Megan Kizer: SEO Content Writer

Name: Megan Kizer

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Arts in English, Certificate in Writing for Publishing and Editing

Current Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Current Form of Employment: SEO Content Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at a global integrated marketing agency called PMX Agency, formerly known as PM Digital. I am their first in-house SEO Content Writer. For those of you who don't know what SEO means (which, to be quite honest, I didn't completely understand it until I accepted the job), it stands for Search Engine Optimization. This essentially means that I have the opportunity to write page optimization copy, net-new copy, and blog posts for leading clients across several industries, in order to ensure that they rank among the highest search results in Google. I'm also beginning to actively contribute to our own company's blog.

“Overall, my job is to tell the client’s story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there’s quite a bit of research involved, but it’s my kind of puzzle.”

Overall, my job is to tell the client's story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there's quite a bit of research involved, but it's my kind of puzzle. At the end of the day, it's a great feeling to go onto a major client's website and think, "Hey, I wrote that!" It's an even better feeling to be able to write and use my voice creatively—every single day—and get paid for it. Whaaaat?

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

While I do dabble in freelance work, my position at PMX is actually my first career straight out of college. I found my job through listings on Glassdoor.com. This website gives you information on the company, as well as reviews from past and present employees who can list pros and cons of working there. It gives you an idea of what to expect from a job before you even start working there. So, if you're searching for a new job, I recommend using this service to hear what other employees are saying about it!

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

The most important writing job I had prior to working at PMX was my internship at Green Living magazine in Scottsdale, Arizona. There, I learned how to write professional blog posts and articles, as well as how to maintain an online presence through several social media networks.

Crafting the blog posts actually taught me the necessary SEO skills that transferred over to my current career, including the importance of keywords, title tags, and meta descriptions to search engine result pages (SERPs). Without acquiring this skill, I might not have gotten such an amazing career.

Some simple (but still important) advice: learn as much as you can in the time you have. You'll never know which skills will help you later on.

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

I worked, a lot. I pushed myself to work full-time while I was in school so that I didn't have to pay off loans later on. As an English major, I assumed that it would be challenging to break into a writing career straight out of college, so I did everything I could to prepare myself to be in a debt-free position when I entered the workforce.

I also took on a lot of internships! I was the lead non-fiction editorial intern for ASU's Canyon Voices literary magazine, and an editor for The PEN Project. There, I edited short stories and poems from inmates. The internships I was a part of gave me real-world experience in professional communication with other writers that allowed me to really bulk up my resume and aid me in my career search.

Through my internships, I learned one important lesson: put as much effort into networking as you do with your writing. Setting yourself up with strong contacts that are already working in the industry can push you through doors you never thought possible. Build your LinkedIn site, create a portfolio, and get your name out there.

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

Find your niche! I originally thought I wanted to work as an editor or be affiliated with a publishing company, but that was before I learned about SEO. I love what I do at PMX, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that led me to this career. Please know that there are plenty of jobs across many industries that are waiting for you—some that you may not have even heard of. Go out and find it!

Understand that having an English degree prepares you for a career where every day is different. Whether you're writing for a new client, critically analyzing data, or communicating with coworkers or clients, you're putting the skills you've learned in college to work that day. So, find what you love to do, and don't let anybody else sway you.

Stay positive. There are plenty of reports out there explaining how many fields English majors can enter into. I share a philosophy with most others: you can teach an English major business skills, but you can't always teach a Business major communication skills. Us English majors? We're special.

Don't forget to work hard. Try your hand at different internships so that you can find what you like before being stuck in a job you're unhappy with. Please don't think that you won't be able to ever use an English degree, or that being an English teacher is your only route to success. People will tell you this countless times. In reality, there is an ever-growing online presence where ads and copy are everywhere you look! In fact, agencies are just beginning to realize the impact that strong content has for a website, and are more likely to hire their own writers rather than outsource the work these days. Writinggood, solid writingis more important than ever.

You can connect with Megan Kizer on LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram.


Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Writer, SEO.

Lisa Jackson: Principal Lecturer & Writing Lab Director

Name: Lisa Jackson

Age: 54

College & Majors/Minors: PhD in 19th Century British Literature, 2000, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas; MA in British Literature,1992, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas; BA in English, 1985, Austin College, Sherman, Texas

Current Location: DFW

Current Form of Employment: Director of the UNT Writing Lab; Principal Lecturer, Department of Technical Communication, University of North Texas, Denton, Texas

Where do you work and what is your current position?

“We work with students at every level, from developmental writers to students writing theses and dissertations. The great thing about teaching them is that good writing is the same across the disciplines.”

I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Writing Lab at the University of North Texas. I have 35 people who work for me at five different locations, and we see about 4000 students per semester. It’s a lot of work, but it’s really fun. We get to see students from all sorts of disciplines—business, sciences, arts, humanities, engineering, and so on. We work with students at every level, from developmental writers to students writing theses and dissertations. The great thing about teaching them is that good writing is the same across the disciplines. Format and citation style change, but a sentence always has a subject and a verb; punctuation stays the same. Our language is much more formulaic than we’ve been taught to believe. At the Writing Lab, we really focus on teaching techniques that students can use as they go forward in their writing.

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

My first job was writing contracts for a copier company. I lasted six weeks at that job before going to work as a customer service representative for a corporate relocation company. At that time (1985), it was really hard to find work with just an English degree. I’d never heard of technical writing, and I really wasn’t trained to do anything other than read and analyze texts. While that’s certainly a skill, I was too inexperienced to know how to market it as an employable skill. I almost had to land in the wrong place to decide what I really wanted to do. After working at the relocation company for about 18 months, I realized that I missed the intellectual stimulation of the college campus.

I decided that I wanted to teach at the college level, so I went back to school to get my PhD. Because I worked full time, it took a long time for me to finish. I took one course a semester because that’s what I could afford. I’m rarely asked about that, but when I am, it’s a blessing because I’m able to encourage people that graduate school is do-able at almost any pace.

Eventually, I left the relocation company for a teaching fellowship at UNT. That led to a job as the graduate advisor for the English department. I was lucky because they offered me a full-time job when I graduated. Jobs in academia are hard to come by.

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

While I was working at the relocation company, I wrote a software user’s manual, although I didn’t realize that’s what it was at the time. To me, I was just solving a problem. We had an old DOS computer system that we used to price relocations. It wasn’t difficult, but because we had frequent personnel turnover, I seemed to spend a good bit of time explaining how to use it. One day, when I had some time, I wrote how to use the program from “start.” A technical writer was born.

“I’m endlessly in love with the infinite possibilities of words on paper.”

When I started working at UNT, the director of the technical writing program asked me if I would be interested in teaching a technical writing course. My initial thought was “no way.” But she pointed out that I’d been a technical writer for a long time and that if I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t have to do it again. A semester is only 16 weeks long. I tried teaching our introductory technical writing course, and I really enjoyed it. It’s not the same as reading Dickens all day, but that’s really okay. When a student doesn’t like Dickens, it kind of hurts my feelings. When a student doesn’t like where the commas go, he or she is just wrong. I’ve taught more than 100 sections of writing, and I never seem to tire of it. I’m endlessly in love with the infinite possibilities of words on paper. And I learn new things all the time.

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

Although I got a terrific education, I’m not sure that college really prepared me for post-graduate life. I had to wander and wonder for a while before I found my niche.

I can say that if I’d known how to read them, that most of my experiences were pointing me in a writing-related direction. When I was six, my parents took me to see a musical film adaptation of Dickens’s Oliver Twist. Afterward, my mom and I had a discussion about Dickens. I walked away from that with the conviction that Dickens was the best writer in the world, and I have vivid memories of telling people just that. What’s odd is that no one pointed out to me that I couldn’t read yet!

Writing has always felt really natural for me. I won a prize for a short story in first grade. I think I always sought out writing opportunities, too. For instance, one of my friends and I used to beg our teachers to let us write a class newsletter. I competed in Ready Writing, a statewide writing competition on topical issues, when I was in high school. I was on newspaper staff in middle and high school. I kept journals, especially when I participated in study abroad in college. I was a prolific letter writer. Does anybody write letters anymore? It’s a dying art. I think I’ve just always strongly felt the urge to express myself in writing.

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

Here are my top five tips:

1. Allow yourself to make mistakes. You’ll mess up. You will. It’s just part of writing, and it’s one of the best ways to learn.

2. Try something new. When someone asks you to try something new, say “yes.” I’ve spent far more of my academic career teaching subjects outside my specialty than I have teaching subjects in it. That’s given me options, and you can’t trade that for anything. I’ve been able to do some freelance work, and I’ve been able to turn work down. What a luxury!

3. Work on your craft. I’m a big believer in continuing your quest for writing mastery. Try to learn the rules behind grammar and punctuation. Learn about writing techniques. It improves your confidence and your writing because you’re making choices based on knowledge rather than on intuition. It’s also helpful when you’re asked to defend your choices to a client. In my classes, I can send students into a panic by simply asking them to identify the verb. ;) Of course, I always tell them where it is. If you can explain a grammar rule or a technique to someone else so that they can easily understand it, you’ve really mastered that concept.

4. Network! LinkedIn is your friend. You’ll be surprised at how many offers and queries you’ll get from that source alone. Upload some of your work to LinkedIn so that potential employers and/or clients can see what you can do.

5. Read, read, read. Read everything you can, from the writing on the Triscuit box to magazines, online news, and novels. I always tell my students that it doesn’t matter what they read, it just matters that they read. Reading is the best thing you can do to improve your writing.

You can connect with Lisa Jackson on LinkedIn here.


Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under Technical Writing, Teacher, Teaching.

Bart Leahy: Freelance Technical Writer

Name: Bart Leahy

Age: 47

College & Majors/Minors: B.A English Lit., M.A. English (Technical Writing)

Current Location: Orlando, FL

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Technical Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am a freelance technical writer who supports multiple customers, including Nissan, Zero Point Frontiers Corp. (an aerospace engineering firm in Huntsville, AL), The Tauri Group (an aerospace consulting firm) in Washington, DC, and Green Structured Homes (a mobile home manufacturer and servicing company) in Huntsville, AL. In all of these situations my title is usually technical writer or contractor.

At Nissan I’m writing and editing training courses for their field representatives. At Tauri Group, I help write and edit internal planning documents that get used by NASA. At ZPFC and GSH, I’m primarily writing proposals to government agencies. I am also Event and Membership Director for the Science Cheerleaders, a group of NFL, NBA, and university cheerleaders pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. In that position, I coordinate “science cheer” performances, conduct interviews, and write a lot of the correspondence that keeps the organization humming along.

On occasion I travel to the customer’s work site; other customers I only work with remotely without a single face-to-face meeting. Most of the time I alternate between working on my laptop from home and working at a co-working space in Windermere, FL.

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

My first writing job (1996) was answering guest letters at the Walt Disney World Resort. I had been working retail, hotel front desk, and group reservations at Disney for five years before I applied for that job. I then spent five years answering complaints because happy people usually don’t write letters. After that, I bounced around Disney a bit, doing instructional design (training) writing at Disney University, requirements writing with the information technology department, and more training writing at the Disney Reservations Center.

I’ve had a diverse career. I was a corporate guy until 2013, when I was downsized and decided to take a chance on going freelance. The job that’s paying my bills right now actually found me. A buddy of mine I’d worked with at Disney University was in need of an instructional design writer, and he knew I could do the work, so that’s how that job started. The Science Cheerleader gig came about through another Disney contact. It started out as a blogging activity, then branched out into event and database management. Lesson learned: keep in touch with your network!

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

The first engineering-focused tech writing job I had was proposal writing for a medium-size defense contractor in Alexandria, VA. The job taught me a lot about working with engineers and “learning the language” without having to do the math. When things got slack, I would wander the halls looking for other work, which eventually got me into writing marketing materials, writing for the web, and learning about how the company worked as a whole. I learned to keep my trap shut for the first month or so in a new area and just listen and learn, but I also learned when to ask questions, even if they might seem “stupid” at the time. I worked with some very fine people there, most of them veterans, and they taught me a lot about leadership and professionalism that helped me later in life. That experience, plus some volunteer work in the space advocacy community, eventually provided the jumping-off point for getting a job at NASA (’06).

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

My time in grad school (’99-’02) was more relevant to what I’m doing now. I was very space-focused, to the point where each semester one of my profs could expect to see at least one paper related to space exploration. The research gathered during those papers eventually fed my master’s thesis (“Communicating with Multiple Audiences in Space Advocacy,” a real thriller). At the same time, I was doing some volunteer writing with the National Space Society. That volunteer work eventually included organizing letter-writing campaigns, developing presentations, writing policy papers, and running an 850-person conference.

I was also reading a lot of books and periodicals about human space exploration—the history and non-fictional future plans—to get smart about the organizations, companies, and people making things happen.

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

Give some real thought to the type of work you’d like to do and then start learning about the industry that interests you: how the industry works, what the big issues are, where the writing opportunities are, and what problems you might be able to solve. Next, pursue an internship, volunteer gig, or even better a part-time paying gig in the field to build up your portfolio. By the time you graduate, you’ll be light-years ahead of where I was when I got my B.A.

Also, read my blog, Heroic Technical Writing. It is designed specifically to help tech writing students and other English-major types navigate the world of work. I share insights about all the things they don’t teach you in school, many of which I had to learn the hard way.

Bart Leahy's blog, Heroic Technical Writing, can be found here. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn.


Posted on November 14, 2016 and filed under Technical Writing.

The Politics of Communicating [SURVEY]

No matter how you voted or how you're feeling about the outcome of the U.S. election, one thing is certain: We need strong communicators now more than ever.

Whether you're trying to understand those who feel differently than you, trying to successfully communicate your own ideas, or just trying to figure out how to have a basic conversation with someone who feels differently than you, it can be hard. It can be hard to figure out the best way to communicate our feelings, ideas, and beliefs, and in many ways, learning how to do these things is what being an English major is all about!

From conversations at Thanksgiving with loved ones that turn political to Facebook comment sections that spiral out of control, communication is happening everywhere. We want your advice and tips on how to best communicate with those who may have differing opinions.

Please fill out the survey below. Your name and response could be included in an upcoming article on DearEnglishMajor.com.

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Thank you very much for sharing your insight and experience with our audience! It may take a few weeks for the article to be ready to publish, but thank you in advance. We will send an email to all contributors once the article is published and ready for viewing. 


Posted on November 12, 2016 and filed under Articles.