Name: Lauren Pope
College & Majors/Minors: English Literature / Creative Writing
Current Location: Kansas City, MO
Current Form of Employment: Marketing & Communications Associate
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I’m currently the marketing and communications associate for a non-profit organization here in Kansas City. I work closely with the Director of Advancement to ensure the integrity of our brand, as well as manage and create all of the marketing materials. I work in both traditional and digital media maintaining the website and social media accounts and writing stories about our donors.
My favorite thing about marketing is that every day is like working a different job. It’s nice for someone like me who is creative and free-thinking to have a different task or project every day. One day I’m writing copy for our direct mailers and the next I’m visiting the Kansas City Ballet to write a story on our Youth Advisory Council. You never know what you’re going to walk into and I find that thrilling.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first job out of college was as a social media strategist with a small marketing company in St. Louis, MO. I found the opportunity on LinkedIn. In fact, I found all three of my jobs I’ve had since graduation on LinkedIn. It’s an amazing resource that allows you to put yourself in front of employers you might not dream of working for otherwise.
Last year I picked up and moved to Chicago on a whim after getting an offer with a University to run their social media accounts. Now I’m in charge of all of the marketing efforts at my current position. LinkedIn is a great way to market yourself and tailor your experience to get the job you want. Put those writing skills to use! If your LinkedIn isn’t reflecting your ability to write and tell a story about yourself, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I was a freelance copywriter and editor for a year after graduation. It helped me keep my skills sharp while I was looking for work. It’s more appealing to employers if you have work experience while you’re looking for a job as opposed to having a gap in your work history. It shows initiative. It also adds a layer of expertise to your work that employers will love. You can be a writer and an editor and employers love that because they’re getting two skillsets in one person.
My internship with Fleishman-Hillard in St. Louis was probably my most beneficial experience. I had no marketing experience after graduating but was hired as the marketing intern because of my ability to write. I spent six months learning about marketing and specializing in social and digital media which helped launch me into my first full time job after college. Your degree can get you in the door but your internship experience can get you a seat at the table.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I researched! Nobody told me growing up about all of the career paths an English degree can lead to. You go through college with everyone making jokes that you’re going to end up being a bartender or a teacher and it can be frustrating. But there are so many avenues you can go down with this degree. I spent my time deciding what I liked about being an English major and deciding how I could turn it into a career.
Publishing, editing, ghost-writing, copywriting, social media, marketing, HR, internal communications, PR and crisis management, law school; there are so many things you can do. Find the thing that speaks to you and then find an internship in that field.
You can keep your English degree and work in a field unrelated to what you did in school. I believe firmly that an English degree teaches critical thinking, writing ability and creativity and those are all things that every employer is looking for. The ability to write concisely and creatively will open so many doors. Don’t let the fear of not being employable after graduation steer you off this path.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Internships: Experience will get you everywhere. Look at your English department website and see what they offer students. Contact local businesses and see if there are openings that interest you. Check out LinkedIn and see if there are volunteer opportunities that can help beef up your resume. No experience is bad experience. I interned in publishing for my entire last year of college and didn’t end up in publishing. But that experience still interested my future employers and the work I did there helped me later in my other internships and jobs.
Apply for Jobs You Don't Feel Qualified For: I applied to jobs that I was perfectly qualified for and sometimes over qualified for without hearing anything back. Once I decided to expand my job search I was given so many opportunities I'd never dreamed of. A lot of companies will ask for more experience than the job actually requires so don't be afraid to apply with less experience than they ask. It's about the skills you can bring to a position, not the number of years you've spent behind a desk. Even if you don't get the job, you will gain experience in interviewing. The more you interview the more comfortable you'll become with selling your skills as an English major to companies that might not have considered the value of having one on their team!
Have Writing Samples Ready: If you're going to say you're a writer, be ready to prove it. Write articles on your LinkedIn page, keep and maintain a blog. Any writing is good writing. I landed my first internship after sending in my senior creative writing piece about a murder mystery! The man interviewing me said that the sample was unorthodox but he liked that I showed creativity and the depth of my writing ability. You may even consider creating an online portfolio of your writing samples to have ready if employers ask for it.
Stay Focused: It's easy to get beaten down by the rhetoric you hear from people about an English degree. I found myself questioning why I had chosen an English degree a dozen times in undergrad. But if you're focused and determined to be successful, it will work out. Keep your head down, work hard and set yourself up for life after graduation.