Posts filed under Writing

Jean Baur: Self-Employed Writer & Speaker

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Name: Jean Baur    

Age: 71

College & Majors/Minors: Lake Forest College, English Major with Honors

Current Location: Connecticut

Current Form of Employment: Self-employed: writer and speaker

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work from home and write books, and I also create and give presentations to a wide range of industry groups, from librarians to insurance executives.

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

My first really good job was working in NYC as a corporate trainer. I researched the company, found connections, and went after them until they hired me. I was hired to teach business writing, but soon also taught presentation skills. And then they asked me and one of the account executives to revise the writing program, which we did.

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

I worked as a freelance writer for many years and learned that I could write just about anything if I understood what was needed. I wrote for the food industry, Time Life Books, a small publisher, ETS, and so on. This gave me confidence and diverse opportunities.

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

Not much. It was a tricky time as the war in Vietnam was raging and many of us were focused on social issues—stopping the war, race relations, poverty—without any real career path. I took the GREs, but knew I didn't want to go to grad school. It took me a long time to realize that my degree in English had prepared me for many types of work.

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

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Take advantage of internships, and your career counseling office at your school. Don't worry about not knowing what you want as you'll discover that as you try out different jobs. For some, the job will simply be a way to make money so that they have time to write, while for others, the job itself matters more. Remember, every organization needs people who have what you have: great analytical skills, deep knowledge of human behavior and strong writing and editing skills. It won't be easy and your career path, like mine, may zig and zag a bit. But you'll never be bored and as long as you keep reinventing yourself, you'll be fine. I've been a corporate trainer, a creative writing teacher, a freelance writer, an author, a career coach, a florist, a mother, a therapy dog handler and a speaker. So much fun!

If you want to learn more about Jean, you can visit her site at JeanBaur.com. You can also check out a few of her books here: 

By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur
By Jean Baur

Posted on April 21, 2018 and filed under Self-Employed, Writing, Writer.

Marissa Page: Senior Writer & Editor

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Name: Marissa Page

Age: 25

College & Majors/Minors: B.A. in English, M.S. in Management

Current Location: Phoenix, AZ

Current Form of Employment: Sr. Writer and Editor 

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

Policy and procedure editor at a financial services company. 

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

I got my first "official" (i.e., paid/non-internship) job—a staff position as an editorial aide at my university—through connections I made during my very first editorial internship. It pays to network and put yourself out there, even if it seems uncomfortable at first. Peers and mentors you meet in your first job(s) are your biggest allies. I still list many of them as references on applications, and do my best to check in with them at least once or twice yearly to maintain those relationships. 

Additionally, I didn't turn down any chances to put my resume out there, even if it was just on a local job board and seemed like a long shot. I'm so glad I did, because my current employer found my resume on one of those postings and reached out to me directly to schedule an interview. It just goes to show that you never know who is paying attention! 

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

My current role as a policy and procedure editor has been significant in developing my professional writing skills. I've learned the importance of editing without sacrificing meaning, and that every single word matters, particularly from a compliance perspective. Additionally, learning how to turn complex technical documentation into clear and concise language that anyone can understand has proven to be an invaluable skill, one that also helps me with my personal writing when I find myself being a little too verbose. My senior manager had my team read a book called On Writing Well by William Zinsser, in which the author writes, "Writing improves in direct ratio to the number of things we can keep out of it that shouldn't be there." That is my mantra these days. 

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

I did as many university internships as possible, and sought positions as a student worker that directly applied to my college major and long-term career goals. The beauty of school-sponsored opportunities is that those types of mentors value your long-term goals and simultaneously recognize that you first need to excel as a student before you can reach those bigger aspirations. It's a nourishing type of professional development, one that won't leave you drained or overwhelmed. 

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

Be confident in your goals, but creative in how to achieve them. When applying for jobs, consider the types of companies that need writers and editors, but aren't typically the first employers that come to mind, such as hospitals or tech companies. As an undergrad, I never imagined myself working in financial services, but I've completed some of my most important and rewarding work as a writer and editor in this industry. 

Lastly, it's never your job to tell yourself no. If you see an opportunity that excites you, even if you think it's a long shot, you owe it to yourself to pursue it. Your knowledge, capabilities, and experience—and the positive ways in which others perceive those things—may surprise you, unlocking doors that you yourself may have left closed.

You can connect with Marissa on LinkedIn here and follow her blog here!


Posted on March 1, 2018 and filed under Writer, Interview, Interviews, Editor, Editing, Writing.

Ashley Hennefer Warren: Full-Time Researcher & Writer

Name: Ashley Hennefer Warren

Age: 27

College & Majors/Minors: University of Nevada, Reno B.A in English Literature with a minor in French, M.A in Literacy Studies, emphasis on Research/Information Science

Current Location: Reno, Nevada

Current Form of Employment: Full-time researcher and writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I’m the founder/lead researcher at Ashley Warren Research, where I research in a variety of ways. This includes doing research for novelists, helping beginner genealogists with their family history, writing reports for non-profits, and so on. I also create e-courses to help others learn how to research.

I'm also the researcher/technical writer for ShortStack.com, where I write white papers, conduct studies, facilitate usability tests, and create documentation. I’m kind of a researcher/writer-of-all-trades.

And when I have time, I’m a contributing writer to publications including the Reno News & Review, GOOD, and The Mary Sue. I absolutely love all of the work I do and feel lucky every day to be where I am.

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

My first job was writing a column for a newspaper at 13 years old. I lived in a small town after growing up in the Bay Area, and I asked the local newspaper if I could write a teen column, and they said yes! Soon after that, they hired me on as a paid intern and staff writer, and I worked there until college (along with other odd jobs). My mom had always encouraged me to participate in writing and reading contests growing up, so I think by the time I was a teen, I was ready to start writing for the public. Being in a small town certainly helped get my foot in the door.

I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life so far; I think I always felt that if I were going to pursue something English-related long term, that I needed to be scrappy and get as much job experience as I could. Luckily, that has paid off.

I got my current job at ShortStack through a friend who knew I loved to write about and research social media-related topics (my Master’s thesis was about social media and activism). At the time, I was the director of curriculum for the Reno Collective, a coworking space.

Funny enough, the same day I got offered my job at ShortStack, I also got offered a job teaching English 101 at a local community college. So I did both for a while; I don’t think I’ve ever just had one job at a time in my whole life! But I love ShortStack and I’ve been here for more than two years. I also love teaching and try to do it whenever it fits into my schedule.

My research company, Ashley Warren Research, arose out of my desire to balance my technology-based research with literary-focused research. I feel like I now have the perfect balance of science and literature in my life.

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

It’s so hard to pick just one! I’ve been fortunate that all of my major career jobs have been relevant to my degree. Aside from my current roles, which I love, I was the Special Projects Editor at the Reno News & Review and I was awarded Journalist of Merit in 2012. That was a great opportunity to be active in the Northern Nevada community.

Truthfully, though, research is my main passion (but writing is closely linked with that, so both are very important to me). Working at the campus libraries at my university was life-changing for me. I set my sights on becoming a librarian, which was my graduate school emphasis. I started the Northern Nevada Tool Library in graduate school to get experience running my own library.

While in graduate school, I was a graduate writing consultant for the University Writing Center, and that was an amazing experience. I got to work with scholars from around the world, and I got to do my own research about literacy. My boss, Maureen McBride, was amazing, and gave me opportunities to lead and teach. Having a mentor is priceless (my graduate advisor, Dr. Dianna Townsend, also deserves a heartfelt shoutout!). That really helped me hone my own research, teaching, and writing skills. At the same time, I was a fellow for the Northern Nevada Writing Project and did research on local literacy (my project was about using video games in classrooms).

And while this isn’t paid work, I do a lot of community service, most recently assisting with refugee resettlement in Northern Nevada. I provide literacy and ESL tutoring to refugees from the Congo and from Syria. Volunteer work is some of the most fulfilling work I do. It also proves how fundamental writing, research and language are to the world.

“Before graduating, I started my own literary and arts magazine for women, called Wildflower. That is what got me my job at the RN&R, actually; they interviewed me about my magazine, and then offered me a job a few weeks after that. After that, I started another web magazine called The New Artemis, about travel and recreation, which helped me get some more writing and editing work.”

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

 Writing while on a train from Prague to Budapest.

Writing while on a train from Prague to Budapest.

I studied English Literature in college with the goal of being a researcher in the future. But I volunteered and took any job I could that was related to English, writing and research. I was the editor of the University of Nevada-Reno literary journal, The Brushfire. I worked at the main campus libraries as a circulation and research assistant. I interned for the Nevada Historical Society. I was also a Resident Assistance in the dormitories. Before graduating, I started my own literary and arts magazine for women, called Wildflower. That is what got me my job at the RN&R, actually; they interviewed me about my magazine, and then offered me a job a few weeks after that. After that, I started another web magazine called The New Artemis, about travel and recreation, which helped me get some more writing and editing work.

I also traveled whenever I could. Travel is incredibly important to me. I went on an English department trip to London, England and a sociology department trip to Istanbul, Turkey, and a couple of smaller trips in between. I am a full supporter of studying abroad but many students, like me, can’t afford to go for a whole semester, so shorter trips can still be just as informative and life-changing!

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

 Doing field research for an article about falconry. 

Doing field research for an article about falconry. 

In graduate school, I learned how important it was to collaborate across disciplines. Although I had a background in humanities, my graduate work was largely STEM-related. Now, I have a passion for all of it: science and math and writing and art, because they are all related. And I don’t believe that there are “art people” and “science people.” It’s OK to have a preference, but I think the majority of people enjoy both. I know many highly analytic writers, and many creative engineers, and they all benefit from not being stuck into perceived notions of the STEM vs. humanities debate. Being an English major is an amazing foundation for so many careers. I know English majors who went on to medical school. My point is, academic silos are damaging to all students. My husband is a very talented engineer, but he had similar hardship finding employment after college, whereas my skills made me qualified for a variety of jobs. (We are both happily employed now, and very grateful!)

My most ardent advice is this: Be a self-starter and be open to doing anything related to your field, even if it’s not exactly what you want to do. Be interdisciplinary. Be active in your community. Understand the value of your skills. Pick a niche and carve a space out for yourself. Think outside of your goals; sometimes, goals and dreams can cause tunnel vision when there are a ton of opportunities out there. You may find that you have new goals!

If you want to be a novelist, write novels and self-publish them. If you want to write for a magazine or newspaper, start your own. Create an English student club if there isn’t one already, and partner with students from another department. Join literary groups and be open to feedback. Be a citizen journalist or scientist. I truly believe every English major should have a blog that they regularly update, even if writing isn’t their career goal. There are so many great ways to offer your skills to the world, and you may find career opportunities because of it.

It’s important not to wait for opportunities or for your dream job. It’s easy for us English majors to get discouraged when we feel like we have to sacrifice our values or passions for money. All of my best jobs and opportunities have come from me putting myself out there; I don’t think I’ve ever actually gotten a job by applying for it. (By that I mean: I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs in my life, but the ones I’ve gotten came from networking and collaborating!) You have to fight for your career and for a good life.

To learn more about the services Ashley offers, visit AshleyWarrenResearch.com. You can also follow her business through Facebook.  


Posted on October 17, 2016 and filed under Writing, Communications.

Robin Epley: Magazine Section Editor

Name: Robin Epley

Age: 26

College & Majors/Minors: California State University, Chico: B.A. in English Literature, B.A in Journalism, News/Editorial Option, Minor in History

Current Location: Sacramento, CA

Current Form of Employment: Magazine Section Editor

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for Comstock's magazine in Sacramento, CA. It's a monthly regional business magazine that covers 10 counties in and around Sacramento. I am the Special Sections Editor, which means I conceive, pitch, write and/or assign 3-5 stories every month that have to do with a special topic — last month we covered a specific county, next month we're solely covering architecture, so it varies a lot.

Some people would call this "advertorial" journalism, in that we sell ads against the stories in this section and also I work with the Sales team here to come up with the best topic for that month. But the stories are 99% my ideas and my or my writers' execution. I also am a feature writer, which means that often, I'll write one of the 4-5 feature stories for the magazine. My first feature for Comstock's ended up being the July cover story! Additionally, my work as an editor means I'm reading articles for most of my day and copyediting them, which can span anywhere from a 500-word blog to a 5,000-word feature article. I can often be found with a red pen in hand, and I hoard them from my coworkers!

 My first day at Comstock's! :)

My first day at Comstock's! :)

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

My first writing gig was as a weekend reporter at my college town's daily paper. Obviously, the regular reporters don't want to work on Saturdays and Sundays, so they would hire a journalism student from the college to fill in those days. I worked at that job for the last 2.5 years of college, every single weekend. I'd usually have a photographer with me and would cover 4-5 local stories. Sometimes it was just re-writing press releases, but I often did on-the-spot news reporting and covered emergencies. I actually saw 2 dead bodies at that job (at separate times) and got shot at for driving too close to someone's pot farm up in the boonies of Oroville. (Technically they were shooting into the air to warn me/other reporters and responders away... but still!)

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

I'd have to say my freelance writing has always been really important to me and my career. I moved to Boston after college for a few years and really struggled with the freelance life. I ended up taking a lot of retail and waitressing gigs just to pay the bills. But I have always wanted to be a writer and editor and I knew I'd make it happen someday. When I moved back to Sacramento a year and a half ago, (where I'm from, originally) I got hooked up with some local journalists who really made an effort to make sure I had connections and opportunities, and I will always be grateful for their help. I got my current job at Comstock's because one of those journalists set me up freelancing there, before I ever even considered applying for an editor position. It was the freelancing that I think got me the job, because they knew my work and what I was capable of. I still freelance for various sites, including a tech-in-government site and Bustle.com.

“It was the freelancing that I think got me the job, because they knew my work and what I was capable of.”
 This very green photo was taken by the newspaper photographer while I was on an assignment at a soup kitchen in college. I was probably 20 years old? 

This very green photo was taken by the newspaper photographer while I was on an assignment at a soup kitchen in college. I was probably 20 years old? 

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

Just write. Write so, so much. Even if it's horrible awful stuff that you'd never show to anyone, even if it's a poem about how your big toe hurts today, write write write. My favorite song from Hamilton is "Non-Stop" for those few lines that go: "How do you write like tomorrow won't arrive, how do you write like you need it to survive, how do you write every second you're alive?" I feel like that's what writing should be like. You should need to burn with the need to write if you're going to make it as a writer today. I write journalism but I'm also a storyteller and an author and constantly running social media projects on the side. The more you write, the better you will become, and the better you are in college, the more opportunities you'll have after. Also, and I can't say this strongly enough, hook yourself up with some people who are already in the industry. Who you know just as important as what you know.

By the way, lest you think, "Oh, she has a journalism degree and is a journalist, what's she talking about her English degree for?" I have to tell you that I use my English degree every single day. English taught me how to tell stories. It taught me how to recognize good writers and good writing. It taught me what to look for when I feel something is missing from my writers' stories and most of all, it taught me how to sharply hone my skills in grammar and the technicalities of style — I use those skills every day as a journalist.

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

Someone once told me that if I could see myself as happy doing anything else, I should go do that instead. It seemed really harsh but I get what they mean now: Being a writer (and by extension here, a journalist) is HARD. People will laugh at your degree, they will tell you what you are doing is useless, they will try to trip you up and stop you from doing what you love. Instead of letting them stop you, let that disdain fuel you. Let it be the fire underneath you to prove them wrong. I don't care if it takes you 20 years after college to become a successful writer, because I know how hard it is and how hard you must have worked to finally achieve your goals. Anyone else who cares to call themselves a writer will understand too. And trust me, when you buy your first set of business cards with your name and "Writer" underneath it, it's worth everything. <3

To check out Comstock's magazine, click here. Be sure to also check out Millennials in Media, a mentorship program founded by Robin. You can follow Robin herself on Twitter and Instagram, as well as through her side project, Drunk Austen. You can follow Millennials in Media on Twitter and Instagram. You can also follow Drunk Austen, Robin's side project, on Twitter and Instagram here and here.


Posted on October 6, 2016 and filed under Writing, Journalism, Editing.

Irene Etzkorn: Chief Clarity Officer

Name: Irene Etzkorn

Age: 56

College & Majors/Minors: Undergrad: C.W. Post College, B.A. double major in English and Biology, Graduate: Carnegie-Mellon University, Master of Arts in Professional Writing

Current Location: New York City

Current Form of Employment: Branding and Simplification Consulting firm

Where do you work and what is your current position?

Chief Clarity Officer, Siegelvision in New York City

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

I was in graduate school at CMU in Pittsburgh and heard Alan Siegel from NYC come to campus to speak about his then brand new firm, Siegel+Gale. He had just been on the cover of People Magazine as “Mr. Plain English” and I was fascinated to learn that he was making a business of simplifying complex communications for government and commercial clients. Having worked for the IRS and US Census Bureau while in college, I recognized the need for simplification in many facets of daily life. I was hired for a summer writing internship at Siegel+Gale and worked there for 30 years, leaving there 3 years ago to follow the founder and CEO when he moved to form another similar, smaller firm, Siegelvision.

By Alan Siegel, Irene Etzkorn

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

I co-wrote a book titled, Simple: Conquering the Crisis of Complexity, that was published in 2013 (for sale on Amazon so you can find more about it there). Seeing it translated into Korean, Mandarin, Russian and Hungarian made me realize how universal the desire for simplicity really is. Cognitive fluency has only recently begun to be studied and understood by psychologists. Because ease of interaction and understanding affect believability and comprehension, people gravitate towards clarity.

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

Working while in college helped me to realize I didn’t want to go to medical school (the path I was on). A summer in a hospital cured me of that desire, while working at the IRS gave me a sense that there were many areas I hadn’t considered that would benefit from clear writing and that I actually loved business.  

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

Don’t shy away from being an English major because you envision perpetual unemployment. Couple your writing ability with a minor or double major in another area and you will find many employment opportunities. Also, the skills associated with English majors—curiosity, interviewing, clear expression—are valuable in many types of jobs.


Posted on August 6, 2016 and filed under Writing, Interviews, Interview.

Ayesa Lubag: Content Specialist for Trend Micro

Name: Ayesa Lubag

Age: 28

College & Majors/Minors: Bachelor of Arts, Major in Journalism / University of Santo Tomas

Current Location: Manila, Philippines

Current Form of Employment: Content Specialist for Trend Micro 

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at Trend Micro Manila as a content specialist. We manage the content of our website and do a lot of writing, editing, HTML coding, SEO and proofreading for assigned products.

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

There is an assumption that you already know what to do with your life after graduation. But the reality is, some people don’t. All I knew at that time was that I had to use the perk of trying my hand at new things. 

Deciding whether to go with a large or small company may be one of the most important decisions that you make while job hunting. I landed a job in a relatively small public relations agency as a media relations officer. Some people prefer large companies over small ones, and that's ok. But as a fresh graduate without any work experience at all, I couldn't afford to be choosy. If an opportunity arises, I wholeheartedly grab it.

Working in a small company might appear to be lacking potential. But the truth is, the possibilities are endless. You need experience to get your dream job. You have to work your way up. After I gained work experience in the field, I moved to a multinational public relations agency.

It occurred to me one day that it was time for me to return to the Philippines after living and working in Malaysia. I found Trend Micro’s job opening online. The IT industry was something new to me.  But after working in public relations, media, and advertising, I was still open to be part of a different industry again. I’ve always believed that a broader work experience can be an edge. And for this reason, through the years, I’m able to distinguish a good workplace—one that has a mission-driven company culture, a great career advancement opportunity, and a wide array of benefits and perks. I’m grateful that I get to experience these things in my present job.

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

I worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency in Malaysia. My job was to write copy for clients’ ads and to develop creative ideas and concepts. Most of our clients were property developers. Writing real estate copy in a country that I wasn’t familiar with was challenging. I had to take note of the property’s location and the buyers’ culture and preferences. There were frustrations at first, but that didn’t stop me from doing what was expected from me.

Some of our clients, the property developers, submitted entries to the International Property Awards. This became the turning point and the most exciting part in my writing career when two of our entries, which I worked on, won some awards. I took it as a sign that maybe it was the right time to go back to my country and contribute something different.

The whole experience taught me that change is never easy when working abroad, especially when adjusting to a different culture. But getting outside of my comfort zone gave me the chance to see things from a totally different perspective. Adapting to a new culture became truly inspiring. It broadens your horizons like no other.

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

I did internships that covered TV (ABS-CBN), radio (DZBB), and print (Manila Times) during the summer and even when the academic year had already started. Internships are designed for career development and personal growth. I made valuable networking connections with professionals aside from gaining valuable knowledge, skills, and experience in the career field of my choice. 

“If you haven’t found your passion, let your strengths lead the way.”

I also invested in personal development by diversifying my experiences through travelling and trying new hobbies. I even travelled alone. Travelling allows you to discover so much about yourself and offers you a whole new perspective. Not only does travelling provide a sense of adventure, it also opens doors to cultures that can be totally enriching. Moreover, I also knew that I needed to prepare myself to the world out there by becoming a cultured person. I read voraciously, watched well-written films, listened to a variety of music genres and appreciated art. Above all, I told myself that I was young and I shouldn’t be afraid to take risks. I made a lot of mistakes but I don’t have regrets. They made me who I am today.

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

If you haven’t found your passion, let your strengths lead the way. Trust your intuition, explore new things, and inspire others. Also, don’t forget to maintain a positive attitude in the workplace.

You can check out Ayesa's photography blog here, and follow her on Instagram here


Posted on August 3, 2016 and filed under Content Marketing, Interviews, Interview, Writing.

Mariah Kline: Legal Assistant

Name: Mariah Kline

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: University of Louisville, Bachelor of Arts in English

Current Location: Louisville, KY 

Current Form of Employment: Legal Assistant, O’Koon Hintermeister

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work for a law firm as an assistant to two attorneys. I write letters, draft wills and other estate planning documents, and speak with clients when the attorneys are unavailable. I also handle referrals. Our firm works with a larger company called LegalShield, a service that allows people to pay a small fee each month and receive legal advice whenever they need it. When Kentucky LegalShield members need someone to represent them in their area, I’m in charge of finding an attorney for them. This often involves writing up a summary of the member’s legal issue and sending it to an attorney. I make sure they have the essential facts about the case so they can determine if they want to take it or not. 

“Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.”

People often confuse my position with that of a paralegal, but they are somewhat different (paralegals are total superheroes, by the way). Paralegals have a specific degree that teaches them about the law and how to work with attorneys. Though you won’t learn about the law in most English classes, I think this is a great area for English majors to work in because it involves so much writing and communication. Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.

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

Actually my first job found me! I posted my resume on Career Builder and the office manager at the firm called me a few weeks later. I spent months filling out online applications for places that never contacted me (which is still a good idea for someone in need of a job; it is a numbers game after all) but it turned out that letting them find me was the way to go. 

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

I didn’t have any writing-related jobs prior to this one, but the writing I did in college definitely helped me prepare for the job I have now. Composing articulate emails and summarizing cases are part of my day to day work. You may not think the short essay assignments you’re doing right now will help you later, but I’ve found that the writing skills you develop can translate really well in an office.

“Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads.”

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

I tried to have my resume fine-tuned in the months leading up to graduation so that I could start applying for jobs immediately. I also worked many part-time jobs in college, not only to support myself but to show future employers that I had a good work ethic. Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads. 

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

First, don’t be discouraged by the job market. It is very tough out there, but if you have some job experience, a good attitude, and a solid work ethic you will find a good job. Also, don’t be too picky. If you get a call about an interview but the job doesn’t seem appealing, take the interview anyway. You might enjoy the people you meet and the office environment, even if the work doesn’t sound right up your alley. 

Second, it’s OK to take a break from reading once in a while. I felt so guilty about watching more TV and not picking up a book for several weeks after graduation, but your brain needs a rest sometimes. You spend months on end doing nothing but reading, so binge watching old episodes of the West Wing doesn’t make you a bad English major. 

Last but not least, be your genuine self. Don’t be ashamed that you chose to major in English, and don’t let potential employers make you question your choice. Whether it be five weeks or or five years from now, you will find a job someday that will make you glad you studied English. 


Posted on July 26, 2016 and filed under Law, Writing.

Rhonda Crowder: Writer, Editor, Journalist

Name: Rhonda Crowder

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: Cleveland State University, Bachelor of Arts in English with specialization in creative writing, editing and publishing/minor in psychology

Current Location: Cleveland, Ohio

Current Form of Employment: I work for a newspaper in addition to owning a business.

Where do you work and what is your current position? 

I work for the Call & Post newspaper, an African American-owned weekly based in Cleveland, Ohio, as a general assignment reporter. Because I often find myself working outside of my job description, through this position, I learn so much about writing as well as the business of writing. It truly broadened my perspective of what a person with an English degree can do. Although low-paying, this position provides me with a lot of opportunity, connections and freedom to working on other projects. I use my salary as a base and my other work brings up the rear.

“I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers.”

Realizing I am in the writing business while remembering my propensity for entrepreneurship from as far back as selling lemonade in my preteens, this position led me to start my own business, a communications firm that now provides content creation, graphic design, sales, and media relations services. My clients range from small publishing companies and media outlets to independent authors and small business owners. I had been freelancing since I graduated college, but started Rhonda Crowder and Associates, LLC in 2011 as a result of needing to report my 1099 earnings. I never thought of my business growing beyond my own freelance work until I took the Partnership for Minority Business Acceleration (PMBA) class at the Akron Urban League. At that point, my eyes opened to how bad the business world needs skilled writers. I remember sitting there and saying to myself, "I can do business with everyone in this room, but everyone in the room can't say that." 

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

Trust me. I’ve worked plenty of non career-related jobs. Regardless to how bad they sucked, I learned something from each that I use today. My first paid writing gig was Arts and Entertainment Editor for my college newspaper, if that counts. Being a leadership position, it paid a stipend. I was tunnel vision on writing books, movies and plays. I never considered journalism. However, I tried it, got bit by the bug and became more serious about being a writer. After graduating, I didn’t pursue journalism. I maintained my desire to be an author. The only problem with that, I needed a job.

“In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer.”

With my current position, I initially walked in off the street, asked if they were hiring and was told no. I thought no more of it. But by chance, I attended a book club meeting held at the newspaper a few weeks later and met the president. In casual conversation, I told him I was a writer looking for work and had just been declined by his organization. Long story short, I met with the editor and they made me in offer. Knowing I could barely survive off of it and desperately wanting to get paid to write, I took it. That’s one of the best decisions I ever made.  

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

My work at the Call & Post led to me being offered a contracted position to serve as associate publisher of Who’s Who in Black Cleveland. Who’s Who in Black Cleveland is a product of Who’s Who Publishing/Real Times Media. The organization highlights the successes of African American in our 25 different markets. In this role, I am the organization’s liaison to the Cleveland, Akron and Canton markets. I do everything from help shape the thematic direction of an edition and nominate honorees to producing an annual book unveiling event. This position is important because it puts value on that English degree. It shows organizations that I can do more than the perceived “sitting around playing with words all day.”     

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

First and foremost, I focused on the learning the craft. I stayed engaged in projects or with professors. That helps connect you to opportunities or at least obtain a great recommendation letter. I worked on the college newspaper and other literary publications on campus. In hindsight, I should have done more off campus internships early and as often as possible.

“...An English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you’ll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer.”

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

You may realize it or not, but your English degree gives you an advantage. You can do more than what you imagine with an English degree once you understand its value and how to use it. As an English major, you are extremely creative and an analytical thinker. You can solve problems most are unable detect. At the same time, an English degree alone today is not enough. It is an excellent foundation, but you'll need to couple it with something technical or be an out-of-the-box thinker to make yourself more marketable. You can no longer think of yourself as just a writer. You'll need to know how to do other things. You also need to understand, whether you like it or not, you are in business and you must think of what you do as such. You sell words, at the least. Learn how to put a value on what you do and don't be afraid to demand it.

To learn more about Rhonda Crowder visit www.rhondacrowderllc.com. She can also be found on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instragram.  You can find articles by Rhonda at www.rhondacrowder.contently.com


Posted on July 14, 2016 and filed under Interview, Interviews, Journalism, Writer, Writing, Publishing.