Posts filed under Blogging

Rachel Tallis: Technical Writer & Project Manager

Name: Rachel Tallis

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: University of Delaware, English Major with a Concentration in Professional Writing

Current Location: Boston, MA

Current Form of Employment: Full Time Technical Writer and Project Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Sovos Compliance in Massachusetts as a Technical Writer and Project Manager.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different). 

I’ve had several online writing internships throughout my college career which I found through speakers in classes and e-mails from my department. However, this is my first full time job which I found by using several job hunting websites, such as Monster and LinkedIn.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

Starting off as a Fashion Merchandising Major, I found myself in online blogging internships which really helped guide me to my current profession. My first internship was writing men’s fashion articles for Men’s Fashion by Francesco, an online magazine. This was important to my career because it showed me how to combine my love of fashion with my passion for writing.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

“Internships are not just a great resume builder, but they’re great for self-growth as well. Try different types of internships to help you figure out what path you want to take for your profession.”

I completed three online blogging internships throughout my undergraduate career. Each of these internships provided me with knowledge of the business world and showed me how many options I had as a Professional Writing major. My English classes helped me improve on my writing, although my internships taught me how to write in AP Style, which is a common style for articles. I spent my last semester applying to jobs and was lucky enough to receive a job offer right after I graduated.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

My advice for students with an English degree is to not take your opportunities for granted. Internships are not just a great resume builder, but they’re great for self-growth as well. Try different types of internships to help you figure out what path you want to take for your profession. My advice to graduates with an English degree is to be patient. Your first job may not be your dream job, but you will find wonderful experiences and opportunities to learn and grow.

You can check out Rachel's professional portfolio HERE, take a look at her cooking blog HERE, and connect with her on LinkedIn HERE


Posted on June 19, 2016 and filed under Technical Writing, Project Management, Blogging.

Brittany Olsen: Editor

  Brittany holding a copy of the graphic novel she self-published about her volunteer experiences in Japan.

Brittany holding a copy of the graphic novel she self-published about her volunteer experiences in Japan.

Name: Brittany Olsen

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: Southern Utah University; Major: English (Creative Writing emphasis); Minor: Art (Illustration emphasis)

Current Location: Provo, UT

Current Form of Employment: Part-time

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I have two jobs right now: One is a copy editor for an SEO management company (Textbroker International), and the other is an editor for a startup modest clothing retailer's blog (She Traveled). At Textbroker, I'm simply editing product descriptions and other pieces of content marketing to pay the bills, and it's meticulous work to make sure an author's writing fits what the client is paying for. At She Traveled, I manage a very small team of writers who have a lot more freedom with their topics, and because it's a lifestyle blog, it's a lot easier for the writers and me to get very excited about what we're working on. 

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I feel very fortunate to have a writing/editing job within two years of obtaining my undergraduate degree. Shortly after graduation in 2011, I left for an 18-month volunteer opportunity in Japan, and I found work as a copy editor at Textbroker upon returning to the United States in 2013. I applied for a position I saw listed on a local job board, and it turned out to be a great fit.

As for my job at She Traveled, it was mostly old-fashioned networking. My sister-in-law was a friend to a former model who was starting her own fashion company, and she hired me as a blog writer because she'd heard of my background in English. After nearly a year of writing, I was promoted to blog editor because the company CEO saw my dedication and organizational skills stand out in addition to my writing proficiency.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

During my time volunteering in Japan, I spent a few hours a week teaching English as a second language. Not only did this help me understand my own language better, but I also learned how to communicate ideas in the most simplified way. I had to teach in clear, simple terms so that even my beginner students could understand difficult grammar concepts. I also was able to develop a fun and creative teaching style so that participants would stay engaged in the lessons. These experiences helped me improve my communication skills in general, which has been beneficial in both my professional and personal lives.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Some of the most valuable experiences I had in my undergraduate classes were peer reviews. I went into college wanting to be a writer, and many of my writing classes involved working on other students' essays and creative writing in small groups. It was through this process that I grew to love editing more than writing, and I gained valuable skills in communicating with other writers. It takes work to put into words what you like/don't like about a piece of writing and why. It's also an extremely valuable skill to learn how to communicate your comments in a professional and encouraging way. I could apply those skills in any field, but I feel fortunate to have a job where I can guide other writers.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

I would encourage you to take up a volunteer opportunity that puts you out of your element. Growing personally and expanding your horizons will help your career prospects more than any amount of book learning, and volunteer experiences always give you interesting talking points during interviews. Employers are always looking for great communicators who can come up with creative solutions to problems, and English majors definitely fit the bill.

Visit Brittany's website, check out her blog ComicDiaries.com, and view her writing and editing work at SheTraveled.com/blog


Posted on April 17, 2016 and filed under Editing, Teaching, Copywriting, Blogging.

Maleeka T. Hollaway: Internationally Certified Life & Business Coach, Editor, Author, & Speaker

Name: Maleeka T. Hollaway

Age: 25

College: Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University (Normal, AL)

Current Location: Huntsville, Alabama

Current Form of Employment: Internationally Certified Life & Business Coach, Editor, Author, & Speaker—in short, I am self-employed.

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Why did I just laugh out loud when I read this question? ☺ Currently, I work for myself and by myself at The OfficialMaleeka Group, LLC. I am an Internationally Certified Life and Business Success Coach as well as an editor, and that is how I make a living for myself and my daughter. I am the founder and CEO of my company.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I started working for myself for a few reasons. The first reason is because my business is a part of my purpose for living. Being a coach and speaker, I get the privilege to meet many individuals who need an accountability partner in life to help them get from where they are to where they desire to be. Sharing my story with others and inspiring others to live their best lives gives my heart so much joy—it’s unexplainable. The second reason I began working for myself is simple: I couldn’t find any other career-related job! Let’s be honest, it is HARD finding a “good” job when you’re fresh out of school. Companies post jobs as "entry" level and in the job descriptions, they say they require someone with 5-10 years of experience… sound familiar? 

I ran into the "lack of experience" wall many times, and even now, I’m still standing at that same wall. Because I want to be the best CEO I can be, I took the advice of a few of my trusted business mentors and they all suggested that working in Corporate America would be valuable to me. So. As much as it pains me to do so, I am working my business AND in the job hunt market (even as a Graduate Student). 

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

At this time, the most important writing job I have had is what I am doing now, editing. To date, I have edited the blogs of six different best-selling authors. The blogs I have edited for them have been published to the Huffington Post! And a few of them made the front page of multiple categories! I have also edited a few books for other published authors as well.

Being able to say my work has been published on such a large platform is a BIG deal! More than that, transforming someone else’s words into an engaging work is one of the best feelings in the world! Bringing others joy through serving them is quite humbling. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

That’s a loaded question (LOL)! My college years were not like the typical student. I had to complete school through many tumultuous circumstances, including being domestic violence victim and losing my full scholarship. When I left my mom’s house to come to school, I truly believed life would be laid out on a platter for me—boy, was I wrong. 

While I was in undergrad, all I did was hope and pray that I would actually finish! I had jobs here and there but never one that I fell in love with. I honestly had no solidified “plan.” When I finally received my degree (two months after I graduated—it’s a long story), I vowed never to return to school. I took one semester off, and found myself enrolled in a Master’s program—Communications Specialists to be exact. I started to think I would become a career student!

What is your advice for students and graduate students with an English degree?

My best advice for my fellow English degree friends would be this: Get an internship where you can use and hone your writing skills (something I failed to do during undergrad) and find work that fulfills you and stick to it.

Most would say, “Go where the money is,” but GOOD money isn’t always guaranteed at first. There are multiple sites that have freelance writing and editing jobs for people with English degrees. Some pay well. Build up your resume as much as possible. 

Oh yes, and one more thing—NEVER GIVE UP!

Links to my work:

I contribute to the 20 Beautiful Women-Movement to Advance Sisterhood section of the Huffington Post (you can read examples of my articles here and here). I also edit many of the blogs that are published for other authors on this page and others throughout the HP online world.

I currently contribute monthly to Womeneur.com, an online community for women entrepreneurs based out of New York and New Jersey. I also contribute to PrettyWomenHustle.com, an online digital magazine for the working woman.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on social media via my website


Posted on January 30, 2016 and filed under Writing, Blogging, Editing.

Jenna Stolfi: Gallery Manager, Writer & Researcher

Name: Jenna Stolfi

Age: 27

College & Majors/Minors: English with an emphasis in Creative Writing; Minor in Communications

Current Location: South Florida

Current Form of Employment: Gallery Manager, Writer, and Researcher

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently am the Gallery Manager, Writer, and Researcher for Daniels Antiques, a luxury antiques business.

This is not your grandma's dusty old antique shop. We specialize in selling polished WWII Binoculars, antique Louis Vuitton trunks, vintage coin-op and arcade machines, antique slot machines, and contemporary art. It is an eclectic, museum-quality collection that is a testament to both human ingenuity and a bygone era.

  Jenna Stolfi in the Daniels Antiques Gallery

Jenna Stolfi in the Daniels Antiques Gallery

As the writer and researcher, I am responsible for all written content, which includes all social media accounts, email correspondences, product descriptions, marketing materials, and the blog. I learn something new every day.

My challenge each day is to make each of our items come to life, whether it be through the content I disseminate via various online channels, or through the spoken word when I am educating or selling to a prospective buyer.

As I have transitioned into taking over more responsibilities on the gallery management side of things, I have learned more about business operations than I ever expected to. 

I think if I would have gone into a larger corporation, my position would have been a lot more narrow in scope. As one of four members of the business, I have many different responsibilities. This amount of responsibility has increased my skill set in ways I never could have imagined. I have learned the art of negotiation, learned accounting practices, and even become well-versed in shipping logistics, all while building my writing portfolio.

  The Daniels Antiques Gallery

The Daniels Antiques Gallery

While at first it may be appealing to go right after the big companies when you begin your job search, don't rule out smaller family-owned or local businesses, where you can become an integral member of a team.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

When I first got out of college, the entry-level jobs I was most interested in were either unpaid or very low-paying jobs in expensive cities that would have required a cross-country move. I was apprehensive about going into debt or getting in over my head financially. 

While I continued my job search, I became a full-time server. I was fortunate to work at a high-volume restaurant for most of my tenure, and found that the flexible schedule and the pay afforded me a great opportunity: time and money. I was able to take on additional side-jobs regardless of what I was being paid.

Social media and the internet are absolutely great for finding opportunities, but it is important to thoroughly research any person or company you are going to work for, especially if it is unpaid. There are a lot of people and businesses out there that try to exploit aspiring writers or recent graduates, so exercise caution if anything seems off. Always trust your intuition.

I was fortunate to work with a few great non-profits and small businesses that needed content for their websites but were too busy and too understaffed to create content on their own. I volunteered my services for free in order to build my portfolio.

This strategy worked, and the writing experience that I gained while working as a server allowed me to transition into the next stage of my career, which was becoming the full-time writer and researcher at Daniels Antiques.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

While it wasn't a job, one of the most important decisions I have made so far in my career was to pursue the Professional Sequence in Editing through University of California-Berkeley's Online Extension. I began this program while I was a server, and completed it while I was in my current position.

I wanted to supplement the creative skills I had practiced in my undergrad with the technical side of my craft, which is editing. This sequence begins with a much-needed refresher in grammar and mechanics, something that you don't actually spend much time on in an English degree! The middle two courses focus on copyediting, and the final course immerses you in substantive editing.

This sequence buttressed my confidence as both a writer and editor. I learned things that have helped organize my writing that I never would have thought of, such as style sheet generation. I also met a great group of diverse, virtual classmates who shared their wide range of experiences in different realms of both the writing and editing profession. 

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

When I was in college, I jumped at any opportunity that was put before me. If there was a club that sounded interesting, I attended the meeting. If a professor was looking for researchers, I volunteered. 

I always pushed myself to try something new and to get outside of my comfort zone, which is a spirit that I continue to feed in my post-grad life. You never really know which opportunity will either directly or indirectly take you where you want to go.

I would say one of the most formative experiences of my college career was participating in the required advanced writing workshops. The workshops were no more than 18 people, and you were required to write a piece of either fiction or a small collection of poetry, and pass it out to every member of the workshop. Then, for a full class period, you had to sit in silence while everyone discussed your work. You could not defend your work, you could not clarify anything. All you could do was listen.

It was both a petrifying and illuminating experience that taught me how to handle constructive criticism. It taught me how to put myself out there, and also how to look someone in the eye and stand by my work. 

If you are trying to become a professional writer or journalist, in the beginning so much of what you do involves the process of writing queries and submitting. It is a trying and difficult process that requires both vulnerability and detachment from yourself and your work. Workshops are an invaluable tool that can help you callous the skin you will undoubtedly need to be a writer.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Read as much as possible, all the time. Read books on craft, read books for fun. Ingest as many words as you can stand.

If you are trying to get published, many publications will put their contributor guidelines on their websites. Do the research. I recommend making a Twitter account to follow literary magazines, editors, other writers, and publications you want to submit to so you can get a good idea of what they are already publishing.

Explore all of your options when it comes to picking your career path. I never would have imagined myself working in a gallery, but I wouldn't change it for anything. Apply to jobs whether or not you think you have the experience. Try to add to your portfolio whenever you can.

English degrees can be one of the most valuable degrees out there because of their versatility. People are consuming so much information each day thanks to the internet. I don't think there has ever been a more important time than now to be able to write well and communicate clearly, and I don't think that's ever going to change.

You can read more of Jenna's writing online on her eco-conscious travel and lifestyle blog and on her recently launched vintage and antique book blog. You can also connect with her on Twitter.


6 Ways to Write for Yourself When You're Busy Writing for Everyone Else

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about how working in the service industry could help make you a better writer. At the time, I was working in the service industry. Now, though, I’ve transitioned into a job that pays me to write (a weird thing for me, considering it hasn’t really happened before). That being said, I’ve had to learn to how find time to work on my creative pieces while still having the mental energy to sit in front of a computer eight hours a day and work on the projects I’m assigned.

I’ve come up with a few things that have worked for me and, hopefully, will work for you too, if you’re looking to find ways to keep creative writing in your life when you’re being paid to write for others.

1. Schedule, Schedule, Schedule

The biggest thing for me—and something I’ve only come around to in the last year or so, ignoring the fact I’ve been hearing this for years now—is keeping a schedule. Every morning before work I force myself to get up and read or write or work in some capacity on whatever project is currently sitting on top of the pile. Sometimes that is a book review and sometimes it’s a short fiction piece (or in this case, a post for Dear English Major).

I honestly hate getting up earlier than I have to, but I make myself do it and, just like working out, I feel better after. I’m allowed to dump whatever work has been kicking around in my head, clearing space for the workday ahead. It’s almost never easy, but it’s necessary.

  • Discipline, or sometimes a lack thereof – A point to further that is the need to develop discipline (and learn when to forego it). Keeping yourself honest and disciplined in this process will help immensely. Even when I don’t want to, I drag myself to my desk, turn on some music and put the coffee on. I’d much rather still be in bed, but through the discipline I’ve been able to accomplish projects that would’ve otherwise sat dormant for months. There are times, though, that are cause for breaking discipline. Sickness, obviously, is something to pay attention to. If you’re ordered to rest, then rest. It isn’t noble to ignore doctor’s orders in such a way. You’ll only screw yourself over later on because the sickness/pain/whatever will linger. So if you need rest, rest.

2. Set Goals

It’s January, the time when everyone sets goals that are promptly left abandoned on the side of the road like cigarette butts by early February. Being a writer is no different. Setting goals helps with the discipline. If you know you’ve got certain heights to reach, it’s better to know where and how high those heights are. It’s also important to set shorter-term goals (in academia, SMART goals) so that you can keep going on a day-to-day basis.

For me, I shoot for around 500 words a day on days that I write (there are days that I only read, as well, and on those I shoot to read at least 100 pages). Most of the time I’m good with hitting these goals. Sometimes I don’t and I’ve learned not to beat myself up over it. An image I keep in my head constantly is a description that comes out of George Plimpton’s interview with Ernest Hemingway in The Paris Review:

"He keeps track of his daily progress—“so as not to kid myself”—on a large chart made out of the side of a cardboard packing case and set up against the wall under the nose of a mounted gazelle head. The numbers on the chart showing the daily output of words differ from 450, 575, 462, 1250, back to 512, the higher figures on days Hemingway puts in extra work so he won’t feel guilty spending the following day fishing on the Gulf Stream."

If Hemingway is okay not doing the same number every day, so am I. Many writers aren’t, but you need to experiment and see what kind you are before making any rash decisions on self-flagellation for blowing a goal on a given day.

3. Accountability (or if you watch South Park, have an Accountabilibuddy) 

Invoking an episode of South Park may not be the best lead-in to this point, but bear with me. It’s hard for me to get stuff done when I don’t have someone berating me about it. The motivation is not always there to follow-through on a project when it comes to creative work. This is where I find someone to hold me accountable. Another writer works great. He or she can hold you accountable and vice versa for finishing a project in a pre-determined amount of time, et cetera.

If nothing else, this person can function as a sounding board for story ideas. It’s good to have one or two friends who you can trust to not only keep your ass in line, so to speak, but who you can trust to offer honest opinions and constructive criticism on pieces when, more than likely, they shouldn’t yet see the light of day.

4. Read & Read Some More

This one shouldn’t really be a surprise, but you don’t get to be a better writer by only writing. You need to read, too, and probably read more than you write. In this case, taking some time you would use to write and using it to read is also a good thing to do, as you’re continually exposing yourself to new types of literature. In the same vein, read widely. Classics are great, as are contemporary works, as are works written by writers not from the United States as are…you get the point.

You may not like everything you read—let’s be real, you more than likely won’t, and you’ll probably hate a good amount of it—but if you don’t read it, you won’t know what you want to write and what you don’t want to write (and to push that further how and how not to write what you want to write).

Being involved in a literary magazine or something like that helps, too, because you get to read both good and bad writing (again showing how and how not to write). I guess what I’m saying is, read more than you write. When you train for a marathon, you don’t only run long distances every day. You run short, you run long, you do sprints, you do weight training, you change your diet. You do a lot of different things. Writing is no different.

5. Keep a Notebook Handy

There are moments throughout the day that someone will say something and something in your brain will go “I need that. I must have that. I must use that.” For those instances, keep a notebook handy. Or note cards. Something, as long as you can write on it. I use a mix of scraps of paper, note cards, and a steno book. At the end of the day, I’ll take whatever scraps I’ve accumulated (usually two or three per day) and toss them into a shoebox that I keep under my desk at home. The box is the accumulation of a couple months worth of ideas and I go back to it often, looking for something to mine. Stay observant and write things down. If you don’t get to a sustained period of writing in a given day, you can take solace in the fact that you’ve scribbled a few lines down to use later.

6. Embrace the Unknown

I’ve been surprised countless times at the direction my day takes sometimes. Be open to that. If you get so locked into your schedule and discipline, you’re going to miss a lot. This is counterintuitive to much of what I’ve already said, I know, but that’s okay. Like a lot of writing advice, mine ends with the caveat that all my advice is subject to change. If it changes, that’s okay. Follow the change and have that notebook ready.


About the Author

Sam Slaughter is a writer based in Central Florida. He's worked a variety of jobs in his life from grave digger to professional beer brewer, but currently gets paid to be a copywriter for a health and wellness company. He's had fiction and nonfiction published and serves as a Contributing Editor at Entropy and the Book Review Editor at Atticus Review. He was voted the Best of There Will Be Words 2014 and his debut chapbook When You Cross That Line will be published in 2015. He can be found on Twitter @slaughterwrites or on his website: www.samslaughterthewriter.com.


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Posted on January 20, 2015 and filed under Articles, Blogging, Freelance, Featured Articles.

Michael Restiano: Content Strategist & Freelance Writer

Name: Michael Restiano

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: Tufts University & University of Oxford, English

Current Location: New York, New York

Current Form of Employment: Content Strategist & Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a content strategist at SapientNitro, a global digital advertising agency. My job here at SapientNitro is to help brands get the right content (that being anything from web copy, to images, to long-form articles—like the thing you’re reading right now!) to the right audience member at the right time. Doing that work requires an equal mix of strategic planning and creative thinking—it’s a great exercise in using both halves of my brain!

When I’m not in the office, I’m working on my writing career. I currently freelance for two blogs: the Huffington Post and the SALT Blog, and I also have one short story and one short memoir in the works.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

One of my acquaintances from Tufts in the year above me found a job at SapientNitro when she graduated. The company was looking to hire more entry-level folks right around when I had graduated, so my friend sent an email out to a marketing professor we had both had during our time at Tufts advertising the positions. Luckily, this professor keeps distribution lists for all of his past classes, so that email ended up reaching me.

I applied for one of the jobs, went through the process, and the rest is history! I have a friend, a lot of effort, and a ton of sheer luck to thank for how I ended up at my current position.

I think luck had a major role to play in my freelance gigs, too! I had been a content intern at SALT (which is actually a product created by American Student Assistance to help recent grads and college students with personal finance and student loan repayment) the summer after my sophomore year in college. They liked me so much they decided to let me keep writing for them on an independent contractor deal.

My senior year in college, I attended a marketing conference where Arianna Huffington was the keynote speaker. She shared some of her thoughts around the importance of sleep in a professional’s life. I agreed with most of her arguments, but had a few contending points. She had given the audience her email at the end of the presentation, and encouraged us to write to her with our thoughts. I did exactly that, never thinking she’d actually read the message. When I saw the response in my inbox, I remember nearly spilling my tea all over my laptop. That message ended up becoming my first Huffpost blog, “The Sleepless Generation.”

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I had two writing heavy internships that I think heavily influenced where I am now.

The first was a part-time summer internship (my first one, in fact) at my college’s Advancement Communications office. My job there was to create digital stories and content based on current campus happenings that would appeal to Tufts graduates. It was my first lesson in how to write for a specific audience, and I also saw first-hand how technology has made marketing and editorial fuse more closely together than ever before. After that summer, I knew that I wanted to pursue marketing as a career path.

My content internship at SALT further solidified that notion. This time, I was tasked with writing personal finance stories (“creating content,” in marketing lingo) that would resonate with millennial college students and recent graduates. SALT was a unique challenge for me because I had to figure out how to make a typically “unsexy” topic appealing. During my time there, I learned that there’s a good story behind almost EVERYTHING—you might just have to look harder for it with some subjects.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

First off, on a strictly practical level, I interned A LOT. I’d say that by the time I graduated, I had done around 7 or 8 marketing internships. These experiences gave me the skills I needed to make the jump from student to young-professional, and made my senior-year job-search much easier.

On a more abstract level, I think one of the most important tendencies I had in college was that I constantly sought opportunities and experiences outside of my comfort zone. I think a lot of people close themselves off to new opportunities because they get comfy—they get caught up in their day-to-day, and can’t imagine what their lives would be like if their routine completely changed. Everybody ultimately wants comfort and stability (English major response coming at ya right here) in their lives, but the downside to being stable is that you never grow. Everything just stays the same, for better or worse.

When you’re a young person, you should not be getting “stuck” in anything—you simply do not know enough about the world or yourself yet. So when that opportunity to do something completely out there/not like you/ really random comes along, you take it. The space just outside your comfort zone is where you learn and grow the most.

For me, that opportunity was spending my entire junior-year abroad at the University of Oxford. Most of my friends were doing semester programs in more exotic locations, so initially I struggled with just following the crowd and doing the same. I decided to do something different, and looking back, I consider it to be the best decision I’ve made in my life thus far. I learned so much about myself, socially, academically, and professionally, that my life changed so much for the better.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Intern your tiny liberal arts butt off. There’s definite value in an English or other liberal arts degree: it gives you the intellectual foundation you need to be a great critical thinker, analyst, and writer in a way that no business degree ever can.

But frankly, it’s not enough to get you hired at your dream job, assuming your dream job is anything even remotely corporate.

Employers hire based on skills, not potential to gain skills. You can only get those skills from pre-professional experiences like internships. Experience is the currency of any position, and in this job market, you need quite a bit of it even to just get your foot in the door.

I believe in this so much, that I’m willing to make a bet with you.

If you do an internship directly relevant to your desired career every summer after your freshman, sophomore, and junior years of college, you will not have a hard time finding a job after your senior year. If I’m wrong, feel free to send me hate mail at Mresti02@gmail.com

Outside of that, my advice would be don’t fear the unknown and remember to enjoy yourself! You only get to experience your 20s once, so make sure that you leave some time outside of work to do what you love and to see the people you care about.

Follow Michael on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.

 

Posted on January 8, 2015 and filed under Content Marketing, Freelance, Blogging, Digital Media.

Ashley Sapp: Freelance Writer/Editor & Administrative Coordinator

Name: Ashley Sapp

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English Language and Literature, cognate in Linguistics from University of South Carolina

Current Location: Columbia, SC

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer/Editor and Administrative Coordinator

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

My current position is as an administrative coordinator within the Cardiovascular Translational Research Center at USC School of Medicine. I handle a variety of tasks depending on what our team’s Director needs that day, but a large portion of my job involves manuscript management, as he is on the editorial board of numerous peer-review journals. Further, he is quite the writer himself with many publications under his belt, so I help with the proofreading, editing, and formatting of those before the submission process. This particular task set extends into the writing of his grants, as well. Thankfully, there are calculators for the number portion of that because words are about as skilled as I get. Outside of USC, I do freelance work as a writer, blogger, and occasional editor.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first job after college was at a small medical practice of orthopedic surgeons. A friend of mine was working with a physician there, and when she learned that the Research Director needed someone to help with manuscript writing and editing, she passed along my name. It was a part-time gig, but I learned quickly that I enjoyed medical editing. I had always figured my life would contain words, but it was not until my first job that I realized I quite enjoyed reading other people’s work and providing insight where I could. It then becomes a team effort in creating something worthwhile, and that was a rewarding experience for me.

Later, I found myself in a retail position since I needed something that paid more while recovering from a spinal surgery. In the process, I eventually lost sight of what I truly wanted my career to look like. Getting back on my feet both metaphorically and literally meant taking strides in changing where I was. It was slow going for a while because I felt I was chasing a pipe dream—I was questioning my choices, and I found myself believing that I was facing a dead-end before the age of 25. I was on disability from my retail job while recovering from the surgery, paying student loans for a degree I was not using, and spending my sudden plethora of free time in bed thinking about how I haven’t written anything in ages but still feeling too afraid to pick up a pen. I was in pain, physically and mentally, and thus felt drained and defeated.

Towards the end of my disability leave, I dreaded returning to a job I knew was not truly for me. It was a bit of a wake-up call, a moment of clarity after having spent so much time alone with my thoughts and self-doubt. If I wanted my life to change, I had to start somewhere, and I alone had to make it happen. Thus, I began looking into jobs at my university and within my town for anything to do with publishing or writing. I began applying for internships as well because I figured I could continue with a retail position if I was at least building experience in something I enjoyed and went to school for. Many resumes and applications later, I accepted the position I have now. The search began with me asking myself, “What do I want?” and “How am I going to get it?”

How do you find your freelance gigs?

I recently filled out profiles on sites like Elance and really started to apply for offered jobs through them. I have done a lot of guest blogging and guest articles for various online sites as well, which has helped in getting my name out there as a credible source. Sometimes I am asked to proofread or write for others and thus the opportunity comes to me on its own, but most of the time, at least at the stage I am currently in, I have to reach out whether by submitting a proposal for a job or showcasing my portfolio.

Particularly for my writing, blogging has become a major part of networking with other companies and writers. In fact, through blogging is how I met the ladies who run The Indie Chicks; thus, I had my first print article published in the second issue of their magazine, Indie Chick. I have gotten the chance to collaborate with many talented and inspiring people because I started blogging, reading, and commenting on other people’s work. Eventually, they began to do the same for me and suddenly it started to feel as though I had something worthwhile to say (who knew?). So we write, discuss, and share our love for the craft while simultaneously building our expertise. Without really realizing it, blogging and guest blogging became an experience-building way of writing for me. I have to lend credit to the blogosphere quite a bit for aiding me in taking myself seriously as a writer and also providing so many opportunities I never knew had existed before I created my first Wordpress site.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

In some ways, there is not a complete way to prepare for post-grad life as the experience can vary from one individual to the next. But we all have to start somewhere, and very often, that somewhere involves a bit of flailing in the beginning. What proved to be helpful for me was getting to know what opportunities existed in my town and what I could do to better prepare myself for them.

Post-grads often get stuck in this limbo of being a novice with a degree whereas employers are seeking people with a degree but with experience. I worked on my university’s literary magazine in order to help build towards a better understanding of the way publications work, as one example. Though it was not actual job experience, it was experience nonetheless–something the employers I interviewed with seemed to take notice of. My current boss commented, “You’re green but dedicated.” Taking the time to research your interests, to teach yourself the things you're unfamiliar with, and to put in the effort for both your life and career not only demonstrates passion within your interviews with potential employers, but it also helps to ease your way into post-grad life in general.

 One of Ashley's poems.

One of Ashley's poems.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

There are a lot of people out there who believe an English degree is useless for a number of reasons. I suppose it is because there is this stereotype that all we do is cuddle with said degree, comforting ourselves while clutching it tightly, repeating to ourselves lines of Jane Austen or Shakespeare or a Bronte sister, while sitting alone in our parents’ basement with no job offer in sight. Sure, a love of literature is often involved in our choice of degree, but anyone who truly thinks an English degree is impractical has not really thought about language itself: any set or system of symbols used in a more or less uniform fashion by a number of people, who are thus enabled to communicate intelligibly with one another. Without that, where would any of us be? So my advice to those of you facing naysayers (including yourself at times) is to continue believing in your path and your abilities because without you, without someone who has a love and understanding of words, communication would begin to break down. Whether you decide to teach and pass along how we use this beautiful thing called language, or you dive into publishing, or you help others write, or perhaps you write yourself, or you understand how to deploy words into advertising, into journalism, into whatever the case may be – you are making a statement and an impact on how the rest of the world, through time or space, will understand us. I’d say that is worthwhile.

  One of Ashley's poems.

My last piece of advice would be to not give up, which sounds easy but usually is not. Post-grad life can be pretty grim, regardless of the degree you end up with, but some of that has nothing to do with what you spent your time in college studying. What you can do in the meantime, however, is hone your skills, remind yourself why you chose this path, and create work for yourself. When I initially worked retail, I would come home and journal because it kept the fire going in the pit of my stomach, the burn to wake up each day with the belief I would get to do what I love. Because sometimes it did not feel that way—sometimes life and employment and choices were all disheartening—but as long as I kept writing, kept reading, kept exploring, I was also giving myself another chance at another day.

Even after college is over, you can continue learning. A friend of mine sent me a quote that resonated with me by T.H. White:

“You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”

I think it says quite a bit about us when we refuse to let fear or apathy or failure stop us from moving forward. We are naturally reluctant at times, fear the unknown, and yet once the change occurs – once we are falling and seem as though we are meeting our demise – we adapt rather quickly, develop wings, and rise again.

Ashley's blog of usings and creative writings can be found at www.chaosandwords.com, and she is also a contributing writer for sites such as Chelsea Krost and The IndieChicks. Connect with Ashley on LinkedIn.

Posted on August 31, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Communications, Editing, Freelance, Grant Writing, Publishing, Writing.

Summer Fanous: Freelance Writer

Name: Summer Fanous

Age: 27

College & Majors/Minors: Northeastern Illinois University – Majored in English, Minored in Sociology

Current Location: Toronto, Canada

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

As a freelance writer, I have the luxury of working anywhere with my MacBook and an Internet connection. Nevertheless, I write out of the comfort of my home office (oftentimes in my pjs). I am currently working on projects for a number of clients in a variety of sectors, but I specialize in creating content for professionals in the real estate industry.

One of the main jobs I am focused on now is helping to build a comprehensive website which provides information on all of the new and recently completed condo/townhouse developments across Canada. I also create, edit and manage news articles, which are also featured on the site. The goal of this website is to be a one stop destination for potential homebuyers to access all the information they need to make an educated decision.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I didn’t really “find” my first job; I was enlisted to help out in the family business, Top Value Auto Repair in Chicago. No, I wasn’t changing spark plugs or rotating tires, though my dad has been doing so longer than I’ve been alive. I worked in the office, answering phones, ordering parts, talking to customers, creating fliers, etc.

This experience ultimately helped me get a job working as an administrative assistant at two prestigious Chicago real estate firms. Subsequently, I learned a lot about the industry but it’d be a while before I got to take advantage of all that knowledge.

What was another job that was important in your career?

Once I moved to Canada I started writing for a number of websites including Searching Toronto for free so that I could gain some more experience and build my writing portfolio. This was very important to my career, as it is how I earned my stripes.

Thanks to this, I became introduced to SkyViewSuites, the first furnished rental company that hired me to blog for them. It wasn’t long before I actively sought out similar companies to write for. Today, I manage numerous blogs for apartment rental companies and provide copy for a multitude of clients in various professions.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?

Honestly, I wasn’t really prepared for college going in, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I started my academic career in community college and transferred to university after I obtained my associates degree. Initially, I’d planned on getting a business degree with the hopes of becoming an entrepreneur. However, it just didn’t work out that way—life has a way of pushing and pulling you around, and the trick is to move with the forces, not against them.

I’ve always loved reading literature, writing poetry and thought becoming an English teacher would allow me to be close to what I loved. Plans changed, however and I decided to continue on with my courses, but dropped the teaching idea. I figured I could do plenty with an English degree and if I changed my mind back to becoming a teacher, all I’d need to do was become certified.

All of the classes that were required for a major in English really did help me out after graduation. Not only did I learn how to be a better reader and writer, but also how to work efficiently and effectively with others. I was focused on graduating and didn’t take advantage of all of the resources that are available to students.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Before you graduate with a degree in English, make sure you learn about all of the resources offered at your particular school. Talk to your advisor, don’t be afraid or ashamed of asking for help if you need it, that’s what they’re there for.

If you’re a poet, go out there and read your pieces in front of people, it’ll give you a rush and help boost your confidence. Submit your work—be it short stories, prose, whatever—to as many publications as you can. It's unlikely that it’ll be accepted everywhere, so don’t stress out if you’re work wasn’t chosen.

If you’re on a high horse, come down. There will always be someone out there who has more connections, knows more about your field of expertise, or is just “luckier” than you. There’s no need to kick yourself about it, just keep trying different things and something is bound to work.

Create strong friendships with your peers and professors and keep in touch with them even after you graduate. The more people you know, the better chance you have that one of them will consider you when an opportunity you might be suited for arises. Likewise, network as much as you can at job fairs, industry parties, whatever.

Finally, there are so many graduates out there who are either unemployed, or working in a completely different field, so don’t expect to get a job that pays $100k right after graduation. You might have to work for free for a while. Volunteering is an excellent way to gain experience, meet new people and it looks great on your resume.

Whatever it is that you want to do, put it in your mind and it will happen.

Visit Summer at SummerFanous.com and connect with her on LinkedIn!

Posted on August 29, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Writing.