Posts filed under Communications

Emily Lenhard: Communications Manager

Name: Emily Lenhard

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; English major with minors in writing and business administration

Current Location: East Lansing, MI

Current Form of Employment: full-time marketing and communications; freelance writing and editing

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

Communications Manager for the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Veterinary Medical Center

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

My first real job was as a project manager for a cross-cultural communications agency—translation, interpretation, consulting, travel, etcetera. I got lucky and was referred there by a past supervisor at a media company where I interned and temped during college. I started part-time at the cultural agency during my last semester of college, which turned into full-time after I graduated. It was a multi-faceted job—overseeing language projects, client/vendor relations, social media, web content creation, accounts payable/receivable—you get the picture.

For my current job, I just applied and interviewed for it. Pretty typical. I found it during my hunt of all jobs local and wordy.

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

Freelance writing definitely helped give me some credibility as a writer. Right now, I contribute to one magazine. It’s a nice balance with a full-time job, some novel editing I am also doing on the side, and the writing I do for myself.

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

Honestly, not a lot besides finding a job to start paying back my loans. I really had no idea what I wanted to do—originally, I wanted to teach high school, but I was placed with an elementary class, so I dropped it and just decided to focus on writing and trying to make myself marketable—hence, the business minor.

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

Don’t box yourself in. It can be easy to get comfortable or settle. Keep chasing your dreams and put in the hours.

You can read an article written by Emily Lenhard here and "Like" her on Facebook.


Posted on September 16, 2016 and filed under Communications.

Ayesha Gallion: Senior Communications Editor

Name: Ayesha Gallion

Age: 40

College & Majors/Minors: Morgan State University (English with Journalism Concentration/Minor in Secondary Education); Rutgers University (English with Concentration in Women and Gender Studies)

Current Location: North Brunswick, New Jersey

Current Form of Employment: Plastics Manufacturing Industry, Corporate Communications

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am the senior communications editor at Inteplast Group, the largest integrated plastics manufacturer in North America. I work out of its headquarters in Livingston, New Jersey.

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

My very first job as it relates to being an English major was as a reporter for the West Orange Chronicle, one of several local newspapers owned by Worrall Newspapers, which covered several towns in Northern New Jersey. The salary wasn't that great but the experiences were priceless! I really learned how to interface with all kinds of people. I interviewed politicians, actors, authors, and so many others – veterans, former Olympians – it was amazing what I encountered in that small town in the surrounding areas. As the sole reporter for the Chronicle I wrote between six to nine stories per week ranging from council and board of education meetings to cute little features on town murals and or personality profiles.

I found my current position after being in education for almost 10 years after leaving publishing. I had a passion for learning about various industries but I wanted to apply my editorial and communications skills and knew that it might be a challenge to find such a fit. Design – industrial, interior, and construction, as was technology, were all on my list. Inteplast manufactures plastics for a host of industries, including all that were on my list, plus foodservice, janitorial and sanitation, grocery, and medical.

“Adult colleagues in other industries are not that much different from eager and curious teens. Both demographics often value feeling listened to and respected versus patronized and ignored.”

My experience reporting on design and lighting industries, plus my knowledge of WordPress and some public relations know-how were all assets that landed me the position. Also, I think my outlook on how to relate to a variety of people in different positions (C-suite, machine operators, engineers, marketing, etc.) as well as from different backgrounds (ethnicity, religion, race, etc.) made the vacancy and culture an excellent fit for me.

I would grant some of this credit to being an educator at a magnet high school for the arts. I developed compassion, patience, and the ability to clarify complex concepts to many amazingly talented students who required, at times, unorthodox engagement of text and writing exercises. Adult colleagues in other industries are not that much different from eager and curious teens. Both demographics often value feeling listened to and respected versus patronized and ignored.

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

My experience as the associate editor of Home Lighting & Accessories magazine is one that I will always cherish. I worked with a small team of brilliant editors and writers who not only knew how to take a trade show by storm but also how to objectively self-edit. They taught me how to edit my work and that of others, the latter particularly through the art of “suggestion,” which disarms writers who may be a bit thin-skinned about having their work critiqued.

I learned, especially from our editor in chief, Linda Longo, who later founded enLIGHTenment magazine, how to deal with a variety of personalities in the world of sales and manufacturing. Not to mention, I loved going to the shows in Dallas, High Point, and New York. I remember reporting on Swarovski couture lighting, meeting interior designer Tom Redd who was with Oscar de la Renta at the time, and interviewing so many talented people in the design industry all while immensely enjoying the company of my colleagues.

Linda was so supportive of my editorial ideas. I remember once trying to get an interview with Lenny Kravitz about a chandelier he had designed. Although Linda probably knew his publicist wouldn't grant the interview, she let me at least try. She was the kind of editor who helped me learn to trust my own instincts as well as seek improvement in my editorial execution of content and fact-checking.

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

I learned how to push the envelope just a bit so that an audience is privy to more information and to share that information in a way that is engaging. I got those experiences mainly from sharing writing or analysis in literature or journalism classes. I especially was able to spread my wings while working as an intern fact-checker at the Baltimore City Paper under Mike Brodie, who was my editor.

I remember choosing to highlight an Old Dirty Bastard show that was coming to Charm City and writing a witty blurb to go along with his quintessential wacky braid out promotional photo. I was able to present information in a way that I found engaging and in a manner I knew others might appreciate it. I learned there the beginnings of crafting my voice for media purposes. There were perks, too. I also was able to get free tickets to see “Wilde,” the biopic about Oscar Wilde. As a 19-year-old, I was mesmerized seeing his life and along with Bosie's drama king antics brought to life on the big screen.

“No English major should opt to stay in a ‘safe’ career because he or she fears that not having a technical background will hinder possibilities for success. I believe some of society’s most critical thinkers and fastest learners have studied literature, communications, and educational theory under the umbrella of the English major.”

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

Don't be afraid to be proud of being multifaceted and talented in a variety of areas. I find that with many of my friends who were English majors they are amazing in anything they decide to do! They can elevate the educational standards in struggling schools, write copy for news anchors, become news anchors, pitch exciting stories to publications, or launch media outlets that change the way people process information about everything from law to gender studies.

No English major should opt to stay in a “safe” career because he or she fears that not having a technical background will hinder possibilities for success. I believe some of society's most critical thinkers and fastest learners have studied literature, communications, and educational theory under the umbrella of the English major. The best communicator is often the best at comprehension – as English majors it gives us a huge advantage in an array of industries.

There is so much that we are able to comprehend and deconstruct in ways that a linear thinker would have a difficult time digesting or projecting. Also, do eventually make it a point to dip your toe into technical or financial industries if you feel that there's also a part of you that would excel in manufacturing or sales, for instance.


Posted on September 7, 2016 and filed under Communications.

John H. Alderman IV: Director of Executive Communications

Name: John H. Alderman IV

Age: 42, the Answer to the Ultimate Question

College & Majors/Minors: North Georgia College: B.A., English (Theater minor). Georgia State University: M.A., English.

Current Location: Atlanta, Ga.

Current Form of Employment: Full-time, corporate

Where do you work and what is your current position?

At a global town hall, on headset to coordinate with Production, at the laptop to drive speaking prompts, and seated with the internal comms lead to coordinate live Q&A.

At a global town hall, on headset to coordinate with Production, at the laptop to drive speaking prompts, and seated with the internal comms lead to coordinate live Q&A.

Polishing a vital presentation for our company’s annual leadership meeting with Sandy Schwartz, the president of our company.

Polishing a vital presentation for our company’s annual leadership meeting with Sandy Schwartz, the president of our company.

I’ve been the Director of Executive Communications at what is now Cox Automotive for going on four years. I’m on the corporate communications team and directly support the president of our company with internal and external communications. He’s a former newsman himself, and it’s a special kind of fun to work for a great writer. We co-write (or I edit) speaking points, emails, announcements, blog posts, and video scripts. We develop a lot of presentations together. I also write a weekly operational report for him that goes to the head of our parent company under his signature. In this role I have supported a number of our executives with everything from presentations to videos to emails to talking points to organizational announcements to communications strategy. The variety of communications styles, needs, and content makes this a lot of fun. The opportunities for true thought partnership are fantastic.

Working on a newsletter with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, I make the only known successful bilingual copyediting joke ever! 

Working on a newsletter with the Japan Ground Self Defense Force, I make the only known successful bilingual copyediting joke ever! 

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

My first job was as a counselor at a therapeutic boarding school up in the mountains. I actually found that job in a newspaper, because in that small community that’s where the jobs were listed. I wasn’t the best counselor there, and wouldn’t want to do that sort of thing for a living; but it taught me a lot about empathy, and reading people, and meeting complex communications needs quickly in sometimes pretty intense situations. It was great to be part of a team trying to help kids grow up a bit in difficult circumstances.

Conducting a cordon and search in a palm grove south of Baghdad as Commander of Troop E, 108th Cavalry.

Conducting a cordon and search in a palm grove south of Baghdad as Commander of Troop E, 108th Cavalry.

Finding my current position was charmingly serendipitous. A few years ago I was completing a stateside active duty tour with the Georgia National Guard as head of its Communications team. As I was about to transition back to my civilian job at UPS, one of my mentors introduced me to the VP of Communications here, who was looking for an executive communications person. While I had done some executive communications along the way, I had never considered focusing on that alone. Yet it made immediate, perfect sense to me and I’ve had a wonderful time growing into this role. It’s intricate, high-risk, often ambiguous work, but provides an amazing perspective on business. The company has grown from about $1B to $7B through mergers and acquisitions since I came aboard. Very. Exciting. Times.

Using an interpreter to plan a joint mission with our Iraqi Army counterparts. 

Using an interpreter to plan a joint mission with our Iraqi Army counterparts. 

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

Taking a spin on a Japanese tank with one of my videographers during an exercise on Hokkaido.

This may seem counterintuitive, but my time in the Army National Guard, specifically my eight years in command, was vital to me as a writer. In the first place, leaders lead through communication. There’s no way around this. Commanders write emails, policy letters, and speeches; we speak to groups large and small. Sadly, some of us give memorial speeches and write letters of condolence. I think it would surprise most people just how much rhetoric – written or otherwise – is expected of military leaders.

Moreover, leading 170 rough-and-tumble, delightfully blunt Cavalrymen forces one to communicate clearly, concisely, and with purpose. During our combat tour we helped rebuild a city council in Iraq, which involved some of the most exciting, rewarding, disappointing, complex, and even dangerous rhetorical situations one could ever encounter. It was wonderful. The Iraqis were very, very sharp in debate, and not above using outright trickery if it suited them. My English degrees were decisive in that environment, helping me to keep up with these men who grew up watching their fathers and uncles argue, and had themselves been arguing ever since. I think my language studies also were a big help communicating through an interpreter. There’s a pattern and a rhythm to using a ‘terp, and some really fun techniques of nonverbal communication you can employ during the give-and-take of translation. Fascinating work, and it taught me to simplify and prioritize in all new ways.

My second command was of a Public Affairs unit comprised of 20 journalists and videographers. Being in charge of writers was an adventure in itself, and uniquely challenging. We developed a relentless focus on products that were directly tied to a strategic communications plan supporting the higher command’s operational strategy. The trick was linking ideas and communications tightly enough across media and people that they supported a common goal, yet loosely enough to encourage and enable creativity and motivation in the teams. It was also a ton of fun to coach young writers to tell their stories better and better both from a personal and an organizational point of view.

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

I was your prototypical over-engaged undergrad, and not nearly concerned enough about my grades. I don’t recommend this. But I do recommend aggressive pursuit of extra- and co-curricular activities. I was twice on the national champion precision drill team, an amazing experience that instilled relentless attention to detail, unmatched pursuit of perfection, and unreal levels of teamwork. In our theater program, I learned practical, highly technical ways to present a wide range of emotions and non-verbal messages as well as how to read these things in others. Extremely valuable. I also learned leadership and management as an ROTC cadet, faced political inanities on the Student Activity Board, and sucked the marrow out of life by starting a chapter of the Dead Poets Society. (Yes, at a military school.)

As a graduate student, I eventually got my act together and started studying properly. Since I’m not teaching, my most important classes probably were Ancient Rhetoric, Bibliography & Research Methods, Advanced Composition, and Shakespeare in Film. Why the latter? It not only taught me about another medium, but how to apply my craft to another field. And that’s often the trick for us English majors. isn’t it?

Serving time in the writing lab might sound like a prison sentence, but it taught me how to help people write, which isn’t something that can be learned only among English majors. It’s not just the level of technical competence required to identify, analyze, and help someone solve a problem. It’s building relationships and trust in students on the fly when they’re frustrated, wary of our word magic, or both. Quite valuable to me later as a professional communicator.

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

I wouldn’t give up my degrees in English for anything. Two main areas of advice: business and philosophy.

When we are at our best, we English majors have a perspective on people, thought, leadership, and communicating that’s hard to beat. Our studies immerse us in the human condition and teach us about people with a scope and intensity that enables us to assimilate, synthesize, and communicate ideas like no one else. Our ability to simplify the complex is priceless and makes us immediately stand out from those around us. So I’d say English majors (especially those veering into the business world) should practice climbing up and down that ladder of abstraction. Get comfortable helping others express simply the whirlwind of thoughts roiling them. They’ll love you for it.

Second, at heart I’m a literature, not composition, guy. Certainly I could have chosen more practical writing courses and fewer literature courses, but I’m glad I didn’t. The writers from my studies – Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Dickinson, Tennyson, Eliot, Ovid, Homer – are windows on the soul and dear, dear friends. Countless times in very dark spaces (including in combat), a passage from one of these writers would illuminate the incomprehensible, or reinvigorate my faith, or simply serve as a touchstone of sanity in an insane world. More than once I repeated Tennyson as a mantra: “Be near me when my light is low, be near me when my light is low.” Great literature can seep into us, change us deep inside and help balance us as thinkers, leaders, friends, and workers. Beauty for the bad times, levity for the grim times, balance for the giddy times, words for the important times. We should revel in this and let it shape our perspectives and our work.


Posted on September 2, 2016 and filed under Communications.

Kirsi Dahl: Brand Communications Manager

Name: Kirsi Dahl

Age: 48

College & Majors/Minors: St. Cloud State University English/Education

Current Location: Minnesota

Current Form of Employment: Brand Communications

Where do you work and what is your current position?

3M is a global company based in Minnesota. At 3M, we take science and apply it to life. It’s often said that you’re never more than few feet from a 3M product (whether you know it or not!). While a large majority of 3M’s business is industrial, some of its most famous products come from the consumer business: Scotch® and Post-it® brands, for example. I’m the Brand Communications Manager for the Scotch-Brite™ Brand. Whether in your kitchen, bathroom or even your clothing, if you’ve ever cleaned anything, you’ve probably used a Scotch-Brite™ brand product!

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

When I graduated from college with my English teaching degree (grades 7-12), there were significant cuts in education budgets in my area and the school district referendums had failed. I wasn’t able to get a job in my home state. So I substitute taught for several years and then having started my family realized I would need a more reliable job. My English degree got me a position as an Office Manager at a small company. In this role, I was able to wear many different hats: finance, sales, marketing, and PR. I learned what I liked (marketing/PR) and what was less desirable (finance!) From there I moved to a design agency and worked with clients at 3M for many years helping them build their brands. When one of my long-term clients moved on to a new role, I knew I’d want to move to the client side where I’d have the opportunity to develop and influence the strategy vs. executing against it.

“In my office manager role, I was responsible for not only strategizing the marketing and press material content, but also writing it, distributing and following-through with press contacts.”

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

In my office manager role, I was responsible for not only strategizing the marketing and press material content, but also writing it, distributing and following-through with press contacts. This experience was an important foundation builder for me, particularly in realizing the importance of knowing your audience and crafting content appropriately.

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

As part of my Education degree, there was a lot of rigor around teaching methodologies. Cooperative learning and lesson planning in particular standout as preparatory course work of which the basic principles are something that I still leverage today.

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

No matter what career English degree graduates go into, I think that we all have something in common: a passion for clear and effective communications (written or spoken.) It is hard to believe how rare these skills are in the workplace. If you do nothing but bring these passions and skills, you will stand out.

You can connect with Kirsi on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter.


Posted on September 1, 2016 and filed under Communications.

Sumiko Martinez: Community Outreach Officer

Name: Sumiko Martinez

Age: 30 

College & Majors/Minors: 

  • B.A. in English from Westminster College, Salt Lake City
  • M.S. in Communication from University of Utah
  • Ph.D. (in progress) in Communication from University of Utah

Current Location: Salt Lake City, Utah 

Current Form of Employment: Full-time at a not-for-profit state government agency

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA for short) as a Community Outreach Officer. I travel throughout the state, working with high school students and their families as well as counselors and educators, helping people learn how to prepare and pay for college. This job involves a pretty wide variety of duties, such as researching federal student aid policy and regulation, giving public presentations at scholarship nights, working with students one-on-one to file the FAFSA, and producing blogs, videos, and publications to support our mission. 

My other job (the one that takes up all my free time!) is being a Ph.D. student in Communication at the University of Utah. I’m currently working on my prospectus and with any luck will be starting my dissertation research this fall. My research interests are critical rhetoric, rhetorical theory, media and cultural studies, rhetoric of education, critical pedagogy, and U.S. education policy.

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

I later learned that my performance on the required writing test was what made me stand out as a job candidate.

I found my first job as an internal trainer with UHEAA by searching through websites and job classifieds for anything that required writing skills. It was pretty serendipitous, actually. I interviewed the week before I graduated, and started working the week afterwards! I later learned that my performance on the required writing test was what made me stand out as a job candidate. 

I did a lot of technical writing and training for student loan servicing in that position, which really allowed me to apply my skills as an English major in an interdisciplinary field. 

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

While I was an undergraduate student, I worked as a writing center consultant for my college. This was the first important writing-related job that I had, because it made me learn that even though writing came somewhat naturally to me, that was not the case for a great many people. I had to reconcile my own assumptions with my clients’ struggles, and compassionately help them through a process that may have seemed daunting, annoying, and/or pointless to them. 

I learned so much, so fast in this job, but the most important thing I walked away with was that it’s all right to not know everything. Now, if I’m unsure about something, I research the answer for my clients and share what I learn with them.

There’s one session in particular that stuck with me. I was working with a student who had been referred to the Writing Center by a professor. He particularly needed help with comma splices. Ashamed to admit that I didn’t know what a comma splice was, I inadvertently advised him to put in ANOTHER one! After the session, a colleague pointed out my error, and I was completely embarrassed. I learned so much, so fast in this job, but the most important thing I walked away with was that it’s all right to not know everything. Now, if I’m unsure about something, I research the answer for my clients and share what I learn with them.   

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

In hindsight, I didn’t prepare nearly as much as I should have! I visited my college’s Career Center for advice on job searching and resume writing. If I could give my younger self advice, it would have been to pursue more internships to get a better feel for the type of work I really wanted to do. I would have also told myself to get involved in student clubs or organizations, take on leadership roles, and generally not to be a chicken about networking. (I’d also argue that networking can be called “making friends with other professionals,” which I think sounds much more appealing.)

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

I’m a huge advocate for the humanities, and I know we’ve all heard people disparage our chosen field of study, but take heart! An English degree can benefit you so much. In a society where choice of major is often judged by its perceived utility, studying English teaches you to think above the noise. Learning how to assess sources, frame arguments, and consider an issue from multiple angles are all skills that are necessary not just for the job market, but also for life as an informed citizen. Extend those critical thinking skills that you’ve picked up by studying English, and you’ll find ways to build a meaningful and satisfying life. 

Connect with Sumiko Martinez on LinkedIn, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and visit her website at SumikoMartinez.com.


Posted on July 4, 2016 and filed under Communications, Interview, Interviews, Writing.

Meg Goforth-Ward: Adjunct Writing Instructor & Communications Specialist

Name: Meg Goforth-Ward

Age: 30

College & Majors/Minors: BA in Professional Writing from York College of Pennsylvania and MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR

Current Location: Bothell, WA

Current Form of Employment: Adjunct writing instructor and Communications Specialist

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I teach college-level writing classes for Vincennes University's Military Education Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, WA and I am the Communications Specialist at nFocus Solutions.

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

I started working at a Subway in my hometown when I was fifteen. My brother worked there and got me the job. I stuck with it for about six years because they were flexible with my school schedule and it was a piece of cake job. I guess I'll admit that it was also pretty fun.

I got my current job as a Communications Specialist from applying for countless jobs after graduating with my MFA. This company was one
of only a few that contacted me and asked for an interview. When I was offered the position, I was told I didn't have all of the qualifications they were necessarily looking for, but they really enjoyed my personality and level of energy. So even if you don't have the skills, you have the energy! So fake it and you'll make it.

“When I was offered the position, I was told I didn’t have all of the qualifications they were necessarily looking for, but they really enjoyed my personality and level of energy. So even if you don’t have the skills, you have the energy! So fake it and you’ll make it.”

My teaching job came to me in a much more random way—at an AT&T store in a mall. My phone had broken (or I broke it on purpose because I wanted a new one, maybe) and I went to the local mall to get a new one. I sat at one of the tables reserved for people shelling out their left arm and their right leg for a new phone waiting for the sales lady to finish explaining all of the packages and extras I couldn't afford. At the table next to me sat a grey-haired man with kind eyes. He kept glancing over at me while I answered the lady's questions about what I did for work and school. I worked at a coffee house and went to grad school for writing, I told her. The man's ears perked up, and I saw him rooting around in his wallet. He leaned over, excused himself, and handed me his card. "We are always looking for writers to teach," he said. I told him I was new to grad school and wouldn't have my degree for another year and a half. "No problem," he said. "Hold on to my card and contact me when you graduate." I did as he said, he remembered me (or claimed to remember me) a year and a half after that new phone (of which I've had three since), and now I teach sailors how to write.

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

An inside look at Meg's writing space and process. 

An inside look at Meg's writing space and process. 

My time spent volunteering as a Grant Writer with a homeless shelter in Charleston, SC has proven to be valuable to me personally and professionally. I was fortunate enough to be able to volunteer my time and not have to worry about getting a paycheck, so I took advantage. I learned the ins and outs of basic grant writing and advanced grant writing. This year of my life allowed me to see what worked and what didn't work in terms of writing for a purpose. I had real results--dollars and cents--that measured how well I wrote a grant. Being able to work at a homeless shelter put me in a situation I had never experienced before. I lived a fairly sheltered childhood in a nice neighborhood with everything I needed to survive and thrive. Walking into the shelter each day, passed George who had a heavy limp and a brain injury but always asked me if I needed help with anything, opened my eyes to real life. The real world, if you will. From that moment forward, I knew my goal in life was to use my love of writing to help others in whatever way I could.

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

I did not do nearly enough, let me tell you. Whatever you don't, do more than what I did. Grad school was a tough two years for me. The schooling itself was incredible, and I highly recommend an MFA program if that is something that interests you. I met some of the best people I've ever known in the program. But I didn't write nearly enough. I did the minimum I had to to graduate. I was struggling with some mental health issues and my father passed away unexpectedly during that time, but I know I could have and should have done more. I had little to show other than a degree. Now I see my friends publishing work from their grad school experiences and talking about all of the books they read. I don't have those polished stories to send out to publishers and I barely remember the titles of books I skimmed. Luckily I was able to get a job with just the title MFA on my resume, but I would much rather have more pieces of writing that I can be proud of. So do your work, do it well, and read. Read everything you can get your hands on.

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

First of all, are you crazy? Why would you get a degree in English?! I kid, I kid. English is the best thing there is. Everything about it is wonderful. I could give you pages and pages of advice, but who has time for that?

“Go into a room with a desk and a chair. Sit your butt in that chair. Write. Write words that mean nothing. Write words that mean something. Write nonsense. Write a novel. Just write. Don’t stop.”

Turn off the TV and the computer and the phone and the tablet and the iPod (do people still use those these days?). Go into a room with a desk and a chair. Sit your butt in that chair. Write. Write words that mean nothing. Write words that mean something. Write nonsense. Write a novel. Just write. Don't stop. Don't add that comma you think you should have added two sentences ago. You'll fix that later. Right now,though, just write. Don't be afraid. If it's important to you, it will be important to your reader. As good old Ernie H, said, "Write hard and clear about what hurts." Don't be worried about people judging you. No one has to see what you are writing right now as it it yours. You never know what can come out of sitting down and writing, though.

And read. Read everything you can get your hands on. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry, journalism, comics, graphic novels, children's books, everything. In order to write well, you need to read well. You'll learn more from reading than you ever can from a semester of a writing class (just don't tell your instructors I said that).

Most importantly, be yourself in your writing. Let your personality and voice shine. And make sure you have a little fun along the way.

To the graduates, congratulations and salud! To the current English majors, you are awesome. Keep going. It won't be easy, but, to be completely cliche, it will be worth it.


Posted on June 1, 2016 and filed under Interviews, Interview, Teaching, Communications.

Jill Overmyer: Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Name: Jill Overmyer

Age: 35

College & Majors/Minors: BS in English, Professional Writing and Editing emphasis/Psychology minor

Current Location: Dallas, Texas

Current Form of Employment: Senior Marketing Communications Manager

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am the Senior Marketing Communications Manager for an energy and home services company in Dallas. My main responsibilities are working with executives to develop company-wide communication strategies, establishing messaging and positioning for new products and services, hiring and managing writers and freelancers, developing and executing social media and content management strategies, and writing and reviewing copy. The things I write range from executive speeches to video scripts to brochures. 

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 working as the Communications Specialist at the national headquarters of a fraternity. I found that job the old-fashioned way—I saw an ad on CareerBuilder, applied with my resume and some samples, interviewed, and accepted a job offer. 

This was vastly different from the way I found my current position. In fact, I didn't really find my current job. One day I got a phone call from a freelance client (now the Chief Marketing Officer at my company) about an "opportunity" he thought I would be good for. The next thing I knew, I was moving to Texas. 

The vast majority of my career has been in marketing and copywriting, and I found out quickly that marketing and creative teams often go from company to company together. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to develop good working relationships and never burn bridges.

The last few positions I've held followed a similar pattern. They were offered to me through former coworkers or bosses who had moved on to different companies and were in the process of building new teams. The vast majority of my career has been in marketing and copywriting, and I found out quickly that marketing and creative teams often go from company to company together. That's one of the reasons it's so important to develop good working relationships and never burn bridges. 

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

My first freelance job was a turning point for me. I was writing content articles for a few different websites, and I realized that I could make a lot of money as a freelance writer. It opened up new doors as I learned about the different opportunities that were available. For a time period, I worked full-time from home as a freelance writer. I still do some freelance now, but I'm more discerning about which jobs I take. 

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

The entire time I was in college, I worked at my school's on-campus Writing Center as a writing tutor. I learned so much about grammar and the entire writing process, and it also allowed me to enter the job market with editing experience. 

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

I would highly recommend taking advantage of as many opportunities to build up your resume and portfolio in school as possible. This could be tutoring, writing for the school paper, and looking for internships between semesters or tracks. When you graduate with experience, you already have an edge over many other new graduates. 

Also, try to learn about as many of the different opportunities in the field as possible so you have an idea about what you want to go into when you graduate. There are so many different fields and lines of work you can move into as an English major—it really is incredibly diverse. 

I also think it’s important, whether in school or in the job market, to seek out mentors you can learn from. I've been privileged to have some wonderful mentors who have taught me a great deal throughout my schooling and professional career. I'm still in contact with most of them to this day. There are so many people you will come in contact with that you can learn from and collaborate with, and recognizing those opportunities and seeing each job as a learning experience will open up more doors than you realize. 

You can connect with Jill on LinkedIn!


Posted on April 16, 2016 and filed under Communications, Freelance, Interviews, Interview, Marketing.

Marianne M. Chrisos: Content Developer

Name: Marianne M. Chrisos

Age: 29

College & Majors/Minors: BA in English with a Minor in Psychology, MA in Writing and Publishing

Current Location: outside of Chicago, IL

Current Form of Employment: Content Developer

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work on a phenomenal content team at a promotional products company (the people who put your logo on cool stuff like pens, stress balls, and bags) called Quality Logo Products. I write blog posts, articles, product descriptions, web copy, email marketing copy, and other various tidbits. I also help manage and monitor our corporate social media channels; Tumblr in particular is my social domain and I take great pride in sharing marketing, branding, and design news with the millennial masses.

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 working in the customer service and sales departments of a publishing house.  I thought that might eventually lead to an editorial or acquisition position, but nothing ever opened up. I did, however, get to work on the editing of the sales team fact sheets and processes manual, and also worked to help set up conferences and worked on author orders and other fun book things. I was there for over five years, met a ton of rad people, and learned an insane amount about publishing, bookstores, and production.

In my current job, it’s all writing, all the time. I don’t interact much with our end user like I did in prior positions, but I do work with other departments to figure out what resources we can create to help serve those users better, be it resources on marketing, entrepreneurship, or how promo products can help grow a small business.  

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

Between my publishing job and current content gig, I worked as a freelance writer and editor and also as a marketing specialist for a real estate brokerage. Both of those opportunities helped me incorporate more research into my writing and cultivate different voices across different mediums. Web copy is different from academic writing, which is different from marketing emails and as someone building a career in writing, it was good to have experience in different areas.

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

I think the best thing I did in college was find like-minded English majors to bond over books, literature, words, and writing. This not only helped me survive the stress of school, but having a group of people with similar interests and goals helped me stay focused and productive when finding a job was difficult or when I was struggling creatively. 

Sometimes it feels like the English major job and accomplishment pool is very competitive; a lot of talented people fighting for a lot of the same positions, gigs, internships, publishing opportunities, etc. Having a good group of go-to peers can be encouraging. It keeps you linked to what you love and you can offer and receive support and insight. 

Need a writing group or book club? Those are your people. Need a recommendation or someone to proof your grad school application? Got that too. Need someone to geek about indie bookstores and movie adaptations with? English nerds to the rescue. Writing can be lonely; find your people.

The skills you develop as an English major can translate to a lot of different jobs and opportunities, so don’t limit yourself.

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

Be patient. Everyone wants to get out there, make a name for themselves in editing, teaching, writing, and publishing, and validate the choice to major in English. But it’s important to remember that there’s room for everyone and to stay open to all the possibilities. The skills you develop as an English major can translate to a lot of different jobs and opportunities, so don’t limit yourself. 

Also, it can be discouraging to have spent years of your life studying English and literature, writing papers, performing Shakespeare, and dreaming English-y dreams only to have to get a job doing something that doesn’t fulfill you or pertain to your passion. Remember that there is plenty outside of a 9 to 5 that can bring you creative joy and justify your English endeavors.

Respect the Oxford comma. 

Oh, and read as much as you can. Read everything. Don’t limit yourself to textbooks and syllabi suggestions (but don’t shun those either). Make time to read what you know you love and stretch yourself to reading things you don’t. Some of my favorites (things have grown me as a writer and a person) are Anne Lamott’s nonfiction and Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed. 

The marketing blog I write for is here and I can also be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram!


Posted on March 11, 2016 and filed under Communications, Content Marketing, Marketing.