Name: Kyle Hendricks
College & Majors/Minors: Major - English, Minor - Psychology
Current Location: Columbus, Indiana
Current Form of Employment: Full Time
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I am the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the United Way of Bartholomew County. I work closely with our Director of Resource Development on all of our donor communications and fundraising efforts to ensure that we are not just asking people to donate to United Way, but giving them opportunities all year long to engage and participate in the work of United Way and our partner nonprofit agencies in our community.
My daily duties vary but usually involve writing, editing, copywriting, graphic design, managing online platforms, social media, stewarding community relationships, speaking or giving presentations, and developing long term strategies for how all of these skills work together to help United Way raise money to help people in need.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
After graduating college I was bartending at a local spot in my hometown. One day a professor came in for a beer and we started up a conversation. He was starting a new design program in town and we had a good talk on art and literature. He left that day and we kept in touch. I reached out not long after to see if he needed any help with his program and it turns out that he did. I started off working part time at this design space, running errands and doing some low end administrative work (all while still waiting tables in the evenings). I went on to work with him on a national architecture conference and direct some educational videos that were made specifically for that project. My work with the design program gave me the small professional experience and finished products I needed to get me started on a career path in professional communications.
There is a similar story to every job I have found my way into—I made a personal connection with someone without trying to sell myself. I developed our relationship over time and reached out when I had questions or ideas. I took their advice and explored to learn how new opportunities they presented could help me grow.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I did an internship with a public relations agency in Indianapolis where I split my time promoting regional events and concerts and running book release campaigns for independent authors. This internship taught me important skills on the job, like how to write press releases, ad copy and online content. Every professional communications position that I have applied for has asked me for professional writing samples, and this internship gave me plenty experience and examples to use on my job search.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I'll be honest—aside from showing up to class and doing the work, I did not do much in college to prepare me for my current career. I took the route of an English major because I wanted to learn how to get to the root of stories and how the great ones were created. I was exploring art, poetry and literature as I'm sure a lot of you reading this have explored in your time at school. Those pursuits gave me incredible experiences, an invaluable worldview, eyes, ears, heart and mind for good storytelling, and some hard writing skills. I learned how to be an artist in school, but I did not learn how to focus my skills in a way that allowed me to make a living. That came after graduation in all of the experiences I mention above (and many more less successful tries) over the past six years.
If I had to do it over again, I would have worked more closely with my adviser to find a professional internship before graduation and I would have supplemented my class load with a few journalism and business classes.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
1) If you're still in school, get some professional experience before you burst out of the academic cocoon. No matter what path you take you will need to learn things in a professional setting that you can't learn in a book or in a classroom or by waiting tables. Talk to your advisers about opportunities that you can connect to on campus or explore internships that your school may know about. Talk to your family members and friends about their jobs and work to see if you can find some things that interest you about those particular businesses or organizations. Every office needs some form of a good writer, so you have a good start, but you'll need other skills to fully develop your attractiveness to potential employers after school.
Don't sweat if you are already graduated and still need this experience. If you're a graduate and you haven't done any of the above, just start now! There is always time to learn. I didn't start my first true internship until I was 24.
2) Graduation is just another step in your growth process—it does not determine your employment or even your career path. You determine your employment and career by how you use your time, talents and energy after graduation. All of these tools are flexible, and deciding not to explore them to the best of your ability is a choice within itself.
3) Always value your relationships over your resources and ambitions. Like I said, every good job I have had started by making a personal connection with someone without trying to sell myself as a potential employee. Build your network consciously but not selfishly. I know this is hard when you are unemployed and can't seem to find a break, but if you stay patient and friendly you will find those connections, too.
4) Keep learning; you don't yet know all you need to know to do your job well. No matter where you are going, you will need to pick up new tools and skills to progress or even just to keep up. Sometimes those skills are hard skills—like figuring out how to code a website. Other times those skills are softer—like learning how to relate to and work with your older co-workers. Stay open to new experiences and stay kind through the rejections and tough lessons.
Along with learning, find resources that you can keep coming back to for personal inspiration and growth. A few that I visit weekly are the Creative Pep Talk podcast, hosted by Andy Miller, and The Daily Stoic, a project spearheaded by Ryan Holiday.
5) Wherever you are geographically, get involved in the community you live in. Volunteering is the easiest way to make a positive impact for others while also building your skills and relationships. Find the people you are passionate about helping and go find the group or organization that's helping them. If there isn't a group or organization in your area helping people you care about, then build one yourself. Making positive contributions to others will help you through your harder days by giving you a different perspective on your struggles and also increases your value to potential employers by showing them that you care enough about your community to get involved.