Posts filed under Writer

Jean Baur: Self-Employed Writer & Speaker

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Name: Jean Baur    

Age: 71

College & Majors/Minors: Lake Forest College, English Major with Honors

Current Location: Connecticut

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed: writer and speaker

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home and write books, and I also create and give presentations to a wide range of industry groups, from librarians to insurance executives.

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

My first really good job was working in NYC as a corporate trainer. I researched the company, found connections, and went after them until they hired me. I was hired to teach business writing, but soon also taught presentation skills. And then they asked me and one of the account executives to revise the writing program, which we did.

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

I worked as a freelance writer for many years and learned that I could write just about anything if I understood what was needed. I wrote for the food industry, Time Life Books, a small publisher, ETS, and so on. This gave me confidence and diverse opportunities.

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

Not much. It was a tricky time as the war in Vietnam was raging and many of us were focused on social issues—stopping the war, race relations, poverty—without any real career path. I took the GREs, but knew I didn't want to go to grad school. It took me a long time to realize that my degree in English had prepared me for many types of work.

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

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Take advantage of internships, and your career counseling office at your school. Don't worry about not knowing what you want as you'll discover that as you try out different jobs. For some, the job will simply be a way to make money so that they have time to write, while for others, the job itself matters more. Remember, every organization needs people who have what you have: great analytical skills, deep knowledge of human behavior and strong writing and editing skills. It won't be easy and your career path, like mine, may zig and zag a bit. But you'll never be bored and as long as you keep reinventing yourself, you'll be fine. I've been a corporate trainer, a creative writing teacher, a freelance writer, an author, a career coach, a florist, a mother, a therapy dog handler and a speaker. So much fun!

If you want to learn more about Jean, you can visit her site at JeanBaur.com. You can also check out a few of her books here: 

By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur

Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writing, Writer.

Michelle Swanson: Self-Employed Resume Writer

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Name: Michelle Swanson

Age: 39

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

Current Location: Edwardsville, IL

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed Resume Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I own and operate MichelleSwanson.com, a resume writing and job search consultancy serving senior business executives worldwide. I offer a range of services designed to help my clients document and communicate their professional value. My focus is on developing resumes/CVs, executive bios, LinkedIn profiles, and letters, but my clients also rely on me to edit business plans, presentations, emails, press releases, and other business and career-related communications.

“I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force.”

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

I was a nontraditional student and returned to college to finish my degree after 6 years in the Air Force. I found my first post-college job through a staffing agency and, after about 2 years, left to start my own company.

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

My military service included serving as an Intelligence Analyst. In that role, I wrote reports for intelligence agencies and decision-makers at the highest levels of government. This early experience serves me well in my current career because I learned how to gather and process large amounts of information, cut through the clutter, distill the information into its crucial pieces, and communicate a message in a way that supports decision-making.

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

Unfortunately, I did very little to prepare for my career during college. I regret not pursuing internships or professional training such as certifications.

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

My advice to students and graduates would be to stay open to all the career opportunities that are out there! In college, I was aware of only about a dozen possible career paths for someone with an English degree. I wasn’t even aware that professional resume writers existed! I’ve been in business for more than 10 years, and I’m still amazed by the sheer variety of paths you can take. If you think you’ve thought about all your options… you haven’t. My clients with bachelor’s degrees in English include an IT Project Manager, Vice President of Crisis Communications, Health Insurance Product Manager, Business Analyst, Senior Director of Digital Video, Television Production Assistant, Advertising Sales Manager, Director of Marketing and Investor Relations, Award-winning Independent Film Producer, Television Director, and more. Your degree is just the beginning and does not limit your opportunities!

To learn more about Michelle, you can visit her site at michelleswanson.com. You can also connect with Michelle on LinkedIn.


Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writer.

Marissa Page: Senior Writer & Editor

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Name: Marissa Page

Age: 25

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.

You can connect with Marissa on LinkedIn here and follow her blog here!


Posted on March 1, 2018 and filed under Writer, Interview, Interviews, Editor, Editing, Writing.

Megan Kizer: SEO Content Writer

Name: Megan Kizer

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: Arizona State University, Bachelor of Arts in English, Certificate in Writing for Publishing and Editing

Current Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Current Form of Employment: SEO Content Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at a global integrated marketing agency called PMX Agency, formerly known as PM Digital. I am their first in-house SEO Content Writer. For those of you who don't know what SEO means (which, to be quite honest, I didn't completely understand it until I accepted the job), it stands for Search Engine Optimization. This essentially means that I have the opportunity to write page optimization copy, net-new copy, and blog posts for leading clients across several industries, in order to ensure that they rank among the highest search results in Google. I'm also beginning to actively contribute to our own company's blog.

“Overall, my job is to tell the client’s story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there’s quite a bit of research involved, but it’s my kind of puzzle.”

Overall, my job is to tell the client's story in a way their customers will understand and appreciate, while using the strongest keywords possible to enhance their online presence. It can be challenging, and there's quite a bit of research involved, but it's my kind of puzzle. At the end of the day, it's a great feeling to go onto a major client's website and think, "Hey, I wrote that!" It's an even better feeling to be able to write and use my voice creatively—every single day—and get paid for it. Whaaaat?

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

While I do dabble in freelance work, my position at PMX is actually my first career straight out of college. I found my job through listings on Glassdoor.com. This website gives you information on the company, as well as reviews from past and present employees who can list pros and cons of working there. It gives you an idea of what to expect from a job before you even start working there. So, if you're searching for a new job, I recommend using this service to hear what other employees are saying about it!

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

The most important writing job I had prior to working at PMX was my internship at Green Living magazine in Scottsdale, Arizona. There, I learned how to write professional blog posts and articles, as well as how to maintain an online presence through several social media networks.

Crafting the blog posts actually taught me the necessary SEO skills that transferred over to my current career, including the importance of keywords, title tags, and meta descriptions to search engine result pages (SERPs). Without acquiring this skill, I might not have gotten such an amazing career.

Some simple (but still important) advice: learn as much as you can in the time you have. You'll never know which skills will help you later on.

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

I worked, a lot. I pushed myself to work full-time while I was in school so that I didn't have to pay off loans later on. As an English major, I assumed that it would be challenging to break into a writing career straight out of college, so I did everything I could to prepare myself to be in a debt-free position when I entered the workforce.

I also took on a lot of internships! I was the lead non-fiction editorial intern for ASU's Canyon Voices literary magazine, and an editor for The PEN Project. There, I edited short stories and poems from inmates. The internships I was a part of gave me real-world experience in professional communication with other writers that allowed me to really bulk up my resume and aid me in my career search.

Through my internships, I learned one important lesson: put as much effort into networking as you do with your writing. Setting yourself up with strong contacts that are already working in the industry can push you through doors you never thought possible. Build your LinkedIn site, create a portfolio, and get your name out there.

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

Find your niche! I originally thought I wanted to work as an editor or be affiliated with a publishing company, but that was before I learned about SEO. I love what I do at PMX, and I'm grateful for the opportunities that led me to this career. Please know that there are plenty of jobs across many industries that are waiting for you—some that you may not have even heard of. Go out and find it!

Understand that having an English degree prepares you for a career where every day is different. Whether you're writing for a new client, critically analyzing data, or communicating with coworkers or clients, you're putting the skills you've learned in college to work that day. So, find what you love to do, and don't let anybody else sway you.

Stay positive. There are plenty of reports out there explaining how many fields English majors can enter into. I share a philosophy with most others: you can teach an English major business skills, but you can't always teach a Business major communication skills. Us English majors? We're special.

Don't forget to work hard. Try your hand at different internships so that you can find what you like before being stuck in a job you're unhappy with. Please don't think that you won't be able to ever use an English degree, or that being an English teacher is your only route to success. People will tell you this countless times. In reality, there is an ever-growing online presence where ads and copy are everywhere you look! In fact, agencies are just beginning to realize the impact that strong content has for a website, and are more likely to hire their own writers rather than outsource the work these days. Writinggood, solid writingis more important than ever.

You can connect with Megan Kizer on LinkedIn and follow her on Instagram.


Posted on December 7, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Writer, SEO.

Rhonda Crowder: Writer, Editor, Journalist

Name: Rhonda Crowder

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: Cleveland State University, Bachelor of Arts in English with specialization in creative writing, editing and publishing/minor in psychology

Current Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Current Form of Employment: I work for a newspaper in addition to owning a business.

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work for the Call & Post newspaper, an African American-owned weekly based in Cleveland, Ohio, as a general assignment reporter. Because I often find myself working outside of my job description, through this position, I learn so much about writing as well as the business of writing. It truly broadened my perspective of what a person with an English degree can do. Although low-paying, this position provides me with a lot of opportunity, connections and freedom to working on other projects. I use my salary as a base and my other work brings up the rear.

“I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers.”

Realizing I am in the writing business while remembering my propensity for entrepreneurship from as far back as selling lemonade in my preteens, this position led me to start my own business, a communications firm that now provides content creation, graphic design, sales, and media relations services. My clients range from small publishing companies and media outlets to independent authors and small business owners. I had been freelancing since I graduated college, but started Rhonda Crowder and Associates, LLC in 2011 as a result of needing to report my 1099 earnings. I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers. I remember sitting there and saying to myself, "I can do business with everyone in this room, but everyone in the room can't say that." 

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

Trust me. I’ve worked plenty of non career-related jobs. Regardless to how bad they sucked, I learned something from each that I use today. My first paid writing gig was Arts and Entertainment Editor for my college newspaper, if that counts. Being a leadership position, it paid a stipend. I was tunnel vision on writing books, movies and plays. I never considered journalism. However, I tried it, got bit by the bug and became more serious about being a writer. After graduating, I didn’t pursue journalism. I maintained my desire to be an author. The only problem with that, I needed a job.

“In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer.”

With my current position, I initially walked in off the street, asked if they were hiring and was told no. I thought no more of it. But by chance, I attended a book club meeting held at the newspaper a few weeks later and met the president. In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer. Knowing I could barely survive off of it and desperately wanting to get paid to write, I took it. That’s one of the best decisions I ever made.  

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

My work at the Call & Post led to me being offered a contracted position to serve as associate publisher of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland. Who’s Who in Black Cleveland is a product of Who’s Who Publishing/Real Times Media. The organization highlights the successes of African American in our 25 different markets. In this role, I am the organization’s liaison to the Cleveland, Akron and Canton markets. I do everything from help shape the thematic direction of an edition and nominate honorees to producing an annual book unveiling event. This position is important because it puts value on that English degree. It shows organizations that I can do more than the perceived “sitting around playing with words all day.”     

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

First and foremost, I focused on the learning the craft. I stayed engaged in projects or with professors. That helps connect you to opportunities or at least obtain a great recommendation letter. I worked on the college newspaper and other literary publications on campus. In hindsight, I should have done more off campus internships early and as often as possible.

“...An English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you’ll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer.”

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

You may realize it or not, but your English degree gives you an advantage. You can do more than what you imagine with an English degree once you understand its value and how to use it. As an English major, you are extremely creative and an analytical thinker. You can solve problems most are unable detect. At the same time, an English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you'll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer. You'll need to know how to do other things. You also need to understand, whether you like it or not, you are in business and you must think of what you do as such. You sell words, at the least. Learn how to put a value on what you do and don't be afraid to demand it.

To learn more about Rhonda Crowder visit www.rhondacrowderllc.com. She can also be found on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instragram.  You can find articles by Rhonda at www.rhondacrowder.contently.com


Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Journalism, Writer, Writing, Publishing.