Name: Marissa Page
College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, M.S. in Management
Current Location: Phoenix, AZ
Current Form of Employment: Sr. Writer and Editor
Where do you work and what is your current position?
Policy and procedure editor at a financial services company.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I got my first "official" (i.e., paid/non-internship) job—a staff position as an editorial aide at my university—through connections I made during my very first editorial internship. It pays to network and put yourself out there, even if it seems uncomfortable at first. Peers and mentors you meet in your first job(s) are your biggest allies. I still list many of them as references on applications, and do my best to check in with them at least once or twice yearly to maintain those relationships.
Additionally, I didn't turn down any chances to put my resume out there, even if it was just on a local job board and seemed like a long shot. I'm so glad I did, because my current employer found my resume on one of those postings and reached out to me directly to schedule an interview. It just goes to show that you never know who is paying attention!
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
My current role as a policy and procedure editor has been significant in developing my professional writing skills. I've learned the importance of editing without sacrificing meaning, and that every single word matters, particularly from a compliance perspective. Additionally, learning how to turn complex technical documentation into clear and concise language that anyone can understand has proven to be an invaluable skill, one that also helps me with my personal writing when I find myself being a little too verbose. My senior manager had my team read a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser, in which the author writes, "Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." That is my mantra these days.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I did as many university internships as possible, and sought positions as a student worker that directly applied to my college major and long-term career goals. The beauty of school-sponsored opportunities is that those types of mentors value your long-term goals and simultaneously recognize that you first need to excel as a student before you can reach those bigger aspirations. It's a nourishing type of professional development, one that won't leave you drained or overwhelmed.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Be confident in your goals, but creative in how to achieve them. When applying for jobs, consider the types of companies that need writers and editors, but aren't typically the first employers that come to mind, such as hospitals or tech companies. As an undergrad, I never imagined myself working in financial services, but I've completed some of my most important and rewarding work as a writer and editor in this industry.
Lastly, it's never your job to tell yourself no. If you see an opportunity that excites you, even if you think it's a long shot, you owe it to yourself to pursue it. Your knowledge, capabilities, and experience—and the positive ways in which others perceive those things—may surprise you, unlocking doors that you yourself may have left closed.