This is the second of three articles about copywriter Rachel’s trip to Ohio University (OU). See the last article about finding and thriving in your internship here, and stay tuned for next week’s post about finding the right agency for you.
Last year, Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism was named the fourth best journalism program in the country for aspiring editors. Journalism students at OU are required to widen their scope of learning — about half of a journalism major’s course load is general education classes, and they’re also required to specialize in an area that isn’t related to journalism.
Getting experience in tons of different areas was great. I hopped around from newspaper writing to public relations, dabbled in marketing and global studies. But when the time came to sit down and actually search for a job title in a search bar, I was lost. What role did I even want? Where was my expertise? No matter how many lines of experience I had on my resume, when it came time to look for a job in the agency world, I had no idea what to search for.
When I came in as a guest speaker at OU in February, the students I spoke with had similar issues. What follows are some of the questions they asked me, and the insights that I wish I’d known when I started my job hunt.
I think in many majors, we are taught all the skills we need to know to be an asset, but are left confused at what to type in the search bar when we actually open up our computers to look for open positions.
I knew I wanted writing to be a central part of my job, but I had no idea if I should be searching for positions titled “content strategist” or “copywriter” or “brand manager.” I found it helpful to look through a number of agencies in my area and note the positions that sounded interesting. I often reached out to these people through LinkedIn and asked if I could learn more about their role.
What I found was there’s not one secret code to job titles. At some agencies, creative directors come from the copywriting route and others come from art and design. Some research positions require backgrounds in business and others are beneficial to those with a journalism background.
I found that copywriting and content strategy seemed to be the best fit for me. These roles have to do with writing text that is designed to prompt action. That can include things that are just a few words — like the text you may see on a button on the website, or a 6-word slogan on a billboard. It also can include longer assignments, like making a 10-page e-book or ghostwriting a 1500-word article for a tech leader to post on their personal LinkedIn. Copywriters excel in writing with purpose — some even refer to copywriters as “salespeople behind a typewriter.”
Freelancing is a great way to make connections, earn extra cash and gain experience to set you up for higher-level positions immediately after graduation. I wish I had known how to start freelancing sooner than my senior year! One of the most popular places to find work is on Upwork, one of the world’s top freelancing sites. You can get hired to do something as big as writing an e-book or as small as writing someone’s personal LinkedIn overview.
Alternatively, you can look to your own network for work. If you’ve had any agency internships before, look at their copy/content team. Do they need any extra help on a remote basis writing blogs when you’re back in school? What about the team you worked on, is there space for a few hours a week of work? Offering even a small amount of time can set you up to position yourself as a freelancer.
My freelance clients came to me in a mix of lucky recommendations, connections from my internships and even a random person reaching out after finding my website through search. I’ve done everything from helping with broad brand strategy and ghostwriting articles to simply copying & pasting pre-written social media posts daily. Again, it’s helpful to first propose your idea and what you want to do. The worst they can say is no. I got lucky when Ample said yes — and it ended up turning into a full-time job!
My senior year, the burn out was hitting me hard. In between 18 credit hours, an extracurricular leadership position, three ongoing freelance projects and an on-campus job, I was not ready to walk from the graduation stage into an office for forty hours a week.
After graduating, I spent the summer living with my parents and working as a waitress before moving to Japan to teach English (which is not at all what my degree was in.) I dabbled with freelance throughout, and when I did come back over a year later, I was refreshed and eager for a new challenge. That’s a bit of an extreme route that isn’t for everyone.
For me, the most important thing in my job search was to find a company that valued flexibility. I knew I wouldn’t do well at an office job where I felt trapped and micromanaged. I had family matters that meant I needed to work flex hours a couple days a month. The leadership at Ample already embraced the ability to work remotely, so I knew they were the right team for me. As you interview with companies, pay attention to the people. You’ll probably be able to tell which leadership teams value how much time you spend looking busy at your desk versus how efficiently you can put out excellent work.
I’ve been in your shoes, and I know how you feel. As a student, I sat at the meetings of guest speakers and was always more mesmerized by the people who talk about working with a big-name baseball team, a well-known charity or products that we recognize in a grocery store aisle. I thought I would only write for industries I cared about.
Since then, I’ve worked with a lot of brands that may be considered “boring” (storm water mitigation, payment processing equipment, and heavy-duty fleet management, to name a few). The more realistic fact is that everyone needs clear, concise messaging. Oftentimes, the “boring” brands are the ones that need the most help.
I’m not saying you can’t write for that clothing brand or Silicon Valley company that you’ve always wanted to — of course you can! But you may be surprised what you enjoy writing for. One of the perks of agency life or freelancing is that for every mundane client, you’ll probably get one that interests you, too. The real challenge is turning that otherwise drab brand into something intriguing.
Want to learn more about what we do here at Ample? Check out what my coworkers across departments have to say about their roles on the blog.