The Value of Internships and Jobs for Professional Writing Students

By Annie Swantek

How far does a bachelor’s degree really go? Many college students may not consider what they are going to include on their résumé before creating one. Or they think that earning a degree and taking courses related to their desired career field is enough. Having a college education is a critical factor on résumé’s, however it is often not enough to catch an employer’s eye.

What an Education in English brings you

Being an English major and a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I have been able to greatly enhance my writing skills, develop other beneficial skills, and gain knowledge on topics I was previously unaware of. The English Department at the UAB is well versed and offers its students an exceptional education. Students striving to earn a Bachelors in English are offered an amazing range of courses as well as amazing faculty to teach those courses.

Getting an education in English will prepare students with the basic skill set and knowledge they need to succeed in a writing career. However, internships and part-time jobs while in college are a key factor in a student’s success with finding a job after graduation.

Beyond the Degree

If a student majoring in English is planning on pursuing a writing career or searching for a job in the communications or writing field, it is beneficial for them to have experience to put on their résumé. Having a bachelor’s degree and the skills and experience from UAB’s English courses are valuable and important to note when creating a resume or talking to future employers.

However, the specific field of professional writing requires experience with many different applications and additional skills beyond being able to write remarkably and efficiently. While many professors do inform their students of this and introduce them to these types of applications, skills, and tasks that employers require for any writing position, students often do not get enough experience to list it on their résumé as a skill.

Having exposure to a professional work environment and seeing first-hand the types of tasks that writers complete is a very beneficial experience to have. Actually gaining experience allows students to go beyond just learning about it in a classroom and actually living it and doing hands on work that will help them in the future.

Student Internships & Jobs

Since I am a senior, I have started my job searching journey. I am mainly looking at Technical Writing, Copy Writing, Editing, and any related positions. I have noticed a trend that almost all of the job postings I have looked at require or strongly prefer for applicants to have a bachelor’s degree as well as at least 1 year of experience.

Not having job experience does not necessarily mean that employers will not look at your Résumé or that you can not find a good job, it does mean that having relevant work experience greatly increases your chances of getting responses from employers and catching their eye with your résumé.

I am an English major; Business Administration minor and I am concentrating in professional writing. I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in professional writing when I chose my major but did not know the exact steps I needed to take or how to achieve that. I knew that my college courses had allowed me to develop valuable skills, but I was still anxious and worried about finding a job or being able to succeed at a job after graduation.

Before the Spring Semester of 2020, I got an email from the Undergraduate English Majors Resources informing students of an on campus, part-time, student Technical Writing position. I figured I would apply for the job and see what happens because it seemed like a good fit, and I knew that having this experience would look good on my résumé and better prepare me for the future. I ended up getting hired at UAB’s Computer Forensics Research Lab (CFRL) as a Technical Writer, I have about a full year of experience since I started my junior year and will be leaving after graduation as it is a student job.

Benefits of Student Jobs
The entrance to the Facebook Suite section of UAB’s Computer Forensic Research Lab, the main lobby, of the lab.

My part time Technical Writing job experience at the CFRL has allowed me to grow as a writer, editor, and even as a student and teacher at times. My main task is to review and edit reports that are written by the lab’s analysts. While reviewing all reports is the main priority, there are many other side duties and tasks that come along with being a Technical Writer. With this specific job I also had to participate in writing workshops where my supervisor and I taught lessons to the analysts on how to improve their writing and what their reports should look like and include.

Teaching writing workshops to the analysts at the lab was very rewarding and allowed me to grow as a person. I was tasked with reading the book, Communicating with Intelligence: Writing and Briefing for National Security by James S. Major and creating PowerPoint based on the material in the book. I had never had the experience of presenting information in this manner or teaching others how to write. I never enjoyed giving presentations in school and always preferred to sit quietly and learn rather than speak up with questions or opinions, this experience helped me to come out of my shell and feel more confidently about speaking in group settings.

The CFRL writes Intelligence Writing style reports that are written in a specific format and that get sent out to clients. I had never seen this particular kind of writing before and was not very familiar with the subjects of the reports. However, being able to see other kinds of writing besides academic writing has broadened knowledge and skill set. I can now tell future employers that I have experience with reviewing and editing cyber crime related reports, even if the company has nothing to do with computer forensics this still shows them that I have experience with multiple types of writing styles and that I can easily adapt to different types of content.

Networking is another benefit of having internships and part time jobs while in college. Sometimes acquiring jobs depends on who you know. If you are working or interning at a company as a Technical Writer, or related position, you are likely to meet others with that job title and similar interests as you. Not only is this a way to gain friends and socialize with others who may be similar to you, it is also a way to lead to future jobs. People at the company may know friends or family whose company or office is looking for someone who can write, they may think about the Technical Writing intern at their company and give you a referral.

It all comes back to experience. having the experience of being around different types of people and work environments gives you the ability to tell future employers about it. Maybe your student job was remote, and you are looking for only remote positions, now you can tell employers you have excellent time management skills and work well independently because you have had the experience of working in a remote position already. Or, maybe your internship was in an office and required a lot of collaborative work, you now have the ability to show off your ability to work as a team member in a busy work environment.

Receiving an education at UAB and earning a Bachelors in English are amazing accomplishments that employers will be impressed with. However, having internships and jobs related to your desired field as a college student is an extremely valuable and beneficial experience that will help you moving forward with your future and career.

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