Name: Brittany E. Williams
College & Majors/Minors: Fort Valley State University, Bachelor of Arts in English Literature & University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Master of Arts in English Literature
Current Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Current Form of Employment: Copywriter
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I’m a Digital Advertising Copywriter at The Home Depot.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
Shortly after finishing grad school, I was contacted by a recruiter with a large staffing firm who found my resume on sites like Career Builder and Monster. It was a contract (temporary), project-based position with an industrial lighting company as a Graphic Designer/Production Artist. Not what you’d typically expect for someone with two English degrees; however, my previous experience with my collegiate newspaper and yearbook allowed me to learn programs like InDesign, Photoshop and Illustrator, which helped me land the gig. This job also required extreme attention to detail and the ability to thoroughly proofread to ensure all copy was clear and accurate.
Fast-forward to my current job, and once again, I was sought after by a recruiter with a smaller firm that specialized in placing talented candidates at a variety of well-known companies. A former contractor had just been promoted to a full-time position, so they were in the market for a new SEO Content Writer. I interviewed and was offered the job on the spot!
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with several writing-related opportunities throughout my career thus far, but I’d say there were two pivotal roles that led me to where I currently am today. The first was a short-lived contract position with a large financial institution here in Atlanta. There was no creativity involved and little to no direction on the writing I was producing. It was very constricting, which made it difficult for me to grow at the time. I wasn’t a good fit for the culture either, which plays a huge role in how successful you’ll be with any organization. Even though this position paid me the most money I’d ever made, it simply wasn’t in line with my ultimate career goals.
The funny thing is, I didn’t truly know what those goals were at the time. I figured since it involved some form of writing at the corporate level, and I was making great money, surely I was heading in the right direction. I was ultimately let go from that job, which was pretty devastating at first, but it wasn’t until then that I realized just how much I dreaded the job! Being let go was one of the best things to ever happen to me because it forced me to make a career shift.
Up until then, I’d been doing mostly technical writing, with a few freelance opportunities here and there to really write creatively and produce original content. I consulted a resumé writing service to help me rewrite my resumé, created an online portfolio of my more creative freelance work that more accurately reflected the type of work I was seeking, and even made up some projects just to showcase what I could do if given the opportunity.
Eventually, after many long days and nights of applying to several positions, I landed a role as a freelance Jr. Copywriter at a boutique advertising agency called Shared Vision Marketing in Atlanta, GA. This position stretched me in ways I never imagined. I was challenged everyday to come up with original ideas and execute them in clever, tangible ways. I worked with their in-house Social Media Manager, Art Directors, Account Managers and Creative Director to brand a variety of small consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to develop web copy, blog articles, direct mailers, scripts and more. I even had a chance to continue honing my graphic design skills by laying out the official program for a non-profit event we sponsored.
In just two months, I was able to significantly improve my portfolio with tons of fun, creative projects that truly showcased my creative abilities. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and showed me that working as a creative writer in the business world was possible. It forced me to pursue a much more fulfilling career, eventually landing me at my current job as a copywriter for the world’s #1 home improvement retailer.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I’d have to say mastering the art of critical thinking is a big one—and ongoing. Learning how and when to ask the right questions; especially “why?” will take you far. You’d be amazed at how many people, especially in the working world, don’t do this. I also believe that my participation in extracurricular activities such as my collegiate newspaper, yearbook and various honor societies, clubs and other on-campus publications like our literary magazine and departmental newsletters, was a big help. I learned to network and build strong relationships as well as how to problem solve.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
My number one piece of advice is to never allow anyone to box you in. When I was an English major, most people assumed that I would become a teacher or a professor. These are great career paths if that’s what you truly desire, but this assumption is often because most people don’t understand what obtaining an English degree entails other than reading and writing. There are so many paths available to you as an English major. I personally think it’s one of the best kept secrets in academia. English requires you to study several other disciplines to truly understand the intent of a text. You learn to thoroughly research in addition to studying individuals from various backgrounds, beliefs and experiences, providing you with unique insights that make you a much stronger candidate, writer and employee.
It can be difficult when you’re first starting out, but don’t give up! Think outside the box and learn how to sell yourself. Always think “big picture” and then convey how all the fine details work to create the big picture. Be a writer, but also be a thinker and a doer. Understand how to best implement your ideas into something tangible that will have the best impact on the intended audience or medium. Always be working on and improving your portfolio and always be willing to learn new skills to help you leverage your writing in new and exciting ways. Keep asking the right questions and be naturally inquisitive. Steadily build your network and keep in touch with recruiters and colleagues as you move throughout your career – you never know when you may need them again! An English degree equips you with all the tools necessary to be successful in a variety of career paths, but keep in mind that some roles may require you to be more than just a good writer.