Name: Robyn Broker
College & Major: University of Puget Sound, English: Writing Rhetoric and Culture
Current Location: Seattle, WA
Current Form of Employment: Proposal Writer at Russell Investments
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I currently work for Russell Investments in Seattle, WA (soon to be remotely working from Denver, CO— life change!). My title is “Proposal Writer” and my job entails responding to RFPs (Request for Proposal) from prospective clients. My tasks range from writing and editing responses to questions, interviewing subject matter experts on various topics, coordinating communication between all involved parties, and lots of other project-management related duties. It’s a fun, busy job and it keeps me on my toes most of the time— which is something I always look for in my work life.
Previously, I worked for a magazine as Managing Editor and was responsible for just about anything and everything involved in editorial production. My tasks included writing copy, editing stories, helping design layout, proof-reading spreads, interviewing industry participants, and delegating tasks to my editorial and design staff.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
As an English major, the whole “writing and editing” skill set was sort of ingrained in me. During my senior year, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have any finals or tests— just papers to turn in. Gotta love liberal arts schools! By going through the creation/writing process over and over, I felt ready and prepared to take on any writing-related job or project, no matter the subject.
I also wrote and edited for my school’s newspaper, which fine-tuned my copy editing abilities. This was an experience I recommend to anyone considering a writing-related job post-grad, as it’s not only a good resume builder, but it’s also a great way to exercise your English major skills in a more professional environment.
Finally, during my senior year I had an internship at a magazine (which would ultimately become my first job). This is another opportunity I highly encourage English majors to go after. While there aren’t a ton of open full-time jobs in publishing, there are almost always internships available. Don’t see any listings on a site? Ask! I was fortunate that my own internship turned into a job, however you never know what can happen when you log intern hours. Again, it’s good for the resume and good for getting a taste of the industry.
Oh, and I edited SO many friends’ papers throughout school (they requested— but I was happy to help). That definitely helped my editorial eye.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
As stated above, my first job came from the magazine internship I had senior year. The interview for the internship was somewhat standard, but I remember feeling incredibly confident throughout the interview (not typical for me!), and my employer highlighted that this was one of the reasons I got the position.
Admittedly, I got pretty lucky as the magazine was a start up and in need of a full-time editor (in this case, even a bright-eyed 22 year old would do!). I worked at that magazine for just over 2 years, which is when I started my now-current job at Russell Investments. I found the job at Russell via LinkedIn, I want to say by searching for “writer” in the Seattle area.
This was a HUGE change. Not only was the job completely different, but it was a totally foreign industry to me. In fact, at the time I had no idea why they hired me. However, as my boss communicated to me from the get-go, he was more concerned with having someone who could write well in the role as opposed to someone who was merely well acquainted with finance. It goes to show that everyone needs writers, no matter the subject or industry.
In terms of the interview process, I had a phone interview with an HR representative and three in-person interviews. The first was with my current manager, the second was with the two people who are currently on my team, and the third was with my boss’s boss. I also had to come in for a “writing test” where I was given some informational articles on an investment subject and asked to summarize the topic in a comprehensive paragraph. The whole process took a while, but I did feel like all pieces of the interview process were necessary.
The thing I leveraged the most in my interviews (besides my writing/editing skills) were both my work ethic and my willingness to learn. I highlighted the fact that I was interested in an opportunity that allowed me to work hard and learn a lot (both true) and I think this spoke to exactly what my boss was looking for.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
My best advice to English majors is to expand your field of vision when looking for a job! Like I said earlier, writers and editors are needed in nearly every single industry, and I’ve found that you can tailor your English major skills to a wide variety of job types (marketing, editing, writing, social media, etc.). When I graduated, I never, ever would have thought that I’d be working in the finance industry for a huge corporate company. But, it was my English degree that got me here. It might not be my dream job (mainly because I don’t know what that is yet ), but it’s a great stepping stone and helps me capitalize on my degree. So, be realistic when you’re searching (straight up: print publications are hard to get into), but remember that your skills are incredibly valuable to just about any employer.
My other advice is to be yourself and be honest during the interview process. Real talk— most people that are considered for a position have near-identical resumes, so it’s really important to highlight what makes you, you. Plus, you want the people who are considering hiring you to get a well-rounded look at who you are— not just a walking and talking cover letter/resume. And on the note of interviews: come prepared with questions not just about the job, but about the workplace environment, etc. While you are the one vying for the position, it is equally responsible for the employer to sell themselves to you as well. And finally… do not be afraid to think before you speak! It is so easy in interviews to try and not miss a beat and ramble on and on until eventually you don’t even answer the question. It is always better to take a minute, collect your thoughts, and give a thoughtful response rather than act like you have an immediate answer no matter the question. And remember… breatheeee!
In terms of looking for jobs, I’ve found the most success with Indeed.com, LinkedIN, and perhaps more than anything… going to company websites! Lots of employers don’t list their jobs on the major job search sites, so it’s a great idea to go directly to the source and look for their “careers” or “employment” link. This is easily where I’ve found the most prospects. And while craigslist can be okay for freelance gigs… I’d steer in the direction of other resources more than relying on the CL.
Good luck! I’ve met so many English majors in various roles since I graduated, and it’s so fun to find kindred, book-loving and language snobby kindred spirits out there!