Name: Kat Clark
College & Majors/Minors: B.A. from Swarthmore College, English Literature & Studio Art.
Current Location: Philadelphia, PA
Current Form of Employment: Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work at Moorestown Friends School, which is a Quaker school for students in preschool through 12th grade. As the Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications, my primary responsibility is storytelling: writing articles, managing social media, designing communications, and editing our magazine. I am also the school’s photographer, which is where my double major really comes into play. For projects such as our Summer Programs brochure or Great Kids video, I’m able to start with a blank slate in InDesign or Final Cut and build the piece from start to finish — I like that I don’t need to choose between writing and visual art. I teach a middle school video production class once a week, and I love doing that.
Last year, I worked at North Shore Country Day School outside of Chicago, where I was their Communications Associate. The responsibilities for that position were similar to what I’m doing now, and I also advised the high school newspaper several times each week and planned events with the library staff. I’m passionate about teaching and community building, so connecting with the students means a lot to me and helps me feel like my work in marketing is meaningful. I believe that all offices of an educational institution should be student-centered, not only classroom spaces; if a student listened in on one of my meetings, I would want her to feel that I’m her advocate.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.
My first job out of Swarthmore was a paid summer internship in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Museum Education Department. I’m not sure if I can share exactly what the application process was like, but I can say that the interview round was difficult. Working in museum education requires public speaking skills, and my experience at AIC made me more confident. I’m used to being behind the scenes, so presenting American Gothic to a large group of people was important to my growth as a person. It also helped me realize my strengths and weaknesses: I was fired up when talking to local kids about artwork, but I was hopelessly bored when waiting to see a rare print.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I was Co-Executive Editor of Swarthmore’s daily online newspaper, and that experience kind of reprogrammed my brain. Not only was I obsessed with the big picture (the paper succeeding), but I was also thrilled to spend my free time copyediting, editing images, and dealing with the minutiae of Wordpress. It got me more interested in the details of journalism and new media, both of which are integral to my current position. On top of that, the other students on the editorial staff were insanely talented (Hanna Kozlowska, Jon Emont, Sahiba Gill, Max Nesterak, Monika Zaleska), and I learned so much from them. As John Wooden once said, “Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you.”
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
In addition to the newspaper, I worked for the College’s Communications Office for several years. That experience familiarized me with how communications work at a school, and I also managed the student Media Center at Swarthmore for two years. I think the technology skills gained from hours and hours in the computer lab helped me more than anything else. A generous grant from the Kohlberg Foundation allowed me to have summer experiences as well, and I could not be more grateful for that. I don’t think anyone should be forced to take an unpaid, uncompensated internship after graduating, and many people can’t afford them during school vacations either.
During the winter of my senior year, I also began volunteering remotely for the Chicago Taskforce on Violence Against Girls & Young Women. Our media toolkit was later featured on the radio and in Al Jazeera, and it was a great introduction to the nonprofit world.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
I highly recommend using Indeed and Idealist to find a job the moment it’s posted. Zero in on one job at a time. Look for a connection to the organization, do some thorough research, and submit a customized cover letter and résumé as quickly as possible... then repeat the process. Sending 100 generic cover letters is a waste of your time. You are only looking for one job, so focus on quality over quantity and be a standout applicant.
I also think it's helpful to have fluency in various computer programs (Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office) and be able to specify your skill level on a résumé. Employers will be able to see your writing skills in a cover letter, but it's much harder for them to rate your competency in design or social media, so spell it out for them as much as possible.
Most importantly, don't be a misanthrope. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Always stand up for the little guy. Share the credit with someone else.