Name: Sara Kincaid
College & Majors/Minors: University of Missouri-Kansas City; B.A. English – Creative Writing (Minor in Classics); M.A. English – Literature
Current Location: Kansas City, Missouri
Current Form of Employment: Manager of Philanthropic Communications at Children’s Mercy Kansas City
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I just started my new job in the Philanthropy department at Children’s Mercy Kansas City. Children’s Mercy was founded in 1897 by two sisters who dreamed of opening a hospital that took care of all children. Children’s Mercy still lives by this creed today and turns no child away, regardless of their family’s ability to pay. There are few people in Kansas City who have not been touched in some way by this award-winning hospital, myself included.
In my role, I am responsible for helping the various parts of our department (major gifts, planned giving, donor recognition, special events, etc.) communicate with our donors, potential donors and volunteers. I write endowed report updates, content for event programs, call scripts for our donor thank-a-thon, thank-you letters and more. I also edit invitations, programs and a myriad of other content. I work across print, web and digital communication methods to help tell the story of Children’s Mercy and its patients.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I didn’t get my first full-time job until 2011. I graduated with my Master’s degree right as the recession hit (2008) and there were no jobs anywhere. It took three years of submitting resumes and cover letters with no results. In spite of this, I kept trying.
My first job was at Hallmark Cards. Yeah, that Hallmark Cards. They’re headquartered here in KC! I applied via their website and got a phone call. Their HR department is pretty traditional. They love behavioral style interviewing, just FYI. I did a phone interview first with HR. Then, I went in for a round of in-person interviews and a writing/editing/InDesign test. And then, I got the job! I worked for three years producing business-to-business sales catalogs. I got to work with every product/card line that the company produces. I had a lot of fun there.
Fast-forward to 2017. A former colleague from my previous job (post Hallmark, pre Children’s Mercy) reached out to me via Facebook and urged me to apply for a job with Children’s Mercy. I applied on their website and was contacted later and asked to do a writing project. (Every job I’ve ever interviewed for has required some sort of writing test or project, by the way. So, be prepared for that.)
I went in twice for a series of interviews and then was offered the job! My best advice from this experience is: you never know who’s watching. The person who urged me to apply for the job, as I mentioned, was a colleague at my last gig, but we didn’t really interact much. I think I did one or two projects for her before she left. I was surprised and flattered that she reached out!
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
My previous job at the University of Missouri-Kansas City was pivotal. Switching from the for-profit sector to the nonprofit sector can be tough. There’s a lot of skepticism of people who make that switch. But being an alumna and having really good references helped me land the job.
At UMKC, I began to learn the nonprofit ropes. I wrote letters for the chancellor and the vice chancellor, produced newsletters, wrote articles, video content and event scripts, managed multiple websites, ran the alumni association’s social media and anything else they threw my way. This job is absolutely the reason why I got my current position. I learned so much about stewardship and the nonprofit style of communication. Plus, I met important colleagues who educated me and helped me prepare for my ultimate next step.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
Internships were very important for me and taught me a lot about how the working world functioned. I did two internships, one in undergrad and one in grad school. The first was at a local PR firm. The second was with Andrews McMeel Publishing in their PR department. In these positions, I got my first few writing samples for my portfolio.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I went into the “business” world and not education simply because every time I told someone what I was majoring in they’d ask me (as we’ve all heard): “Oh, so what are you going to do? Teach?” While I love educators and have great respect for them, those questions made me determined to prove that there were many things I could do.
If you’re an English major and you want to work in the “business” world, you have to be prepared to fight. I’ve had to fight hard for every job I’ve ever had. Maybe people in other fields and with other degrees feel this way too. I don’t know. But, from the writing tests to get my foot in the door, to getting opportunities once I’m there, I’ve had to fight, network, volunteer for extra projects and make my voice heard every step of the way. Often people won’t understand the things that we English majors know we bring to the table without us telling them. They think all we do is read novels all day. While that may be true in some respect, we bring our analytical skills, writing skills, a great vocabulary, passion, discourse skills and more. You have to be your own advocate and your own spokesperson out there. No one else will do it for you.