Posts filed under Blogging

Paris Close: Contributing Writer @ Crushable

Name: Paris Close

Age: 22

College & Maj/Min: English Literature (major)/ Writing/Journalism (double-minor)

Current Location: Pontiac, Michigan

Current Form of Employment: Contributing Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a Contributing Writer for Crushable, an awesome celebrity and entertainment website that feeds my daily giggle quota.

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

If we're talking actual firsts, then my first job came about during freshman year as a Barista at Aquinas College (AQ) in Grand Rapids, MI. I got a ton of closing shifts which were really popular with the "jocks," who, luckily for them, were way out of my league. But I earned my first writing job sophomore year when I worked as a reporter for the school's newspaper The Saint (or as I like to call it, the proving grounds). Before landing a spot on the Crushable team, I worked diligently with the paper, eventually earning titles like Culture Editor and Editor-in-Chief by graduation, and also interned for emcBlue and University101 during school as well. It's all been one stepping-stone journey.

"The Sampler  is Aquinas' annual literary magazine in which selected works from Aquinas College students are published for the mag. I was so lucky enough to have been published three times, and these are the issues my work has been featured in."

"The Sampler is Aquinas' annual literary magazine in which selected works from Aquinas College students are published for the mag. I was so lucky enough to have been published three times, and these are the issues my work has been featured in."

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

Other than the internships I've held, I'd have to say my entire college experience was vital to the writing I do now. I mean, I am an English major, so I've written more than my share of articles and essays. If anything, I'd say having taken on so many creative writing courses as an undergrad was totally helpful to the work I do now. Not very often do college professors imagine an English major wanting to one day work for Us Weekly or write about the Justin Biebers of our generation. But here I am!

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

A wise woman once said, "Great readers make for even greater writers." And that woman is one of my most beloved mentors, Professor Vicki McMillan. I took those words to heart, mainly because it felt like a sin to dislike reading considering my major but there was something pleasant and Care Bear-like to McMillan's nature that inspired me. Not too long after, I was reading all of the time, mainly the work of Anne Sexton (my poetic warrioress) but also Annie Proulx's Close Range (which I'm currently re-reading because why not?). I was also taking a great interest in poetry and writing for the paper as well. So I'd say a combination of reading and writing has best prepped me for my writing career.

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

Three things:

  1. First, recover those last four or five years of sleep you've lost cramming those essays in before your 9 a.m. but take no longer than a month to do so. Sleep long, sleep well.
  2. Second, take on internships (paid or not) both before and maybe even after graduation. Internships are a great way to establish your brand and reputation as an aspiring writer, so take on a few but don't overwhelm yourself.
  3. Lastly, be patient and give yourself time. We English majors have all been told at least once in our lives that finding work will be more than just "difficult," more like a tedious waiting period. But don't fret! Busy yourself doing something fun: start a blog, create a LinkedIn profile, and read and write everyday! Write on? Right on!

Check out Paris Close's work on Crushable, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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

Katie Woodzick: External Relations Manager @ Hedgebrook

Photo by  Samantha O'Brochta.

Photo by Samantha O'Brochta.

Name: Katie Woodzick

Age: 28 

College & Majors/Minors: Theatre/Dance Major, Minors in English and French 

Current Location: Whidbey Island, Washington

Current Form of Employment: External Relations Manager 

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work for Hedgebrook, which is a non-profit retreat for women writers. We have six cottages on 48 acres and award writers fully-funded residencies of 2-6 weeks in addition to offering professional development programs and public readings. I serve the organization as one of two External Relations Managers. We manage marketing, fundraising and communications campaigns. My favorite aspect of my job is managing our social media networks and analyzing data. I can totally geek out on identifying trends in data and using them to better communicate our programs and mission.

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

My first job was a work study placement working janitorial in my college's Biology wing. It was terrifying to clean the labs alone at 6 AM being watched by glass cases filled with stuffed animals. Luckily, I transferred into the Interlibrary Loan Department halfway through my first semester.

I found my current job through strategically choosing my practicum placement for graduate school. I studied for a year in Seattle University's MFA in Arts Leadership program. Each quarter, we were required to set up a 3-5 hour a week practicum with a local arts organization. I chose Hedgebrook and after two quarters, it led to a part-time position as a Development Associate, which later led to a promotion to External Relations Manager.

@ AWP.

@ AWP.

What was another job that was important in your career?

I toured with a children's theatre production of Jack and the Beanstalk for a summer. There were two actors and a bunch of set pieces and costumes in the back of our pickup truck. We traveled to a different town each week and taught the show to up to 100 kids. It was a magnificent opportunity to hone both my interpersonal and leadership skills.

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

Honestly, I didn't do that much. I mainly focused on my acting, directing and writing, while enjoying the social aspects of college. I participated in a general audition which landed me the Jack and the Beanstalk gig. After that I didn't know what to do with my life, so I applied to a dozen different AmeriCorps placements all over the country. Whidbey Island was the first place to offer me a position. I drove from Minnesota to Washington state in two days. I think that AmeriCorps is a great program with which you can ease into post-graduate life. It allowed me to try out working with non-profit organizations, which I now love. And there are so many different kinds of programs! I highly recommend AmeriCorps.

Celebrating the release of the 2014 VIDA count.

Celebrating the release of the 2014 VIDA count.

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

Don't let anyone tell you that your degree is impractical. I was asked many times: "So, what are you going to do with a theatre degree?" 

What is impractical is to study subjects for which you have no passion. Writing is an incredibly valuable skill that will serve you well in many professions. In this digital age, we have lost the essence of thoughtful communication. We need people who take the time to study literature, reflect on it and attempt to draw meaning from it. 

Don't be afraid of applying for positions if you don't have every single qualification listed on the job posting. Use your killer writing skills to write around any gaps in your work experience. Plus, the first thing any future employer is likely to read is your cover letter. Give yourself permission to wow them with an unforgettable first impression on the page.

Also, never stop writing. Whether it's keeping a personal journal, submitting to contests and publications, or attending a local poetry slam, it's imperative that you keep writing. You never know the impact of what you write and put out into the world. It has the potential to inspire, enlighten, and possibly even save a life.

Check out Katie's professional website and visit her blog!


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Brittany Shelley: Director of Content Marketing

Brittany Shelley: Director of Content Marketing

Amanda Rinker: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Amanda Rinker: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Andy Badalamenti: Creative Director at an Advertising Agency

Andy Badalamenti: Creative Director at an Advertising Agency

Posted on July 20, 2014 and filed under Blogging, Communications, Marketing, Non-profit, Social Media, Writing.

Emily Ladau: Freelance Writer & Disability Rights Advocate

Name: Emily Ladau

Age: 22

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, Adelphi University

Current Location: Long Island, NY

Current Form of Employment: Freelance Writer and Disability Rights Advocate

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from my favorite blue armchair in my living room, writing, researching, and emailing my heart out. I am a freelance writer, blogger, social media professional, and most importantly, a disability rights advocate.

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

Emily on Sesame Street.

Emily on Sesame Street.

If you want to get technical, my first job wasn’t writing-related at all. I appeared in several episodes of season 33 of Sesame Street when I was just ten years old. In the years since hanging out with Big Bird and Elmo, I focused on developing my voice as an advocate. For quite some time, my goal was to become an English teacher and incorporate embracing diversity and an attitude of acceptance in my classroom. However, mid-way through college, I found myself gravitating toward the idea of pursuing disability advocacy as a fulltime career.

Majoring in English certainly provided an ideal foundation because it gave me the opportunity to hone my writing and communication skills, both of which are huge facets of being a successful advocate. My skill sets and passion for activism led me to apply for a summer internship in Washington, D.C. with the American Association of People with Disabilities, through which I was placed to work at the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. Not only did this internship prove to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life, but also it set me on my current career path. I was matched with a wonderful mentor who shared her wisdom on blogging with me, ultimately inspiring me to begin my own blog, Words I Wheel By. I’ve been blogging for nearly a year, and it has opened the door for all of the paid writing and social media opportunities that comprise my current work.

You've been published in so many places. How did you go about submitting your work? Did these publications seek out your writing? 

The first paid writing gig I landed was all thanks to a series of fortunate events. Soon after I began blogging, I delved into the professional side of social media as a means of sharing my work. After a couple months of connecting and interacting with other writers and disability rights advocates, a blog coordinator reached out to ask if I’d be interested in a volunteer opportunity writing a guest post on disability in the media. That process went so well that the coordinator put me in touch with one of his freelance bosses and recommended me to be a writer.

Once my first paid piece went live, I started to build up the confidence I needed to officially consider myself a writer. Since then, getting published in different places has been the result of both submitting my work for consideration and having people approach me. I’ve spent a lot of time perfecting my pitching skills, and it’s still something I work on refining whenever I can. I’ve learned that the trick to a successful pitch email is to get right to the point, keeping it short and sweet rather than filling the page with flowery compliments.

So far, persistence has been key – with pitches, with tweets, with Facebook posts, with networking emails, with every aspect of writing. Everything I’ve done, successful or not, has been worth it just for the experience and connections. My favorite example of the pay-off so far is that I was offered an opportunity to write for The New York Times website via Twitter. The end result of that exchange is one of my favorite things I’ve written to date: “One Daughter, One Mother, Two Wheelchairs and Nothing Remarkable.”

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

I was offered my first writing-related job by chance during my freshman year of college. There was a book response essay contest for the entire freshman class and I won. Part of my prize was dinner with the author and some faculty members, one of whom happened to be the director of my university’s Writing Center. We chatted throughout the meal and hit it off, so she approached me a few days later to let me know she had read my essay and wanted to hire me as a writing tutor.

Following a semester-long intensive tutor training course, I got to work with students from all over my school during tutoring sessions several days per week. I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world, because it gave me exposure to immense diversity in writing habits that stemmed from different cultural backgrounds and learning styles. By reading the writing of others through a critical lens, offering guidance, and doing my best to help people comprehend an incredibly wide-range of grammatical and writing-related concepts, I was constantly motivated to consider my own writing and my understanding of the writing process in new ways.

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

I’ll be honest: since I changed career plans right in the middle of college, the real world intimidated me a bit. However, one of my primary goals was to make sure I graduated college with an already full resumé. All the clubs I joined, volunteering I did, and employment experiences I had during my time as an undergrad made it easier to transition to working after I graduated.

Also, once I realized that I wanted to shift my focus to advocacy, I began to explore possible options in case I decided to go to graduate school. As it happened, I took a year following graduation to focus on building my career, and just recently applied to a program that I learned about while I was still an undergrad. I’ll be pursuing an M.A. in Disability Studies starting Fall 2014 at the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the program will allow me to continue my writing work as I earn my degree.

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

My first thought is, who am I to be spouting advice? Everyone will find a path that works best for them. That being said, I worry that far too many people make negative assumptions about what can be accomplished with an English degree, and I want anyone who’s ever doubted their decision to be an English major to know that there really is a world of potential out there.

In terms of practical advice, there are a few things I can’t stress enough:

  • If your goal is to write, put yourself out there. Create a blog, pitch material, develop a writing portfolio. It doesn’t matter if you’re still a student; the earlier you work towards making a name for yourself, the better. Even if you begin by doing lots of writing for free, you’ll be paid in the form of a wealth of writing clips to show off to potential employers. My blog serves as one big writing sample that I can easily present to anyone who may be interested, and I also have a separate portfolio page with a list of pieces I’ve written for other publications. This gives me credibility as an experienced writer, and provides Google with plenty of material in case anyone searches my name.
  • Social media can be a total rabbit hole, but it can also be your best friend. Some of my favorite work opportunities have come from simple online connections. It’s important not to focus only on one platform, though. I actively maintain accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and several other useful platforms (shameless plugs, I know). But the real point here is to diversify your social media outlets, because you never know where someone might stumble across your writing or you’ll find your niche.
  • Learn your limits. I find myself constantly wanting to say yes to everyone, but spreading myself too thin is just not fair to anyone. Saying no always makes me feel as though I’m being unfair to people when I have to do it, but when I have more time, I can write pieces and do work that I’m genuinely proud to call my own.
  • Most importantly, have faith in yourself. It’s super cheesy, cliché, and probably something you’ve heard a million times before, but it’s the advice that gets me through every day. Whenever self-doubt starts to creep in, acknowledge it, shake it off, and keep moving forward.

Visit Emily on her professional website and blog, Words I Wheel By. Connect with her on her Facebook and Twitter, too!


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Katie Plumb: Freelance Writer

Katie Plumb: Freelance Writer

Maggie Smith-Beehler: Poet, Author, Freelance Writer & Editor

Maggie Smith-Beehler: Poet, Author, Freelance Writer & Editor

Sam Slaughter: Fiction Writer & Brewery Social Media Manager

Sam Slaughter: Fiction Writer & Brewery Social Media Manager

Building Your Professional Website & Online Portfolio: 13 Things You Need to Know

If you’re pursuing a career as a professional writer, having an online portfolio is an absolute must. When we say “online portfolio,” what we mean is a website that showcases your work, the same way you would in a binder of newspaper clippings (does anyone do that anymore?!).

Having an online portfolio allows you to direct potential employers to a single, permanent space where your work will always be accessible. It won’t get ruined in the rain and it will never go out of date (if you update it regularly, that is!). Even more importantly, it improves your professional online presence and creates a platform on which to market yourself, which is really what finding a job is all about. Plus, it shows how tech-savvy you are—a huge selling point alone!

There are so many online tools available, many of which are even free. But regardless of which one you choose, consult our expert checklist below to ensure your online portfolio is polished, professional and effective!

Relevant domain:

  • Having your own domain name doesn’t cost much and it shows that you are serious about being a professional! Use your own name, a business name, or a short phrase that reflects your goals. Remember, it’s all about marketing yourself and creating something memorable.

Aesthetically pleasing design:

  • Treat the design of your website as part of the portfolio itself. You want to show potential employers and clients that you have some web skills, but don’t worry—this doesn’t mean you have to become a web developer or a coding expert. Many designs are already built for you, and you have the option to customize them if you want. Also keep in mind that what is ‘hip’ in design is constantly changing. You don’t want a site that looks like it was built in 2005—things have come a long way since then.

Professional headshot:

  • Making a good first impression with a professional headshot is crucial. Think of it this way: you’re the product you’re trying to market! This doesn’t mean you have to be a model, but getting your photo taken by a professional photographer—or even a friend with a great camera—is an investment you won’t regret! You can use this headshot in countless places, and it might be the first impression someone has of you and your brand. Lots of writers skimp on this, but it is absolutely crucial to your online image and the way you will be perceived. If you don’t care about representing yourself well, then how well will you be able to represent someone else?

Your resume:

  • Whether listed directly on the site or provided as a PDF, including your resume offers an excellent way for potential employers to get a quick picture of your experience. Even a link to your LinkedIn profile is a good option.

Portfolio:

  • This one is obvious at this point, but if you are going to bother making a website, then it needs to showcase your work! (You’d be surprised at how many professional websites lack this…) Include photos of completed projects, samples, screenshots, links, videos—whatever you have! It’s best to include a caption with each piece that at least details when it was created and what your contribution was.

Contact info:

  • You don’t have to give away your soul here—a simple e-mail address that you regularly check will suffice! We definitely recommend against sharing your address online unless it’s an actual office and you want people to find you.

Optional:

Description of services:

  • If you’re looking for freelance gigs, then you’ll want to include a list of your services and a brief description of each. Some freelance professionals choose to list their rates and fees directly on the site, while others prefer to keep that information confidential until they speak with a potential client directly. Either way, it should be clear from visiting your site what you do!

Testimonials:

  • If you work with freelance clients, then this is a wonderful way to show off your street cred! Of course, some people take these with a grain of salt (who would post a bad review of themselves on their own website?) but it does show that you’ve worked with real people.

Dead pages:

  • Oops! How did that happen? Test every link on your page—it doesn’t look very professional if you send someone to your portfolio and an important page is broken.

Unfinished design:

  • Don’t send anyone to your site unless it’s completely finished! Once you start a page, finish it.

Out of date information:

  • Did you get a new e-mail address? A new job? Have your work responsibilities changed? Is 2008 the last time you made an update? It’s a good idea to give your portfolio a glance every few months. Consider adding a website updating schedule to your calendar.

Faulty links:

  • Unfortunately, links to other websites do become inactive, and when they do, there isn’t anything you can do about it. But don’t let that deter you from including them on your site. Just be sure to test the published links periodically.

Spelling or grammatical errors:

  • You may be a writer or an editor, but you’re still not perfect. Call in a favor from a co-worker or ask a friend to proofread the text on your site—the last thing you want is for a potential client or employer to catch an error when you’re the one claiming to be the grammatical expert!

No matter where you’re at in your career, an online portfolio is not only a huge professional asset, but it’s also a super convenient way to get your name out there! Creating one may feel like busywork, but trust us, the investment will pay off.

Need some inspiration? Check out the links below for some of our favorite online portfolios (all from Dear English Major contributors!):



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Andy Badalamenti: Creative Director at an Advertising Agency

Name: Andy Badalamenti

Age: 48

College & Majors/Minors: Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art (diploma in Cinematic Animation); College of St. Elizabeth (English degree, minor in writing)

Current Location: New Jersey

Current Form of Employment: I am a creative director for an advertising agency

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I began my career as a commercial artist—I did illustrations, mechanicals, layouts, posters, lettering and the like. I often worked with writers who had Journalism, Communications and English major backgrounds… they wrote the words, I created the pictures. (“Me not know, me simple artist” was my favorite saying back then.) My father was a former English teacher, and my sister currently teaches middle school English, so I was always exposed to great literature and art. Shakespeare and Whitman were regulars in our house. To this day, my father and I share poems and talk literature all the time.

The first company I worked for was a public utility. I was part of the Communications and Marketing Division. One dark year, we had a round of layoffs, and a number of the writers were let go—yet the amount of work was the same. (It’s been this way in America ever since.) Given my love-of-English DNA, I volunteered to help write a newsletter for our customers. That dopey little decision changed everything, as many dopey little decisions do.

When I wrote the newsletter, I had very little supervision, thanks to the fact that staff that was cut to the bone. I gleefully unleashed the anxious little creative dog in my brain longing to be free and let him run amok. I wrote a quirky, fun piece… which was a huge change for the stiff, stodgy, conservative, make-bankers-look-like-Dead-Heads company I worked for. Yet, after it was published, we got a great response—customers wrote and called in, saying it was the first time they ever read the newsletter, and some had received it every month for 20 years. 
The vice president of our division was simultaneously thrilled, flabbergasted, horrified and defensive—and came up with an appropriate punishment for my success. I was given the project to write every month from then on. (“You like being creative, huh? Well, here you go…”)
Soon, I realized I was smitten with writing. But if I wanted to get anywhere with it, I knew I needed a degree, so I went back to school at night. It took seven grueling years, and I moaned and complained every minute of it, even though I found the subject fascinating. In the meantime, my wife and I started a family and I was working in excess of 45 hours a week. I worked very hard at school, focusing on writing, kissing up to professors and networking with fellow adult students. I ended up graduating top of my class.

I eventually left the watch-paint-dry world of electric utilities, and I began working for advertising agencies. In the beginning of my time with them, I was a 50-50 hybrid—art director and copywriter. I wrote the copy for projects, then I would mentally unplug from left-brain to right and create the artwork. I loved it, but agency life was a huge adjustment for me at first. It was, and is, creativity on demand—and what you produce must be really good. Clients are paying top dollar for it and love to fire agencies that ever fall short. No pressure.

I worked for several advertising agencies and began climbing the proverbial ladder to supervisory positions, which I still hate. I can supervise—I have the ability—but I don’t like it much. I’m truly a Mac monkey who loves to create. I’m having a blast right now banging out this little interview. Fortunately, in my current job, the agency relies on my creativity a lot, too… so I still get to play. 

Because I had both an art and writing background, I was valuable to the smaller agencies that hired me—they couldn’t afford separate supervisors for each function. I found my niche: Getting paid to do two jobs for the price of one. Just kidding.

I also threw myself, completely and hopelessly, into self education. I have read hundreds of books and thousands of articles/blogs on writing and marketing and I have taken dozens of courses, seminars, and workshops over the years. I am currently very tired and nearsighted, but well informed. Advertising and marketing is all about being current, and you have to stay on top of your game, constantly. Clients look to you for that expertise, and you better provide it. Again, no pressure.

For the past few years, I’ve been educating myself on content and social media marketing, and I’ve been writing a marketing blog for a few years now.

In my current position, I am responsible for all the daily operations of my advertising agency (part of a larger marketing company). I oversee a staff of account executives, art directors and production personnel. I work directly with clients, help pitch new accounts, write copy (headlines, content, ad copy, marketing strategies, public relations writing, social media, etc.), and I help our clients shape their brands and messaging for their products and services. If you watch Mad Men, I would be Don Draper, just uglier and nowhere near as nicely dressed.
Working in advertising and marketing is a ton of responsibility and stress. I usually put in at least 50-70 hours a week, year round, which is typical in these industries. But it can be very exciting and interesting work, too. You just have to handle stress well!

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

In advertising, having a degree is important, but I’ve always found that it is much more important what you can do. In other words, what specific skills can you bring to an employer? That can include—depending on the advertising agency or department you work for—writing, editing, conceptualizing, partnering with art directors on projects and more. In marketing, an advanced degree is much more important—we’re talking MBA here.

A major part of the interview process in advertising is showing the work you’ve done—having a portfolio of work—and highlighting what skills you have. Talent matters, a lot. You also have to be comfortable presenting work to clients, defending ideas, and be at least decent with handling people, taking criticism, working with a smile under heavy pressure/deadlines/hours, and doing multiple projects at the same time with perceived grace.

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

Since I went back to school at night, I was already working in my field by day. Still, I wanted more writing experience—things like radio commercials, brochures, websites and more. Freelancing was a big help with this. I started writing for friends and acquaintances’ businesses, often for free, just to get experience and build my portfolio. My only payment was samples of the finished pieces! Before long, I had a book full. Today, my samples are on my iPad.

As I alluded to before, stopping your education at your degree is a huge mistake. No matter what field you’re in (advertising, writing, teaching or whatever), keep your skills fresh. I really believe we’re living in a transitional period. I can’t think of a single industry today that is either A) About to go through a major change, B) Is in the midst of a change, or C) Has already changed dramatically. Keeping your skills and outlook current, I think, is key to survival—no matter what you do.

If you’re in college now, and you have an idea what field you’d like to end up in, use those pricey English skills and research the hell out of that industry. Find trade publications, websites, blogs and more and read, read, read. (Just what you want, more reading!) Know that industry and what’s happening in that world, and set your skills and sights accordingly.

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

I think my advice to anyone—not only English majors—is to be self aware. Know what your talents and abilities are. I was always good at coming up with ideas, and I found a way to use that skill, coupled with my degree, to make a career. It’s not like I had a big plan or anything. A lot of it was by accident or luck. But when I saw something I thought I could do, I went for it. And I always shaped my skills.

Your talent may be in teaching… writing resumes for people… blogging on a topic you love… writing articles for a local pub… composing killer lyrics… being a social media maven… assembling data for scientific studies or reports… interpreting classic literature with a fresh perspective… or editing other people’s work to bring the best out in them. Know yourself, know what interests you, and try to find a job that needs that ability. Always learn all you can and bring something of value to the table every day.

Currently, Andy writes a blog on marketing for his currently company, CI - Group. It's a blog that's geared towards marketers in business-to-business or business-to-consumer companies. 

Connect with Andy on LinkedIn, and check out the children's Christmas book that he wrote and illustrated!

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:

Dan Moyer Jr.: Screenwriter

DearEnglishMajor_DanMoyer

Name: Dan Moyer Jr.

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: English, minor in Philosophy

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

Current Form of Employment: Screenwriter

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Simply put: everything and anything. That’s what it takes to make a living as a freelance writer. Someone need a review written? I can do that. Need a product description for a catalogue? Sure, I can do that, too. Every job you get makes it easier to get the next one. Work your way up the ladder. I truly believe the adage: “Do what you have to, so you can do what you want to.” Living that way has taken me some pretty interesting places.

For example, I got to tour with one of Randy Jackson’s recording artists on Warped Tour in 2012. I lived on the bus, did a lot of partying and drinking with bands like Yellowcard and New Found Glory, and all I had to do was blog about our adventures. Basically, I got to live the Almost Famous life for 33 days. Now, I live in LA. I work from home, for myself, as a screenwriter. I’ve adapted novels. Done re-writes. Written biopics. I’m still not at the point where I can to do everything I want to do, but I’m still climbing. Still hustling. Because it’s not enough to be a good writer. There are thousands of good writers out there. You have to be a good salesperson, too. You have to sell yourself.

What kind of projects have you been working on recently?

Unfortunately, I've signed an NDA for most of my recent work, so I can't talk too much about it. But here's what I can tell you:

  • I recently wrote the synopsis and character one-sheets for actor Matthew Modine's upcoming project, The Rocking Horsemen, which he plans to direct.
  • My original TV pilot, The Edgelands, was highlighed by The Black List this month. The Black List is a list of the top unprodcued screenplays in the industry.

Tell us about how you found your first job— what was the process like?

After I graduated (and after a drunken conversation on the beach), I moved to LA with a friend of mine who was going to be attending USC’s engineering school. He said to me, “You’ve always wanted to go to Hollywood, right?” A few days later, I signed a lease for an apartment on the other side of the country (in a city I had never been to, mind you) and the job hunt began! I applied for every internship I could think of. Every opening. I lined up six or seven interviews for my first few days in LA, and luckily, I got one. It was with a small film acquisition company in the NBC building. Exciting at first, but the long hours, cold calls, and commission-based pay got old— fast. But they happened to be down the hall from a small development company. I just walked into their offices one day and told the boss, “Look – I went to school to be a writer. Not a telemarketer. I have this script…” He read it, liked it, and hired me as a staff writer to polish some screenplays they had optioned. That job gave me all sorts of insight into the industry. How scripts get made. How they get bought, sold. Turned into movies. I attended premiers. The American Film Market. Eventually, I learned enough to know that I could make more money as a freelancer, jumping from project to project, company to company. And so – here I am.

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

I’ve done a lot of editing over the years (even though I’ve always considered myself a writer first, speller second). A lot of blogging, too. I did both for an energy company that was based out of Singapore. Found the job through a Craigslist ad. That side-job helped pay my bills in between scripts. It’s always important to have a side gig. A lifeline. Can’t put all your eggs in one basket, because what happens then? Someone doesn’t pay on time. You can’t make rent. It’s you who winds up getting evicted— not them.

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

You know how they say college isn’t for everyone? I always felt like that. I didn’t need college, I thought. I hated going to class. Hated taking classes I didn’t care about. But I stuck with it. Got my degree. And thank God I did. I had a brief internship in New York City working for New Line Cinema in the Merchandising Department when I was a sophomore. It was a good learning experience – got to sit in on a few product integration meetings, plus I got a lot of free stuff – but what I learned most was that the “9-5, commute to the city job” wasn’t for me. I just wasn’t happy. 12-hour days. Filing. Half-hour lunch breaks. Groan. I quit after a month or so.

The lesson? If you aren’t sure what you want to do with your life, keep crossing things off the list until you find it. For me, it was screenwriting. Always loved movies. Loved writing short stories. But it wasn’t until I opened my college newspaper one day and read an article about a one-week student film competition that I put it all together. They gave me a camera, Macbook Pro, final cut, tripod – you name it. My friends and I spent the next week skipping class and staying up all night working on our film. I loved every second of it. Even the painful ones. For the first time, I loved the process of something. We made the top 10 that year. I dropped every education class I had (I was going to be an English teacher) and enrolled in every film and screenwriting class I could. The next year, I had two films in the top 10. Year after that, I was in LA. Things move quickly once you’re inspired. In the meantime, just keep crossing careers off your list.

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

My advice would be this: never settle for anything in life. Don’t just become a teacher because you’re not sure what else to do with your expensive education. No, I don’t make a lot of money, and yes, some months are more stressful than others – but you know what? I’m my own boss. I love the hustle. And I haven’t woken up to an alarm clock since I graduated. That, to me, is true happiness. So whether you’re reading this and you’re in a good mood, or you’re depressed because all your friends seem to have their futures so “figured out,” remember this – the people who think they’ve reached the end of the line in their twenties are usually the ones who’ll have a mid-life crises. So keep searching for that dream job. Learn to take “no” and move on. Successful people are built on the rejection of others.

Posted on April 9, 2014 and filed under Writing, Self-Employed, Freelance, Blogging, Filmmaking, Screenwriting.

Amanda Rinker: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Name: Amanda Rinker

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, Writing Concentration from Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Current Location: San Antonio, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Content Manager at OVC Lawyer Marketing

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I currently work at OVC, INC. (aka OVC Lawyer Marketing) which is a website development company based out of Chicago, Illinois. We provide website design, Search Engine Optimization, social media, website content, blogs, and more for attorneys located throughout the U.S. At OVC, I am the Content Manager. I mostly handle the assigning and editing of website content and blogs, but I also help out with the web operations duties of maintaining legal directory listings for our clients, creating and updating mobile websites, updating websites, and the upkeep of Google Places listings. Really, I wear many different hats at OVC but my passion is the content. It is a big responsibility to keeping content and blog schedules on track, as well as handling client turnaround on projects, but my passion for editing makes all of the pressure worth it. I love being able to take something a writer compiled, research the latest SEO techniques to implement, and conform the writing to make a client successful and happy.

I was introduced to the owner of OVC, Greg Wildman, back in 2011 through my first freelance job after college. I worked for (then Online Video Concepts, LLC) here and there for two years, adding content and updates to attorney websites. In 2013, I gained a bigger role with the company, and this year I became its first employee. With the 2014 massive growth of OVC, we hired on three more full time employees and even more contract writers and web developers. OVC, INC. has a bright future and I plan on helping to carry the torch.

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

My first job was for a multi-faith prayer website (weird, right?). After college, I started dating my now husband of four years so I was determined to find a work-from-home job. He was in the Army and we'd likely be moving around every two to three years. So I cruised Craigslist ads for three months after graduation before I came upon the interesting ad. I sent an email with my short post-graduation resume and received a response from the Chicago-based website. After a Skype interview, I was hired and worked for the website for about a year as a freelance editor eventually managing a team of writers and editing their content for publication and email newsletters. Through this amazing opportunity, I learned HTML, the content management system Joomla, Wordpress, how to publish eBooks, and really just how to be a professional in a virtual setting. I will be forever grateful for this first opportunity I had.

Nowadays, especially when you telecommute to work, employers are looking for writers and editors with a broad range of skills. You can't just be able to write anymore; you have to know some HTML, have worked in the "back end" of websites, know the latest SEO techniques, have experience with social media, and more. Not only do you have to have talent, but you must also be willing to learn how to market yourself. This involves keeping your own online portfolio and making sure it's up to date. For example, my website www.amandarinker.com is not as current as it could be, but now that I have a full time employee position I can afford to let it linger until I need it. However, when I'm in the market for new freelance opportunities, I always make sure to have the most recent articles I've written, live links to social media I've helped manage, etc. Not only should the resume be recent, but having my own hand-built portfolio website also shows my budding web development skills.

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

My job after the prayer site was for a digital art magazine/news website. This job taught me the importance of being an asset to a business. For example, I would take calls or push out relevant news stories for our website on nights and weekends. I was the link of broadcasting the latest art, fashion, or book news to our viewers. It was great for learning responsibility and my value as a worker. This editing position also taught me more about interviewing. I would interview innovative creators of art and learn what made them tick, or what their inspirations were. It helped me connect with people even if it was over a computer or on the phone. It can make you stir crazy working in an empty office at home, so this provided some human interaction. Finally, this freelance job gave me more insight on publishing for eReaders like Kindle, Nook and iPad. There are so many different aspects that go into publishing that readers don't think about, such as each eReader must be created in it's own file format. They all don't read the same file and make it look pretty on the screen. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with when publishing the quarterly eMagazine.

I also freelanced for a publisher that released different science-related journals. Specifically, I worked on an academic physics journal. Let me say, it's very interesting to edit around scientific terms and theories that you don't understand. However, I made it work somehow. As a copy editor you pick up inserting that "blank" noun or verb over a term you don't know. Though, I am proud to say that when I see stories about the Large Hadron Collider in the news I jump for joy because I've been editing works about it. Most notably, this job taught me how to work with the Chicago Manual of Style (whereas I was familiar with MLA style in college) and how to use different editing software for journals.

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

During my senior year of college, I was involved in the English Department's "BaZaar Magazine," a student publication with articles and reviews written on music, movies, and travel sites. But, my main involvement that shaped my career was my in English Club and Sigma Tau Delta (English Honors Society) from sophomore to senior year. My senior year, I was the President of the English Club and Vice President of our Sigma Tau Delta chapter. Attending STD (yes, it's a great acronym) conferences in different cities, submitting my writing and meeting book authors was the best experience I had in college. I have signed books from Alexandra Fuller, Michael Perry, and Neil Gaiman that I will treasure forever, as well as the memories of hearing them speak about their careers. Not only did these organizations look good on my resume, but they enriched my life and future career with expanding my own writing, learning from others, and gaining relationships with my peers.

The other major thing I did to prepare for post-college life ("real life" as I call it) was nab an internship at a small Pittsburgh publishing house. This helped me get my hands on manuscripts, allowed me to contribute my own book reviews to their blog, and showed me the ins and outs of a real company. Though I did intern tasks like maintain the stockroom, mail out book orders, and get everyone lunch, I learned valuable editing and business skills from the editors and book designers.

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

One concrete statement that I can give to English students and graduates is what I mentioned before: Be more than just a writer or editor. Know your craft but also know what will make you successful. Market yourself with the abilities you should have in today's digital age. Also, be willing to take less money if you want to get your foot in the door. I started off making $8/hour (now near minimum wage) with my first gig. But, I worked hard and made my way up to $10/hr in only a few months, and so on. Today a lot of people, especially in my generation, think they deserve more right out of college, so that's why they might not be working in the field they enjoy. It takes sacrifice and working over 40 hours a week to get somewhere. I'm not saying you may not be worth a higher salary, but to get somewhere you have to start from the bottom and fight your way to the top.

Visit Amanda on her professional website amandarinker.com, check out her profile on OVCLawyerMarketing.com and connect with her on LinkedIn!