Posts filed under Journalism

Marisa Bunney: Immersive Journalist & Social Media Specialist

Name: Marisa Bunney

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English with a minor in Religious Studies from Youngstown State University

Current Location: Miami, FL

Current Form of Employment: Immersive Journalist/Social Media Specialist

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Example of Marisa Bunney's work.

Example of Marisa Bunney's work.

I work for Ronin Advertising Group in Miami. My official title is Immersive Journalist, but as is the norm in advertising, I wear many hats. Realistically, I’m a Copywriter, Journalist, Event Planner, Account Manager, Brand Manager, and Creative Director. I manage a team of writers, produce content calendars, work with designers, create content strategies, manage social media accounts, plan events for luxury residents in Boston and San Francisco, and manage production of creative and collateral material. I also write everything from event invitations and digital e-blasts to ads, social media posts and lifestyle news and blog articles. 

I’ve done freelance work as well, writing websites, serving as a script consultant, and creating social media strategies for clients such as IBM’s #mysocialcommerce crowdsourced campaign. 

Example of Marisa Bunney's work.

Example of Marisa Bunney's work.

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

I actually started with Ronin five years ago as an intern, was promoted to a paid internship and was ultimately offered a full-time position. The interview for the position wasn’t quite as rigorous since I already had a relationship with my boss. But, I still had to sell myself. The position was different than what I’d previously done as an intern and required a fresh set of skills. In addition to copywriting, I had to be able to write SEO-friendly content and journalistic articles. I also had to be able to communicate with the client and manage expectations with a certain level of confidence and professionalism. Luckily, I was able to fulfill and exceed the demands. I’m a people person at heart and I was able to show my boss that I could handle client contact and project management and that snowballed into the position I have now. 

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

My freelance work. I’m a hungry writer and I learn quickly. Having the ability to cross multiple industries taught me to look at every project with an open mind. Script writing, for example, is totally different from copywriting, but it helped me learn the art of storytelling; and in advertising, that’s what we do, we tell stories. My personal interests and activities helped me as well. You may not think those countless hours of Facebooking are productive, but in this industry, having a voice online will get you far. The rise of social media and online marketing are forcing us to communicate in new ways and being able to master that kind of short-form writing is an incredible asset.

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

As an English major, I wrote a ton—and I mean a ton—of long-form essays, which essentially gave me the tools to become a great writer. Being the perpetually curious cat that I am, I used my electives and “free time” to expand my skill set. I took poetry, film and screenwriting classes, got into journalism circles, volunteered at the campus Writing Center, edited work for friends, tutored high school students, worked in Summer internships and even wrote a children’s book that was eventually published as part of a recruiting campaign for a daycare. 

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

My biggest turnoff is to hear someone say that English majors have limited possibilities. On the contrary, it actually opens a lot of doors. Not everyone who wants to be in advertising should major in Advertising. One thing my boss—who just happens to be one of the most brilliant people I’ve ever known—always told me that any writer worth their salt has a degree in English. This degree teaches more than grammar basics and sentence structure. It teaches you comprehension and the elements of a great story and how to reach your audience. That knowledge translates into a number of areas: script writing, ad copy, textbook copy, news articles, social media posts, blogs, copyediting, proofreading, even strategy. Always remember this: writers tell stories. And to tell a great story, you have to see it from every angle. That means even if you’re writing technical instructions for assembling an entertainment center, you need to understand who you’re speaking to and what level of knowledge your audience brings to the table, how to create a natural progression or order for what you’re writing. Everything you write will have an arc, a beginning, a middle and an end. 

Lastly, possibly the best piece of advice I could give is to build a portfolio. Trust me, employers care more about what you can do for them than your 3.8 GPA. If you don’t have professional work, write your own stuff. Write a spec script, write product ads, start a blog, do whatever you can to have some kind of concrete work to show. That’s what will you get you your dream job.

Connect with Marisa on LinkedIn and follow her on twitter!

Check out more of Marisa's work online here:

Lisa Brunette: Manager of Game Narrative Design

Photo courtesy of Ally Davis.  www.allysonphotography.com

Photo courtesy of Ally Davis. www.allysonphotography.com

Name: Lisa Brunette

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: St. Louis University for a BA (double) in 1) English 2) American Studies, with a certificate in Creative & Professional Writing. For grad school, I went to University of Miami and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing.

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Manager of Narrative Design (I manage a team of writers at Big Fish)

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I manage a team of writers for Big Fish. Our company focus is casual, free-to-play mobile games, but we have a solid history in making hidden-object puzzle adventure games mainly for PC. This is my seventh year as a writer in the game industry. Previously I wrote for Nintendo as well as Cat Daddy Games, which is best known for its AAA hit, Carnival Games. Before I hit the gaming industry and stuck, I'd been a writer and editor with credits and bylines in numerous publications, both in print and on the web. Notably, I wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, published pieces in Poets & Writers and a number of literary journals, and won major grants and awards for my creative writing, including a full scholarship for my MFA program.

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

When I entered the job market as a college grad in 1994, we were in the middle of a bad recession. The only job I could find after knocking on so many doors my knuckles bled was as a secretary, which frankly for me felt humiliating at the time, but I've since come to appreciate it. A really tough mentor told me to make the most of it, so I did, joining the organization's secretaries' group and rising as a leader. I also offered to write anything I could, and my skills were recognized. Within six months I was promoted to a new position that had been created with me in mind, and writing was a good portion of the job. It was fund raising for a cause I believed in, and I was the one who wrote the brochures, direct mail pieces, and other materials they used in the fund-raising campaign.

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

Before I'd even graduated college, I was the board chair of Missouri's largest student-run environmental organization. Because I had the skill, I also wrote all of their fund raising materials and campaign writings. This was key to getting a job in a tough market, even as a secretary. I came to FT work with a great deal of experience, but because the job market was terrible, I had to start over anyway. This should be a good lesson to recent college grads. Don't think you're too good for something. People ask me all the time how they can get a job as a game writer. My answer? Work in Customer Support on the phones, Quality Assurance as a tester. Even if you think you have great experience during college, you might have to get a foot in the door any way possible.

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

As mentioned above, I held an activist leadership position on campus and beyond. That gave me a wealth of experience in writing, speaking, and politics. I also interned in DC with the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote columns for the student newspaper, and wrote and published poetry. I drafted the proposal for the university's first-ever recycling program as well, which was adopted. I won a prestigious essay award, too, which boosted my writing self-image.

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

Write whatever you can— it doesn't have to be literary to make you happy. Some of the most fulfilling writing gigs are when the writing is employed to help others, or reach out to specific audiences of non-academics— such as in non-profit fund raising or ad copy or for a trade publication. Some of my favorite pieces of writing are when I wrote for the fishing industry, or about a 100-year-old dairy farm, or about a company that has built big dams and impressive bridges all over the west. The story is paramount, and you never know where it will be hiding.

Check out more of Lisa's work on her website, Lisa-Brunette.com! You can also connect with Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn

Posted on May 1, 2014 and filed under Journalism, Video Game Writing, Writing, Communications.

Lisa Boosin: Senior Advertising Copywriter & Freelancer

Name: Lisa Boosin

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: CSU Fullerton for undergrad degrees in Philosophy and Communications; started (but quickly abandoned) an MA in Political Philosophy; MA in Communications with an emphasis on Advertising

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Full-time advertising copywriter, with a lot of freelance advertising work on the side.

Where do you work and what is your current position?

My main gig is Senior Copywriter for the Advertising and Brand department at UnitedHealthcare, the big health care company that’s a subsidiary of an even larger company. My department is basically the in-house advertising agency. I write/contribute creative concepts for a pretty broad spectrum of projects, including the traditional things you think of when you think of a copywriter, such as print ads, radio ads, billboards, web copy, and brochures. Many of these jobs entail concepting (a word that I expect will make many English majors cringe), or sitting around, sometimes by myself, or with other writers, art directors and graphic designers, to come up with overarching themes or concepts for campaigns. There’s a very social component to it but obviously, if I need to write a 16-page brochure, I work on this by myself, but I still have to juggle my coworkers’ demands. And since I’m the Senior Copywriter, that means I coach the other copywriters, work on (and enforce) our brand standards, and make presentations to our internal clients.

My job before this was at The Orange County Register. I was brought on to develop and edit a youth lifestyle publication as part of the paper’s Newspapers in Education program. Oddly enough, this publication “belonged” to the marketing department, not the newsroom. My only newspaper experience had been in high school, but I think my strong writing skills, combined with the fact that my boss liked my advertising background (I was working at a small advertising agency when I was offered the job at the Register) helped me seal the deal.

As the managing editor, I worked with a small staff to develop an editorial calendar; I did a lot of research on relevant trends and news; I wrote articles; I selected content from a wire service and then edited those articles; I assigned stories to interns; I worked very closely with a photographer, setting up photo shoots, giving input on art direction and then selecting photos; and since it was part of an educational program, I occasionally did outreach to high schools and a few youth groups.

In addition to being the managing editor of the publication, I also contributed to the Register’s in-house marketing and advertising department. Eventually, the publication was phased out, and I went to the advertising department full time.

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

I have always been lucky – well, maybe not really – in that jobs either fall into my lap or I get into a job and get opportunities to expand my role. For example, at my first real advertising job I was actually hired as a graphic designer! It was a job I could totally do, even though I had just gotten out of college with my communications degree and previous experience copywriting – it was just that I was at a point where I needed a job; I hadn’t had any luck finding copy work, and this place was willing to hire me to do design and production work. Of course, once I started, I kept reminding them, “Hey, I write copy! Hey, I write copy!” And eventually they let me.

The Orange County Register found me through a recruiting service. They saw my advertising work, which included brochures and long-form, and recognized that I could really write. Initially, I was brought on as a freelancer, so they could make sure I could really do the work. After a period of a couple months, I was made an offer to become a full-time employee.

My current job, I started off in a much different role: as a proofreader. I’d just been laid off from the Register, and I was FREAKING OUT, I’d never been laid off and I was like, “WHAT IF I NEVER GET ANOTHER JOB?” A few weeks later, I got a call from a recruiting service, asking me if I’d be willing to take a proofreading/copy editor assignment at a large health care company. To which I responded, “OH GOD YES, ANYTHING, I’LL TAKE IT.” And then, just like I did at that first advertising agency, I kept gently prodding my manager and reminding her that I wrote copy. She wrangled me a few assignments. The department had never had a copywriter before, so once people started hearing this service was available, copy jobs started rolling in, and it finally got to the point where I could just be the copywriter.

Regarding job and skills testing: There’s not anything like a standardized test to assess copywriting skills, so these days, most companies or agencies want to try out copywriters on a freelance basis, which can last anywhere from a month to years.

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

I’ve always done a little freelancing, but for the past seven years, it’s accounted for a bigger portion of my professional life. My regular clients include a couple of smaller, well-respected advertising agencies, and a few of my own clients.

Taking on the extra work forces me to be on my game, time-management wise. And freelancing is like running your own little business: you have to handle billing, project management, marketing, and new business development. As someone with a “textbook” liberal arts education, I didn’t pick up any of these skills in college, and frankly, they do not come easy to me. But they are all worth having.

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

I worked all throughout college – not “career” jobs, just retail and assorted office jobs to support myself. (My backstory is that I was orphaned by the time I was nine and my adoptive parents died when I was 20 – leaving me on my own, in a big way, and responsible for hauling my own weight.) Because of the work/school load, I didn’t have time for formal extracurriculars.

In my senior year, I did an unpaid internship at a web design company, mainly writing copy for their clients but also doing some photo editing and coding, and making coffee runs. The most valuable part of this experience was learning what I liked in a job and at a work environment: for example, I came to appreciate how much I value having variety in my days, and that I preferred not having to deal with a lot of different people (which made me realize I do better in smaller companies or departments). I also figured out that I could not work in an environment where I was expected to wear a jacket, pantyhose and heels every day (or ever, actually).

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

If your goal is to be a writer, GO FOR IT NOW AND GO AT IT AS HARD AS YOU CAN, WITH EVERYTHING YOU’VE GOT. My not-so-secret secret is that I’ve always wanted a career in creative writing, but because I was on my own, with no outside support at such an early age, I made conservative decisions about my education and my life. I knew I needed to be able to support myself and that being a writer was a big crapshoot. So I never had opportunity to make creative writing priority #1. Pursue your goals with a vengeance before you have a real job and real responsibilities: you’ll have the rest of your life to having a boring, responsible, adult job.

Here’s something else I wish I could tell 20-year-old me: knowing and being able to talk to people is a huge component of success, in just about 99.995% of all endeavors. It doesn’t matter how talented you are or how much ambition you have; you have to be able to connect with people and “market” or advocate for yourself and your work. This is especially true in both publishing and advertising right now. This is hard for a lot of creative people – if it’s hard for you, start practicing now so by the time you need these skills, they come easier to you.

Find Lisa Boosin online: 

My advertising portfolio is at lisaboosin.com. I’m really proud of my work. I’ve worked for some big-name clients, and I’ve also worked with non-profits and public sector clients on causes I believe in, which has been hugely gratifying.

Like I said, I do creative non-fiction on the side and I’m working on a memoir. I’ve done spoken word shows around LA and contributed to a number of different websites. Three of the best examples of my work are:

Posted on April 30, 2014 and filed under Communications, Design, Freelance, Journalism, Marketing, Writing.

Cynthia Rosi: Novelist

Name: Cynthia Rosi

College & Majors/Minors: English

Current Location: Columbus, Ohio

Current Form of Employment: Novelist

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

After graduating from the University of Puget Sound, I got on an airplane and flew to London. I knew precisely one person there, a law student I'd met at a bus-stop during my semester as an exchange student, and I stayed with his grandmother while I got on my feet. 

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

My first job was as a secretary but I kept looking for writing jobs. I eventually found one at a newspaper that had a high turnover. What a culture shock. They expected me to know shorthand, English law, and be a pit-bull in the style of a tabloid newspaper. So different from the genteel coaching in journalism I'd had as an undergrad.

I lived in England for 16 years and during that time I worked for newspapers and magazines. Anyone planning that path should take a journalism certification class in the UK because the culture and systems and libel laws are very different.

At that time it was unusual for an American to live in the UK, and because of my accent I really stuck out. That made it easier to be remembered at interviews and get a job. But the newspaper industry in the UK is poorly paid, volatile and cut-throat. When I moved over to Public Relations it was (curiously enough) a more honest way of earning a living, less stressful, with better pay. In the UK journalists are lampooned in comedy shows as pigs. That moniker is well deserved for much of the industry there and I was glad to leave it.

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

In the newsroom I learned to write no matter what sound happened around me. All preciousness drops away as you pound out the words toward a deadline. Accuracy counts. Shorthand counts. Those lessons still help me now.

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

Swim team prepared me to keep doing something even though I was dying. It's so boring staring at the bottom of a pool for four hours a day, and getting out so exhausted I couldn't think, and making myself think enough to get my work done. That prepared me for being alone in a foreign country, in poverty, struggling to do a job I didn't fully understand. It took tremendous guts and stamina.

An internship at a rock magazine helped me to prepare to be disoriented. I didn't really know the music I was covering. All my education had been in classical piano. I had to learn about the roots of rock music and why what was going on was innovative, and to listen to bands I didn't like to figure out what other people liked about them. Why did our readers find it interesting? I had to understand that or everything I wrote would be irrelevant. 

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

Don't skimp on getting the education you need to do your job well. That could mean that you go to grad school or that you take additional online classes, or get an additional technical certification. In the UK life would have been better if I'd obtained the NCTJ certificate, but honestly I was too poor living in a foreign country with no family and school debt on a miserable salary. I cobbled together the portions of the NCTJ I knew I was missing and took shorthand classes at night school, and studied UK libel law books, as well as ethics books because there were no ethics in the newsroom that I could discern.

When I came back to the US I had small children but I knew I wanted to go to graduate school. Finances and time constraints made me wait until they were in high school, but I'm glad I'm doing my MFA at Antioch, Los Angeles. The professors help you to see the work in a new light and to go to a new place in your writing. I have a novel The Light Catcher coming out in October.

Read, read, read. If you're a journalist, that means four publications every morning, maybe six on the weekends until you start seeing the same stories appearing with different twists. If you're a novelist, grab a reading list off an MFA website and start ticking off those books. Reading is the best way to improve your writing. If you can't find the time to write, aim to write on a piece for five minutes a day. If you feel you can write for longer, set a timer for yourself over at tomato-timer.com. I wrote my first novel Motherhunt on timers set for 20 minute intervals.

There isn't room in this industry any longer for writers who don't want to promote themselves. That first book deal is critical, and if your sales suck, you won't get another one for a very long time. If you're dreaming about writing a novel, get started on two social media platforms and a blog. Play with them. Become familiar with their formats. It doesn't matter how many subscribers you have, but it does matter that you're in the sandbox. Because when the book is done, you'll be able to manipulate Wordpress tools, and know how to interact on Facebook, and how to work in the Tweet-o-sphere. That will eliminate so much of the learning curve when you get to marketing, which is an essential part of being a novelist today.

Cynthia can be found on Facebook (she encourages you to send her a friend request), twitter, and on her website, www.cynthiarosi.com.

Posted on April 15, 2014 and filed under Journalism, Publishing, Writing.

Kat Clark: Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications

Name: Kat Clark

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. from Swarthmore College, English Literature & Studio Art.

Current Location: Philadelphia, PA

Current Form of Employment: Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Moorestown Friends School, which is a Quaker school for students in preschool through 12th grade. As the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, my primary responsibility is storytelling: writing articles, managing social media, designing communications, and editing our magazine. I am also the school’s photographer, which is where my double major really comes into play. For projects such as our Summer Programs brochure or Great Kids video, I’m able to start with a blank slate in InDesign or Final Cut and build the piece from start to finish — I like that I don’t need to choose between writing and visual art. I teach a middle school video production class once a week, and I love doing that.

Last year, I worked at North Shore Country Day School outside of Chicago, where I was their Communications Associate. The responsibilities for that position were similar to what I’m doing now, and I also advised the high school newspaper several times each week and planned events with the library staff. I’m passionate about teaching and community building, so connecting with the students means a lot to me and helps me feel like my work in marketing is meaningful. I believe that all offices of an educational institution should be student-centered, not only classroom spaces; if a student listened in on one of my meetings, I would want her to feel that I’m her advocate.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

My first job out of Swarthmore was a paid summer internship in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Museum Education Department. I’m not sure if I can share exactly what the application process was like, but I can say that the interview round was difficult. Working in museum education requires public speaking skills, and my experience at AIC made me more confident. I’m used to being behind the scenes, so presenting American Gothic to a large group of people was important to my growth as a person. It also helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses: I was fired up when talking to local kids about artwork, but I was hopelessly bored when waiting to see a rare print.

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

I was Co-Executive Editor of Swarthmore’s daily online newspaper, and that experience kind of reprogrammed my brain. Not only was I obsessed with the big picture (the paper succeeding), but I was also thrilled to spend my free time copyediting, editing images, and dealing with the minutiae of Wordpress. It got me more interested in the details of journalism and new media, both of which are integral to my current position. On top of that, the other students on the editorial staff were insanely talented (Hanna Kozlowska, Jon Emont, Sahiba Gill, Max Nesterak, Monika Zaleska), and I learned so much from them. As John Wooden once said, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you.”

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

In addition to the newspaper, I worked for the College’s Communications Office for several years. That experience familiarized me with how communications work at a school, and I also managed the student Media Center at Swarthmore for two years. I think the technology skills gained from hours and hours in the computer lab helped me more than anything else. A generous grant from the Kohlberg Foundation allowed me to have summer experiences as well, and I could not be more grateful for that. I don’t think anyone should be forced to take an unpaid, uncompensated internship after graduating, and many people can’t afford them during school vacations either.

During the winter of my senior year, I also began volunteering remotely for the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women. Our media toolkit was later featured on the radio and in Al Jazeera, and it was a great introduction to the nonprofit world.

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

I highly recommend using Indeed and Idealist to find a job the moment it’s posted. Zero in on one job at a time. Look for a connection to the organization, do some thorough research, and submit a customized cover letter and résumé as quickly as possible... then repeat the process. Sending 100 generic cover letters is a waste of your time. You are only looking for one job, so focus on quality over quantity and be a standout applicant.

I also think it's helpful to have fluency in various computer programs (Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office) and be able to specify your skill level on a résumé. Employers will be able to see your writing skills in a cover letter, but it's much harder for them to rate your competency in design or social media, so spell it out for them as much as possible.

Most importantly, don't be a misanthrope. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Always stand up for the little guy. Share the credit with someone else. 

Visit Kat on her professional website katclark.org and connect with her on Facebook and twitter.

Posted on April 8, 2014 and filed under Communications, Design, Journalism, Marketing, Social Media, Writing.

Jill Sanford: Admin & Marketing Assistant @ Premier Media Group

Name: Jill Sanford

Age: 24

College & Majors/Minors: University of Puget Sound, English (Writing, Rhetoric & Culture) & Studio Art.

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Admin & Marketing Assistant

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work at Premier Media Group, the publishing house behind South Sound and 425 magazine.

I started at this company immediately after graduating college as an Editorial Intern. It has a small but extremely talented staff, and I was thrown right into all that the magazine publishing world has to offer: e-newsletters, blog posts, travel writing and the works. The company definitely needs and uses their college interns, and I loved seeing my name in print! Towards the end of my summer internship, an Administrative position opened up within the company, and in need of employment and in love with the magazine world, I applied and was hired. A year and a half later, I still have this role.

I answer the phones and handle customer service, which are not the most glamorous sides of the publishing industry. But working the front desk at a company that produces two lifestyle magazines that are on par with national publications has opened a tremendous amount of doors for me. I gained experience with circulation, sales and a lot of marketing and advertising support that I would not have experienced as an intern. I have a more well-rounded understanding of the magazine world and a lot of transferable skills that will help me in this industry across the board.

Most significantly, I was on hand and always willing to take on freelance assignments for both publications. I have a strong background in visual arts, so I gradually received more and more responsibility to cover the Arts & Entertainment sections for these magazines. I am now expected to manage a few key components of the publications each month and I contribute feature length articles as well as short clips for both web and print.

Taking a job that is essentially more of a stepping stone in my career rather than the end all be all right after college really allowed me the freedom to build my portfolio. Now that I have some substantial clips and a solid relationship with a respected publishing company, I am confident that I will have some tethers to grab hold to when I venture off on my own in the near future. I am beginning to explore what the next few years of my professional life will look like, and I am smitten with the idea of working in a communications, marketing and social media field at a larger corporation while freelancing on the side.

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

To put it simply, I was hired for my first job because I had made a good impression as an intern. And I was hired as an intern because I had already had published work through my work with a web only publication, Post Defiance.

I can’t tell you how funny it felt to have my writing chopped up and dissected the first time by the editors at Post Defiance. As English Majors, we are accustomed to our professors critiquing and marking up our papers with a red pen and trying to decipher their often illegible scribbles. Your editors won’t take the time to give you that kind of feedback. The first piece of writing that I had published had whole paragraphs missing, quotes I hadn’t even gathered and words I would never use in a million years.

But it was okay, because that’s what editors will do to your work.

So I would suggest looking for any opportunity as a student that gets you comfortable with someone else chopping up your writing, be it on the school newspaper or even a friend’s blog.

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

As I am relatively new to the writing world, I hope to one day count my current position as the illustrious start to a successful and adventurous career! I am at the bottom rung of the publishing world, but I already know what I like and dislike about office environments, managers, topics to write about, etc. I know how important marketing and advertisements are to sustain publications like the ones I write for. I know that taking criticism and working to improve my writing skills are important to success in this business. I have a good feeling that this knowledge will be very important for my future career path.

In this experience and in others, I have often been told this piece of advice, which I was given as a student: if you want to make it as a writer you have to be writing all the time. Not when you are in the mood for it or suddenly feel a burst of creativity, but every day when you sit down in front of that empty word document.

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

I was busy! I was an editor on the school’s literary magazine, a varsity athlete, I double majored, I worked a part time job… I was a pro at multitasking and I wasn’t afraid of hard work. I think those skills translate into the real world in any setting, but they especially helped me with in publishing because people notice my willingness to pick up extra tasks and learn new skills. Most writing jobs are based on deadlines, which makes them fast paced and usually chaotic during drop-dead week. It’s a good skill to be able to roll with the punches and put out fires while you are on the go.

Nothing can beat solid writing skills, but I would also suggest learning as much as you can about something that doesn’t pertain to your English degree. Your excellent rhetoric won’t get you very far if you can’t ever think of something to write about, and it always helps if you have an idea ready when you finally get your time to shine. Find a passion and know what you want to say about it. Do you love horses or a particular kind of music? Pitch a story about it to a niche publication, or explain why more people should learn about your favorite topic to a publication with a really broad audience.

If possible, learn about other avenues of communication since these can only ever be considered an asset. Social media, press releases, web content and design are all avenues that require a way with words, so take a class in business or marketing if you have the ability and want to hone the skills.

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

Say goodbye to the oxford comma! I really miss it…

Never say no. Even if you can’t stand the assignment or you think it’s the dullest topic ever, do it with a smile. Also, you’ll never know for sure what you enjoy writing about until you give it a try, so try everything. Eventually the people giving you these assignments will notice, and they always appreciate when their lives are made a little bit easier.

That being said, editors and publishers can usually tell what you like writing about based on the quality of your work. This can be both a good and bad thing, so always strive for excellence but don’t be afraid to tell them how much fun you are having with a particular assignment. Hopefully you will get something similar passed your way again!

Also, never be afraid to ask if you can do something. There were so many times when I pitched a topic and was rejected or just flat out ignored. But there is also a handful of articles, some of which are my favorite things I have ever written, that started with a quick conversation with in the break room or because of a brief email query.

Visit Jill on her website, Pinterest, twitter and connect with her on LinkedIn!

*As of June 16, Jill has accepted a role as Content Editor at Expedia, Inc. She brings an editor’s eye to learning and explaining tools and software as well as her attention to detail and customer-service skills. Her responsibilities include creating new hotel content on Expedia, Hotels.com, and Venere brand websites.

Posted on March 29, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Journalism, Marketing, Publishing, Writing.

Katie Plumb: Freelance Writer

Name: Katie Plumb

Age: 28

College & Majors/Minors: University of Puget Sound, BA in English: Writing, Rhetoric, and Culture. University of Utah, MS in Environmental Humanities.

Current Location: Salt Lake City, UT, soon to be in Bozeman, MT

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer & Aspiring Author

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I have plunged head first into freelance writing. It has only been about six weeks since I made the decision to do so, and although it has been scary, unnerving, and overwhelming at times, it has also felt like the best decision I’ve ever made. I have two established “gigs”, one writing short articles for a quarterly magazine and one editing for a small business, neither of which provide enough revenue to sustain me, but do give me hope for other opportunities. I spend the bulk of my time now seeking out opportunities and networking. I look forward to spending a greater portion of my time actually writing soon, but freelancing is a process I am still learning.

Previously, I held a variety of jobs in the field of environmental conservation. Whether my job description included writing or not, I always made it known that I liked to write, and was often given the opportunity when it arose. I recently completed an AmeriCorps volunteer position as a field assistant for rare plant conservation. I re-wrote the department’s web content and drafted newsletter articles in addition to the reports we put together on our research. Before that, I was the outreach coordinator for a small non-profit, and I wrote almost everything we put out into the world, including web content, social media content, grants, press releases, newsletters, and donation appeal letters. I also edited monthly “green tips” that were published in our local papers.

I have also been writing published articles for local and regional publications over the last three years. Some work has been paid, some hasn’t, but it has all been good experience. I plan to continue pitching story ideas and developing relationships with publications I aspire to write for.

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

My first job out of college was as a barista, and it served me well while I figured out what my next step was. After two years of traveling, playing, and working, I decided to go to grad school for a program that brought me under the mentorship of a number of environmental writers I admire, and helped join my passions for environmental issues and writing.

My first job after graduate school that involved writing was for a non-profit, and, strangely enough, it found me. I had applied for a position with another organization, and although I was not selected for the job, one of my interviewers passed my resume on to a friend who was looking to hire an outreach coordinator. She contacted me and offered me the job without even doing a formal interview. It was not at all your typical job-search experience, but it was valuable to recognize that by putting myself out there, even for jobs I wasn’t fully qualified for, I was opening myself up to opportunities I wasn’t even aware of. Especially in small communities and non-profit networks, people talk and share resources, and you never know when your name is going to come up.

As for my current situation as a freelancer, I made the decision after trying a variety of jobs that I thought might be good career paths, and not really loving any of them. Although they were great experiences in which I learned a lot, I wanted more flexibility and creativity and an endless possibility of things I could write about. I have a lot of ideas that I want to pursue, and it seems like a risk worth taking while I am still young and relatively untethered. Truthfully, I’ve wanted to be a “writer” since college, and knew that I could be a “writer” since grad school, but letting go of regular paychecks and facing the fear that maybe it won’t work out took a long time and a lot of self-encouragement.

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

As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to teach a writing course for undergrads. For the most part, I enjoyed the experience. It helped me recognize that I do have a lot of knowledge to share as a writer, and that I enjoyed helping others learn the craft. But it also helped me recognize that although it was something I could do, teaching wasn’t at the top of my list of jobs I wanted to do, at least not at this time in my life. Figuring out what I don’t want to do has been a huge part of deciding what I do want to do.

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

In college, I was really drawn to travel and experience the world. I did a Semester at Sea program, traveling around the world on a ship, and then I took a leave of absence for a semester to travel more and reconsider the academic direction I was headed in. The time I spent wandering and learning about the world helped steer me towards my current path. I was a literature major who loved words, and by going out and seeing some of the world, I was moved to think about how my studies, and eventually my career, could be more active and engaged in my community. I was inspired to write as a way to educate on a larger scale, to use it as a creative and powerful tool to motivate others.

Towards the end of my college career, once I had settled on an emphasis in writing, I participated in the submissions committee of my school’s literary journal, which prompted me to start submitting my own work (and to start accepting rejection!). I also got an internship for a class, during which I worked with a non-profit to write some marketing materials, research future projects, and pitch project ideas to potential donors. This got me interested in non-profit work and I began searching for writing and communications jobs with other non-profits, only to learn that the place I was living was saturated with well-educated and experienced applicants, which inspired me to go back to school!

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

These are some things that I have to remind myself of often, which might be helpful to someone in a similar situation:

  • If you want to write, write about things that matter to you. Delve into things you’re passionate about. It shows in your writing. As one of my dearest mentors said, “If it matters to you, it will matter to someone else.”
  • Don’t be afraid. I know, it sounds dumb, but it’s the simplest form of advice I can give. Fear of failure is a powerful motivator to not do the things we care most about. I face it every day, but eventually I just got tired of my own excuses.
  • Collaborate with other creative thinkers, support and encourage other writers, and listen to others’ advice and criticisms. You don’t have to take any of it to heart, but you never know what gems of wisdom someone else might have.
  • Thinking about writing doesn’t make you a writer; writing makes you a writer. Doesn’t matter where—on a blog, in a journal, on a napkin, on a piece of bark. Doesn’t have to be published or polished—if you are writing anything in any form, you’re a writer, and you will get better.

Visit Katie on her website, and connect with her on LinkedIn

Posted on March 19, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Communications, Journalism, Self-Employed, Freelance, Teaching, Writing.

Cathy Higgins: Newspaper Editor

Name: Cathy Higgins

Age: 44

College & Majors/Minors: Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, AL. I majored in Mass Communications with a double concentration in print journalism and public relations. I also minored in English.

Current Location: Elberta, AL

Current Form of Employment: Newspaper Editor

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Since 2010, I have worked as an editor at Gulf Coast Newspapers. For the first one and a half years, that consisted of editing and writing articles for the front section of The Baldwin Times in Bay Minette, AL. Then in March 2012 I was moved to the same position with The Foley Onlooker in Foley, AL, which is a larger market. To elaborate, my duties include seeking out and covering news in the local area, as well as writing articles and editing both my own work and that of colleagues. This is for both print and online publication. I also help develop ideas for annual publications and manage freelancers. 

But this is not the only current position I have. I am also contributing writer for Sports Events Magazine, which is a monthly national magazine for sports business industry. I periodically conduct interviews and write articles on a freelance basis.    

I have been working as a journalist since graduating from college in 1998. I freelanced at local newspapers in Murfreesboro, TN, my then home, before getting my first full-time job as a staff writer at a biweekly newspaper in Pulaski, TN, in spring 2000. After working there for two and a half years, I went on to work as either a staff writer or copy editor at newspapers in Alabama and Georgia. Each time, I have written and edited articles for both print and online publication, as well as designed newspaper pages, taken pictures and produced videos. 

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

I found both my first and current jobs on JournalismJobs.com, the go-to employment website for my industry. This has been the case for all but one position I accepted. For that one, I was contacted by the editor, who said they were given my resume by a colleague.

Applying for every position except my current one was very pleasant. I spoke in person with the people who would be my supervisors and received tours of each workplace. However, interviewing for my current job was conducted completely over the phone— not a practice I recommend. I will say that in each case, the employers were looking for someone who could write and edit articles well and quickly.    

I have only had a writing/editing test for one job I accepted. That was for the copy editor/page designer position at The Albany Herald, a daily newspaper in Albany, GA. That test was to show not only my skills in writing and editing, but also my knowledge of current events and legal terms commonly used in daily newspaper reporting.  

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

When the features writer position at The Albany Herald opened six months after I had been at that paper, I applied and received the position. This turned out to be important to me because it helped me develop my craft as a feature news writer, which has its own style. It also helped me cultivate a different way of looking at things, as well as to think visually when working on my projects.    

My duties included developing feature story ideas for the daily paper and to manage the Arts and Entertainment Calendar. Plus, I managed the section’s intern and freelance columnists, which were valuable things to learn. I also learned how to work efficiently and develop sharp organization skills while in this position.  

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

I did quite a lot in college to prepare for my career. That included getting my feet wet in newspapers by becoming a social columnist for my home town’s weekly community newspaper. Plus, I served a year as staff writer for my college newspaper. I also wrote articles for my college alumni magazine and for the newsletter of my college’s Baptist Campus Ministry. These were great real-world experiences, as they helped me develop my interviewing skills. They also helped me develop my ability to write with a quick deadline.    

My internship was in public relations at a boutique music-industry firm in Nashville, TN. While this was a fun experience, it really didn’t do much to help my career. I would have benefitted more from an internship with a newspaper or magazine publisher.     

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

For those with an English degree preparing to enter the workforce, I have several thoughts. One of them is that when you select your chosen field of work, seek out a mentor who will give you useful guidance and advice.    

Another thought is to see the value in online networking. I really get a lot out of connecting with professionals on LinkedIn. The groups are a great way to share ideas and cultivate those professional connections.   

But with this advice, I strongly suggest keeping your connections list on such sites for professional networking only. Anything else is a distraction from the designated purpose. And I do have to say that I have to quite frequently decline connection invitations from people who just know me and have no professional networking value.

My final thought is on which career path to follow. If you’re interested in journalism, I’d suggest looking for positions at business-to-business publications or magazines. I also advise trying technical writing positions or corporate media.

I do think you might want to steer away from the newspaper industry. With the shift to online media in the last few years, newspapers haven’t figured out how to stay viable. That doesn’t translate to a very stable environment from an employee’s perspective.

Connect with Cathy on LinkedIn

Posted on March 12, 2014 and filed under Journalism, Writing, Editing.