Name: Michael Key
College & Majors/Minors: University of Dayton, M.A. in English
Current Location: Dayton, OH
Current Form of Employment: University of Dayton
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I am the Learning Initiatives Coordinator at the University of Dayton. I hire, train, and coordinate tutors for the university and supervise a developmental learning course for students on academic probation. The bulk of my job is focused on academic and professional development for student-employees and students-at-large.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I was a graduate student at the University of Dayton and made the penniless choice to forego a graduate assistantship teaching English and providing writing consultation. Instead, I worked for the Office of Learning Resources in mentoring Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leaders, developing formal office procedures by training student staff, teaching students on academic probation, and then eventually supervising all of the course sections. The director said they had given me too much information not to hire me so I went through a rigorous interview process to see if I would be the best candidate for the job. I’ve been the Learning Initiatives Coordinator for two years now and am planning on beginning my PhD in Educational Leadership in the fall.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
Writing has always been a freelance ambition of mine. I was published in an anthology on Neil Gaiman’s work, Neil Gaiman in the 21st Century, while in graduate school. The opportunity actually came from a tweet I made about reviewing the first volume for a class assignment. The editor contacted me about contributing to the next edition so I used my term paper as the framework for the publication. Even now, writing is nowhere in my job description, but I recently published an article with two other colleagues about using Lean Six Sigma methodology to increase efficiency and decrease cost in providing tutoring services on campuses.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
As a first generation college student, I didn’t really have a roadmap or checklist of things to do to complete college. I also had to work in order to go to school. Therefore, I took every opportunity that was out there to help me learn and grow. I worked in loan collections, housing, alumni relations, the campus bookstore, the writing center, and was once a telemarketer. I also led several clubs and worked as a mentor for students interested in starting non-profit organizations of campus. I think my greatest success was bringing all of my experiences to a new job and building onto it. The snowball has built up to give me a diverse set of skills that have come in handy in jobs or projects that don’t necessarily employ those skills.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I do not live in a cardboard box. Jokesters of the past were wrong when they said the only thing I could do with an English degree is be unemployed or teach. English majors, as well as many other humanities majors, are exceptional critical thinkers. When someone makes a statement, we question why. This is a valuable skill to every organization. We consume information like a seven-headed boar but we synthesize it to make concise and impactful statements and reports. I’ve heard countless recruiters and managers of businesses say, “We can teach anyone business, but we can’t teach someone to communicate effectively.” Know your value and use every opportunity you are given to back it up.