Name: Charlotte O’Farrell
College & Majors/Minors: University of Nottingham, English BA (Hons)
Current Location: Nottinghamshire, UK
Current Form of Employment: Marketing and Communications Specialist
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I work for home automation firm Nice UK as their Marketing and Communications Specialist.
I also freelance as a copywriter in my spare time but due to family commitments I have to be quite selective with the amount of freelance work I take on!
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
I graduated when the jobs market was still feeling the effects of the recession, so finding my first job took a bit of time. Eventually I heard about a lady in my home town who runs her own small publishing company; she was looking for an extra pair of hands and took me on as an Editorial Assistant, partly because of the skills I honed while studying for my English degree.
I took my current job because I was looking for that all-important next step in my marketing career. I could tell from the job description that the role was very autonomous and full of opportunities to learn new skills in the industry.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
In 2013 I was working in a sales support role for a fairly large company and looking for a career path I could commit to long term. After spending some time shadowing colleagues in lots of different departments, I realised that marketing was a great fit for my interests and skills. The next time that department had an opening (for a Product Marketing Executive) I applied and was delighted to be offered the job.
That role was important for two main reasons. Firstly, it allowed me to build on strengths I already had, such as copywriting, and gave me the chance to work on projects where I could showcase those. Secondly, it gave me many solid business skills that have set me up well for a career in marketing and are transferable if I ever decide to pursue a different path. I had always thought of marketing as primarily being about the communications and social media side so a product marketing role was quite different; it introduced me to areas of the business that I wouldn’t have thought about much before.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I co-edited a creative writing magazine for my university. It was called The Jabberwocky, which often sparked a conversation in my job interviews after graduation!
In broad terms I spent a lot of time developing my interests through student societies and clubs, travelling when finances allowed, and taking courses outside of my specialism in any area that interested me. My university years were a wonderful time when I studied the subject I love and made lifelong friends.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Don’t let anyone with a negative attitude towards your degree influence your thinking. Communication is vital in just about every business career and English students are masters at it. Your degree isn’t “just reading a few books” (unfortunately this is something that was said to me in all seriousness once!) – it’s the perfect foundation for some really fulfilling, interesting careers and savvy hiring managers will recognise that.
That said, try to bear in mind that it is just the starting point and be open to new paths that present themselves as your career plays out. You might find fulfilment in a job that’s connected to your degree but is a little different to what you were imagining, like bid writing. If you’re stuck and looking for a way forward, try listing the skills you’ve built on during your years of study and, importantly, what you’ve done to show you have them – perhaps you’ve written a blog or were your friends’ go-to person for proofreading work. This might prompt you to think of careers you’ve never considered before.
Finally, if you do find yourself struggling after graduation, don't panic! It took me several years to see the full benefit of an English degree and I had some unrelated jobs in the meantime, which were valuable and fun for different reasons. Don't be afraid to take a job that's not part of your original master plan.