Name: Kate Marchewka
College & Majors/Minors: University of Wisconsin-Madison | Major: English Literature | Minor: Women's Studies and LGBT Studies || Grad degree: University of Washington, Masters in Library & Information Science
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Form of Employment: Part-time Early Elementary Teacher-Librarian
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I'm in my second year as the early elementary teacher-librarian at St. Thomas School, a private PreK-8th grade school in Medina, WA. I get to read picture books, perform felt board stories complete with voices, and sing songs with small children three days a week, and home with my son the other days. It's the best. Also, I get to ply my older kids with stickers and candy to check out books (it works...mwah ha).
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I found my first job through some random web searching and it (very luckily) ended up being a really great job. I had just moved to San Francisco and was fresh out of college and somehow ended up working for a small woman-owned brand agency, where I learned a ton in a short period of time. It was one of the first places where I learned that being highly specific with words and being a detail-oriented person could make a hugely positive impact on a project.
My current job as a teacher-librarian was also a stroke of luck; I interned here during graduate school and found the posting on our department's online job board. It had been listed by a former student, and was exactly what I was looking for. Turned out that the part-time librarian was leaving at the end of the summer after I'd graduated from my program, so I interviewed and had that extra leg-up to get the job.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
For almost three years, I worked first full-time and then part-time for an online flash sale retailer as a copy editor. I was the first editor officially hired into the role, and although it was a crazy pace and workload, I found that I loved the nitpicky work of editing and immensely enjoyed getting to work with writers on their writing, even if it was about tutus and eco-friendly cleaning tools. I kind of fibbed my way through the interview question, "Do you know AP?", saying, "Yes, obviously," while furiously buying up every book on the style and studying them at home after work. Between the studying and the breakneck pace of the job, I picked up skills to back up my claim pretty quickly. Occasionally, if a writer couldn't quite hit the mark or we were short staffed, I'd get to write copy myself, which was also a ton of fun and a fantastic learning experience. I'd never done that kind of writing before—researching brands to write a brand story, and making up character-limited descriptions for products on the site that millions of people were reading.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I wasn't the person who was constantly writing on my own for fun, but I have always been a reader with a 'to-read' list 18 miles long, reading-a-book-while-walking-down-the-street kind of thing. So I think that just being a reader makes you inherently better at communicating in multiple forms—written and verbal. It certainly helped in my editing career. And keeping up with the book world has absolutely helped in my career as a librarian. Even though it can be tough to read for fun while being bogged down with undergrad classes, I think it's important to sneak a few in where you can!
Lastly, taking writing classes where your work is torn apart by a pack of hungry undergrads is very good practice for receiving constructive feedback of any sort, and for giving it to others later on down the road. =)
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I'd say to not let yourself get pigeon holed into the "Oh, an English degree. What are you going to do, teach?" schpiel most will offer. Don't listen to those people, they don't know what they're talking about or how much you have on offer. Try to think about the skills you have and how the things you're passionate about can translate into real work/jobs. I have been a brand manager, a customer service agent, done sales and operations management, and been a copy editor, and having strong writing, editing and communication skills played heavily into every one of those jobs. I didn't ever even think about becoming a librarian until I was in my late twenties, and it was a total light bulb moment and has turned out to be a dream career for me.