Name: Kelsey Manning
College & Majors/Minors: University of Notre Dame, Program of Liberal Studies Major, Italian and Design minor.
Current Location: Living in NJ, working in NYC
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at HarperCollins in the Ad Promo department designing ads, postcards, social media graphics, flyers, tote bags, and other promotional items for our books and authors. That can mean anything from making a Facebook cover image for an author to designing tattoos based on a book for Comic Con.
I am also a Social Media Manager for Kate White, who is the former Editor-in-Chief of Cosmo, a career expert, and a New York Times bestselling mystery author. And I spend the rest of my time freelance writing and editing.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I got my current job based on a referral from a former boss at Hachette, another publishing house. I interned there last summer, and this fall I was a temporary hire as a Web Designer for four months. Someone from Hachette referred me to my current boss at HarperCollins, I interviewed, and started in January. My actual first job was scooping ice cream, but my first internship that really mattered was the one at Hachette, which I got by reaching out to Notre Dame graduates on LinkedIn. I've told so many people (and actually wrote an article about it) that people still seem to underutilize LinkedIn. My junior year I just did a LinkedIn search for anyone who went to Notre Dame and worked in publishing in NYC, reached out to all of them asking for advice/informational interviews, and one hired me for an internship that summer. She became my boss last summer and referred me for the position I have now.
The other jobs I've come about in similar ways—knowing someone who knows someone, reaching out to anyone I could, and never saying no to anything. I got my job with Kate White because I offered to work for a small literary PR firm for free for a few weeks, and someone there was impressed and introduced me to Kate.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Early in college I thought I wanted to be a journalist, so I worked for Notre Dame's newspaper for two years. I don't anticipate working for a newspaper again (though who knows), but it was an awesome place to learn, especially how to write quickly and concisely. My internship after sophomore year was crucial too – I wrote for crushable.com and thegrindstone.com, which gave me amazing experience, confidence, and writing connections who are still helping me today.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Like I mentioned, I said yes to everything and tested the waters of everything I thought I might want to do. I wrote for the newspaper at first. For marketing and event planning, I worked in the ND football recruiting office. Then I thought I would like to work in publishing, so I got an internship at a small publishing house near my school. That turned out to be a good instinct. For writing and editing, I managed a national online journal written by college students.
One thing I never did was take grades too seriously. You're an English major. Unless you're going to grad school (and possibly even then), no one cares about your GPA. Enjoy your classes, get the most you can out of them, listen to your professors, improve your critical reading and writing skills, apply for grants, do research, take an internship. Just don't waste precious time stressing about grades.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
The same advice I would give to a college student or graduate with any degree: Use college to test the waters and experiment with different career paths. If you want to write, find a way to do that. There are thousands of outlets for writing in college. If you think you might want to be an illustrator, take a few art classes. If you think you want to design websites, start teaching yourself how to code. The list goes on and on and on. Take advantage of the overwhelming amount of opportunities there are on a college campus. Don't just glance over the posters about contests, grants, research opportunities, etc. Put yourself out there, try everything.