‘Figure out what you like to write’
Like most people at Hamilton (and most 22-year-olds in general), I dreaded the day I had to graduate and inevitably enter the real world. No matter how prepared Hamilton made me, I still didn’t have the answer to the fundamental and important question: what do you want to do with your life?
I had some snippets of things I liked (writing) and things I didn’t (science). But that wasn’t exactly helpful. Ultimately, I took a summer internship at a public relations (PR) firm in New York called Havas PR that a friend of a friend of a friend directed me to – not because PR was calling me, but just because I wanted to procrastinate on making a firm decision about my career.
The internship was good and even led to a full-time gig. I learned a lot, excelled at my work, and made great connections with smart people. But at no point did I think, “yes, PR is my passion.” In fact, I largely felt the opposite. I knew that if I stuck around, I would have to keep doing the thing I hated: cold-calling reporters.
So, after almost a year at the agency, I started looking for real jobs. The tricky thing was that I had little to no idea where to start.
At Hamilton, I found that literature majors, and people who liked writing in general, were told a couple things. Pursue a career in journalism, publishing, or communications (advertising, marketing, and PR). These are all great options, but the reality was I didn’t see myself as a reporter or publisher and PR was proving to be a dead end.
I started to think hard about the things I liked and the things I didn’t. Working at Havas not only taught me work skills that I couldn’t have possibly learned at Hamilton, but it gave me invaluable insights into the inner workings of businesses.
I discovered (perhaps this should have been intuitive, but I guess I never thought about it) that everything on the Internet – articles, blog posts, websites, social media posts – are written by someone. More importantly, this copy was often not written by the person or business that claimed authorship. This makes sense – high-level business leaders are likely too busy to focus on a blog post and their expertise lies in their industry, not necessarily writing.
As a result of this realization, I decided to explore jobs in copywriting and content marketing (two fields, which to this day, I can’t expressly tell you the difference between). After a couple writing tests and interviews, I landed a job at my current company, a small copywriting shop called MarketSmiths Content Strategists.
Since starting in July of 2017, I’ve completed a number of projects writing fresh web copy for small businesses, worked with companies to create weekly blog posts, and led the website revamp of a network of hospitals while managing a slew of writers along the way.
I’ve written for tech companies, insurance agencies, hospitals, hotel chains, retailers, retail marketers, recruiters, and more. Each day is marked by teaching myself something new about whatever I’m writing. Most recently, I had to learn about the specifics of diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injuries. I’ve enjoyed my work and I like the opportunities I have to learn new things. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed the responsibilities that come with joining a small company.
The best advice I can give to those interested in writing is to figure out what you like to write. If it’s everything or if you’re not sure? Look at a job in copywriting. Better yet, look at a job at an agency where you can write anything and everything from tech blog posts to fashion websites to healthcare info pages.
Hamilton has a long history of connecting students with alumni and parents whose advice, expertise, and resources help talented young people achieve success for themselves and in their communities.
The best advice I can give to all Hamilton students is to figure out what you don’t like to do. I learned that I didn’t like journalism or PR, and realizing that was infinitely more valuable than realizing I liked to write. So many jobs require writing, but I didn’t know how to narrow down my options until I learned the fields I didn’t enjoy.
Overall, take advantage of the opportunities on The Hill. Hamilton won’t teach you what PR is or how to be a B2B (business to business) writer. But they can give you the tools to ask the right questions and the people to ask.
Caroline Harrington '16 majored in literature and Hispanic studies at Hamilton. She was a communications assistant at the Career Center, a writer for The Spectator, a member of the rowing team, and a Student Athlete Advisory Committee representative. Currently, she works at MarketSmiths as a copywriter.