Name: Rebecca J. Griffith
College & Majors/Minors: Northern Arizona University, Bachelors of Arts, English 2012
Current location: Phoenix
Current form of employment: Social Media Customer Support Leader, Safeway, Inc.
A few months after graduating with my English degree, my husband and our two dogs and I moved from Northern Arizona down to Phoenix. We knew that there was a larger, if not more lucrative, job market here in the city compared to the relatively limited one in Flagstaff, where I finished my schooling. (Flagstaff is a small city, with a relatively high cost of living. It’s not ideal for the post-grad to find something that can stand up to student loan repayment.) Down to the hot, sprawling city we came, and my first step was to check online and at job fairs for anything that might get me in the door to something where I could use my degree.
After some searching, I started to realize that my qualifications landed somewhere in between the requirements of the job postings I was circling in my search. I found many entry level jobs, and many jobs requiring some kind of business admin, library science, or other specified degree criteria. I had already worked for several years in assorted customer service positions, some of which were more inclusive of writing and grammar skills, but none of which had fit the bill of something I wanted to stay with, long-term. I got frustrated, and wondered where I fit in this transitioning, digitally-driven job market that I emerged into after college.
While I was in college, I imagined that graduation day would be the end of one thing and the start of another. "Time to end the schooling phase and enter the working phase of my career," I thought. However, very few things in life are black and white like that. I didn't exit one door with my degree, and enter the next with a set career trajectory and contract in hand. For me, it didn't work that way. And that is okay. With my degree in hand, so to speak, I at least had the confidence to seek out something that sounded somewhat satisfying.
I decided to take what I could get and (hopefully) work my way into something where I could utilize my training and education. After all, I couldn’t expect to leave college, become an acclaimed nonfiction writer, and begin drawing the blueprints to my Tuscan villa just yet! That’s when I started my journey at Safeway, Inc. I was hired as a Customer Support Agent, and started by taking calls all day, every day, to assist with the myriad issues that arise in the grocery industry. About a week in, I found out there was a writing team at the company that dealt with written correspondence, and I could try to get into it if I wanted to. Well, of course I wanted to! After expressing interest and taking a simple writing exam, I was accepted onto the team. It certainly didn’t hurt that I came in with a swanky English degree! ;)
Fast forward three years to today: I am among the leadership in the Social Media Department for a Fortune 100 grocery chain that spans the United States. I write to customers and executives all day, every day, via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blogs. I am a part of the corporate side of the company who deals with both customer support and marketing, and I get to work closely with customer support agents, marketing directors, digital marketing specialists, and other company support networks.
Goodbye, phone calls, and hello, digital! I have learned tremendously valuable computer skills, and even honed my personal writing skills as a result of the demands of this position. Part of my passion is writing for an intended audience, and the challenge of determining that audience’s voice via the written word keeps me fascinated.
It isn’t where I though my first post-grad job would land me, and I have plenty more goals and room to grow in my career. But it is certainly one way to make ends meet while making that degree work for me.
Take it from me, it’s easy to get discouraged. But don’t fall prey to this, fellow English lovers! The English degree, unlike some others, does not automatically route you into a field that is conducive to the work we want to do or are passionate about doing. If you pursued an English degree, chances are you have an appreciation for things that a typical 9-5 job may not satisfy: arts, poetry, literature, prose, history… unless you dedicate yourself to teaching a similar subject, many industries just don’t require or feed such an appreciation. But reach out anyway—take a chance somewhere, and see where your amazing skill set can help the company! You never know who may end up needing your help to edit correspondence that goes to an executive, or hears that you are strong in the written word and turns to you for proofreading help (which can pay quite well, in fact.) The doors that open for us may not be the big, grand, obvious ones that say “Doctors and Nurses, enter here,” or “Automotive Mechanics, right this way.” They are more hidden, a little more mysterious, and take some digging to find. And herein lies the beauty: we are needed just about everywhere.
The best advice I can provide is to use your time at school to take in everything you possibly can to begin networking with people. Go to poetry readings at the university or college, or perhaps local poetry slams. Stay abreast of writers who are publishing in your areas of interest, and read everything there is to get your hands on. Engage in what inspires you, and make writing a habit as well as a hobby. Spend time researching what is required to enter the field that interests you, and go for it! The momentum involved in your years of higher education is the catalyst you will need to come out strong and with opportunities behind those numerous (if slightly obscured) doors that are waiting to receive us.