Students Explore Non-Academic Careers

Gutsche Lecture: Monday April 14th

"If you can write, you can work anywhere," Rachel Peterson told a room full of English majors at the Marilyn Gutsche Lecture on Life after College with an English Degree.Each year, Mrs. Gutsche's generous gift allows the English Department to invite an alum to speak with current undergraduate students about career paths after graduation. Peterson, this year's speaker, works as an advertising copywriter for the Arras Keathley Agency in Cleveland. She creates advertisements for companies such as GE Lighting, Kay Jewelers, and Mercedes-Benz. 

In her talk, by sharing her experience and offering advice, Peterson demonstrated the real possibility of finding fulfilling and rewarding work in today's job market with an English degree. Some of her key points included being confident, learning how to market yourself, and becoming knowledgeable about the job you want and the companies where you are applying. She stressed how the skills students gain through studying Literature, Creative Writing, or Professional Writing are valued beyond the classroom. English majors, she said, have many marketable skills, applicable to almost any profession. 

Non-Academic Jobs Panel: Wednesday, April 23rd

The second non-academic jobs event was geared towards reaching current graduate students. English graduate alums Matt Howard (M.A. Poetry) and Melissa Mazzoleni (M.A. Composition and Rhetoric) came to talk about their career paths and the ways they saw graduate study informing their current jobs.

Mazzoleni, who works as an Associate Editor for F&W Media, passed around copies of two magazines she creates and edits: HOW and PRINT. She encouraged graduate students to market themselves as strong communicators and writers. Skills acquired through teaching composition courses at Miami are highly transferable—in her job as an editor, Mazzoleni said she is constantly mentoring writers. 

Howard, Director of Communications, Education, and Public Affairs at Argonne National Laboratory, talked about his unique career path which began as an editor for the University of Chicago Press and now involves supervising a large team of science writers and communicators. He said he appreciates being part of a larger organization, and the ability to contribute to something larger than himself. 

Both Howard and Mazzoleni stressed the need to be aggressive about self-promotion and jobs. LinkedIn accounts are a must; Mazzoleni said she finds most of her freelance writers online. Both speakers also recommended that job seekers pick should actually call people who work at companies or in industries where they have an interest. Setting up an informal coffee shop chat is a great networking strategy. "You'd be surprised how many people don't think to do this," Mazzoleni said. 

Allison Smith (M.A. Fiction), Director of Communications and Development for Ohio to Stop Executions, was unable to be present because of an unexpected work engagement, but she sent a written statement about her experiences working with a nonprofit: "Non-profit groups want us. Many organizations seek help with messaging, text analysis, setting and meeting deadlines, writing “narrative arcs” for their campaigns, writing in different voices, and the ability to revise/proofread."

The Non-Academic Jobs Panel was organized by Tory Lowe, a current Ph.D. Literature student, and hosted by the English Graduate Program.