why Dear Hope is a perfect project to collaborate on. My relationships with supervisors and professors in college were also crucial. I still ask my former professors for career and professional advice (they're probably sick of me!), and connect with them about what I'm up to. The only reason I was invited back as a distinguished alumni is probably because I've kept up such strong connections. I've worked with my former professors, Catherine Savini and Beverly Army Williams, on their new website MotherShould? www.mothershould.com, and I've kept in contact with many colleagues and classmates, too.

“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get a job with an English degree. You can get so MANY jobs with one! In today’s fast-paced digital age, an excellent writer is a necessary skill to get people’s attention and keep it.”

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Do it! Don't let anyone tell you that you can't get a job with an English degree. You can get so MANY jobs with one! In today's fast-paced digital age, an excellent writer is a necessary skill to get people's attention and keep it. You also don't need to be a full-time writer just because you have an English degree. People with English degrees can go to jobs in editing, digital and social media, PR, marketing, publishing, and many other fields. There are no limits unless you create them for yourself by saying that you can't do it.

Also, connect with fellow English majors and ask English grads what they're doing. Get a feel for what you might want to do early on, and try it out via an internship or co-op. Find out what your passions are and go for it! And don't be afraid to ask people in your dream job how they got there and what their advice is!

Visit AlainaLeary.com to learn more about Alaina and her work, and connect with her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter


Michael Restiano: Content Strategist & Freelance Writer

Name: Michael Restiano

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: Tufts University & University of Oxford, English

Current Location: New York, New York

Current Form of Employment: Content Strategist & Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a content strategist at SapientNitro, a global digital advertising agency. My job here at SapientNitro is to help brands get the right content (that being anything from web copy, to images, to long-form articles—like the thing you’re reading right now!) to the right audience member at the right time. Doing that work requires an equal mix of strategic planning and creative thinking—it’s a great exercise in using both halves of my brain!

When I’m not in the office, I’m working on my writing career. I currently freelance for two blogs: the Huffington Post and the SALT Blog, and I also have one short story and one short memoir in the works.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

One of my acquaintances from Tufts in the year above me found a job at SapientNitro when she graduated. The company was looking to hire more entry-level folks right around when I had graduated, so my friend sent an email out to a marketing professor we had both had during our time at Tufts advertising the positions. Luckily, this professor keeps distribution lists for all of his past classes, so that email ended up reaching me.

I applied for one of the jobs, went through the process, and the rest is history! I have a friend, a lot of effort, and a ton of sheer luck to thank for how I ended up at my current position.

I think luck had a major role to play in my freelance gigs, too! I had been a content intern at SALT (which is actually a product created by American Student Assistance to help recent grads and college students with personal finance and student loan repayment) the summer after my sophomore year in college. They liked me so much they decided to let me keep writing for them on an independent contractor deal.

My senior year in college, I attended a marketing conference where Arianna Huffington was the keynote speaker. She shared some of her thoughts around the importance of sleep in a professional’s life. I agreed with most of her arguments, but had a few contending points. She had given the audience her email at the end of the presentation, and encouraged us to write to her with our thoughts. I did exactly that, never thinking she’d actually read the message. When I saw the response in my inbox, I remember nearly spilling my tea all over my laptop. That message ended up becoming my first Huffpost blog, “The Sleepless Generation.”

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I had two writing heavy internships that I think heavily influenced where I am now.

The first was a part-time summer internship (my first one, in fact) at my college’s Advancement Communications office. My job there was to create digital stories and content based on current campus happenings that would appeal to Tufts graduates. It was my first lesson in how to write for a specific audience, and I also saw first-hand how technology has made marketing and editorial fuse more closely together than ever before. After that summer, I knew that I wanted to pursue marketing as a career path.

My content internship at SALT further solidified that notion. This time, I was tasked with writing personal finance stories (“creating content,” in marketing lingo) that would resonate with millennial college students and recent graduates. SALT was a unique challenge for me because I had to figure out how to make a typically “unsexy” topic appealing. During my time there, I learned that there’s a good story behind almost EVERYTHING—you might just have to look harder for it with some subjects.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

First off, on a strictly practical level, I interned A LOT. I’d say that by the time I graduated, I had done around 7 or 8 marketing internships. These experiences gave me the skills I needed to make the jump from student to young-professional, and made my senior-year job-search much easier.

On a more abstract level, I think one of the most important tendencies I had in college was that I constantly sought opportunities and experiences outside of my comfort zone. I think a lot of people close themselves off to new opportunities because they get comfy—they get caught up in their day-to-day, and can’t imagine what their lives would be like if their routine completely changed. Everybody ultimately wants comfort and stability (English major response coming at ya right here) in their lives, but the downside to being stable is that you never grow. Everything just stays the same, for better or worse.

When you’re a young person, you should not be getting “stuck” in anything—you simply do not know enough about the world or yourself yet. So when that opportunity to do something completely out there/not like you/ really random comes along, you take it. The space just outside your comfort zone is where you learn and grow the most.

For me, that opportunity was spending my entire junior-year abroad at the University of Oxford. Most of my friends were doing semester programs in more exotic locations, so initially I struggled with just following the crowd and doing the same. I decided to do something different, and looking back, I consider it to be the best decision I’ve made in my life thus far. I learned so much about myself, socially, academically, and professionally, that my life changed so much for the better.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Intern your tiny liberal arts butt off. There’s definite value in an English or other liberal arts degree: it gives you the intellectual foundation you need to be a great critical thinker, analyst, and writer in a way that no business degree ever can.

But frankly, it’s not enough to get you hired at your dream job, assuming your dream job is anything even remotely corporate.

Employers hire based on skills, not potential to gain skills. You can only get those skills from pre-professional experiences like internships. Experience is the currency of any position, and in this job market, you need quite a bit of it even to just get your foot in the door.

I believe in this so much, that I’m willing to make a bet with you.

If you do an internship directly relevant to your desired career every summer after your freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college, you will not have a hard time finding a job after your senior year. If I’m wrong, feel free to send me hate mail at Mresti02@gmail.com

Outside of that, my advice would be don’t fear the unknown and remember to enjoy yourself! You only get to experience your 20s once, so make sure that you leave some time outside of work to do what you love and to see the people you care about.

Follow Michael on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Posted on January 8, 2015 and filed under Content Marketing, Freelance, Blogging, Digital Media.

Angeline Evans: Digital Media Manager

Name: Angeline Evans

Age: 31

College & Majors/Minors: University of California, Irvine - BA in Environmental Analysis & Design; New York University - MA in Magazine Journalism

Current Location: Miami, Florida

Current Form of Employment: Digital Media Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

 Check out Angeline Evans' work here!

Check out Angeline Evans' work here!

I work at Florida International University as a digital media manager, analyzing and strategizing for our digital publications and properties. I also write occasionally for the online magazine.

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 as a transportation planning assistant at the engineering firm where I interned my senior year of college. I sent in close to 30 cover letters and resumes for internship openings. But that's not really related to this blog, is it?

I found my first job out of grad school through a summer internship. The magazine editor left for a new job while I was interning for a city government, giving me an opportunity to step in as interim editor for a few issues while they searched for her replacement. When I graduated, that same editor was about to leave the new job, and I stepped into her role again. I still refer to her as my "career fairy godmother."

It's slightly inaccurate to say I "found" my current job, because I actually helped create it. I went through two rounds of interviews for a different position (managing editor), and when they couldn't choose between the two finalists due to our different skill sets, we worked to create a new position to fill a void they didn't know they had before (more geared toward digital content and strategy). The original position was found through friends on Facebook.

How do you find freelance clients?/How do your freelance gigs come about? 

I have freelanced as a grantwriter and copyeditor. I contract with a small strategic communications agency (met through a previous job) for grantwriting work, and my copyediting gigs come in through referrals.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Internships, internships, internships. Write, write, write.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Three things: 

  1. Build skills or develop an expertise in a field where writing is traditionally undervalued. This has been key to my personal career journey – my boss at the engineering firm was ready to hire me back after grad school, and my current boss zeroed in on the digital publishing and web marketing skill set I had gained through years of blogging.
  2. The art and skill of writing is highly underrated by most employers, but oh so important. Make sure you put your skills in the right context when you apply for a job, especially if it isn't a writing-specific job. Don't make them guess how your degree benefits them, because they probably won't get it.
  3. Try your hand at all different kinds of real-world writing – marketing copy, press releases, poetry, fiction, essay writing, speechwriting, etc. – you never know if you'll enjoy it and find a new opportunity. Flexibility is crucial.

Visit Angeline Evans on her website, angeline-evans.com, and connect with her on twitter and Linkedin. Angeline is also a contributor on ProfessionGal.com.

Posted on September 18, 2014 and filed under Digital Media, Writing, Editing, Grant Writing.