Content executive Jessica explains what you need to do if you want to write for a career - and why she wishes she'd asked more questions at school.
Name: Jessica Lindley
Industry: Print industry (marketing)
What is your job? Content executive
How long have you been doing this job? 1 month
University: The University of Sheffield
Degree subject: BA English Language and Literature
A-levels: English Literature, English Language, Psychology, AS-Level Media Studies
1. What was your very first job?
When I was doing my A-Levels at college, I also worked part time as a waitress in a family pub/restaurant. Looking back, this job gave me a huge boost in confidence and allowed me to develop my communication skills which are crucial for the job role I’m in today.
2. What did you want to do when you were at school?
I always wanted to be an author. I used to write stories at school and ‘release’ new chapters every so often to give to my friends, who’d all sit around and read them in the hallways.
3. How did you find out about the industry?
Stories weren’t the only thing I wrote – I tried my hand at a few different writing activities, including writing for my college newspaper. When I started blogging in my free time, I realised that this was what I really wanted to do. Once it dawned on me that most companies have a blog and that it was actually someone’s job to write those blogs and the companies’ website copy, I knew that I’d found what I wanted to do.
4. How did you get there?
As well as studying English Language and Literature at University (and therefore getting a lot of writing experience), I also took part in voluntary work to get a taste for different industries. I really enjoyed my work experience in a communications team, where I had my first go at writing a press release.
When I finished university, I also worked as a content editor for an apprenticeships company, proofreading learning materials, which meant my SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar) skills had to be amazing.
5. What is a typical day like?
One of the great things about my job is that no day is ever the same. (That sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it?) I do loads of different writing tasks, from website copy, emails and blog writing, to social media and press releases. And even then, no email or blog is ever the same.
Before I start writing, I have to conduct ample research and planning too, which can be really interesting. At school I never really valued how important building research and planning skills would be in later life! As a rule, I like to work backwards, for example, I’ll think what my end goal is, and lay out the steps I need to take to get there.
6. What’s the best thing about your job?
I love that I can manage my own workload. As long as I meet my deadlines, there are no rules about what I write when, or even if I want to switch tasks midway through! I’ve had jobs before where every minute of my day is managed for me, and this job is great because it doesn’t have those same restrictions. I have the breathing space that’s necessary for creativity.
7. What is the most challenging thing about your job?
My previous experiences of writing had all either been for my degree or for pleasure, so writing from a marketing perspective was a completely different kettle of fish. SEO, keywords and organic search results are all terms that were completely new to me but are now part of my everyday life.
8. What advice do you have for people who want to do what you do?
Keep reading and keep writing. The best writers are those who practise their craft. It’s really helpful to write for the public – whether that’s through a blog or your school/college newspaper. It can be a bit nerve-racking at first because it feels like you’re sharing something very personal, but the more writing you make public, the easier it gets and the more confident you become.
9. What things do you wish you’d known before starting your career?
When I was at school, I tended to take lessons at face value. When you’re researching case studies in science, or drafting a geography essay about volcanoes, it can be easy to think ‘How is this relevant to me and my life?’, but it’s the transferable skills behind these tasks that hold the true value – those are the skills you’re going to be using for the rest of your life, so you’ve got to hone them while you can. I wish I’d asked more questions and gotten more out of those tasks than I probably did.
10. Where would you like to be in 5 years?
In 5 years’ time, I’d love to be using my copywriting experience to help my own team of writers produce high-quality work.
I also think there’s huge potential for instantprint’s startup hub blog which provides advice for small businesses, meaning I could be even more involved in producing resources for students and entrepreneurs to help their businesses succeed.
If research, writing and bags of creativity are right up your street - and you want the kind of flexibility Jessica has in her job - take these first five steps along your digital marketing career.
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