Tips on Becoming a Writer or Editor

editor_writerA friend of mine asked me, “How did you become an editor, and how can someone else get into that type of career?” That’s a tough question to answer because I never grew up thinking I’d be a writer or editor. I didn’t make up my mind on a career until high school, when I decided to explore a profession in TV journalism—either as a reporter or news anchor. At the University of Florida I studied TV and radio journalism, and even had the chance to report the news and anchor a newscast for several semesters. Nonetheless, I didn’t stick to TV journalism. I did give it a try, however. I interned at FOX News and worked at ABC News. Yet, nearly eight years since I graduated with my TV news degree, I am continents away and in a pretty different profession than I expected—Staff Editor of Middle East Content for a leading global consultancy firm. Thankfully, I enjoy my job even if I didn’t anticipate it, and can share some tips for people who are looking to enter the editing and writing field:

blog-Start a blog. With a blog you’ll have a presence online and be able to have proof of your writing ability when applying for jobs/internships (it will also hopefully allow you to improve your writing over time). I would suggest wordpress.com, the platform I’m using for this blog!

-Intern or try to contribute articles to publications. Most publications are in need of content (especially free) so one way to bulk up your portfolio is to send your content for consideration/publishing to media outlets that you’re interested in. So come up with a list of publications you like and then email their editors to see if they’ll accept your content. This can also help you network with people within the industry you want to enter.

-Gain the relevant skills and knowledge. Most people don’t have the time or financial ability to go back to school. Luckily there are many platforms for learning that don’t require much money or full-time attention. One of my favorites is Lynda.com, which offers thousands of intense tutorials on everything from blog writing to fashion photography. To sign up, you have two options—basic membership or premium. Both are relatively inexpensive and worth their fee. On the other hand, Coursera.org provides free classes (including writing and English courses such as English Composition offered by Duke University) from the most prestigious universities around the world. Students who successfully pass a course receive certificates from the university that offered the course (this can help freshen up one’s resume/CV and show perspective employers that they’re not complacent).

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What Does George Clooney Have to Do with Coffee? Nothing and Everything.

george clooney coffeeA visitor at my office bumped into me in the break room. She wanted to make coffee but didn’t know how to work the espresso machine. To be honest, it looks like a machine from space—so many nozzles, buttons, and levers that it can get pretty confusing even for an espresso machine connoisseur. So I lead our office visitor to the cabinet of espresso capsules. She looks at the boxes upon boxes of colorful capsules and then at the machine, putting the two together, and then exclaims, “George Clooney coffee!” She shouted that out to me with so much enthusiasm and pleasure that I was sure that George Clooney himself had magically appeared in the break room. I looked behind my shoulder for good measure.

George-NespressoIf you have kept up with advertisements for espresso, you’d know that George Clooney is one of the many celebrity faces of Nespresso. My office visitor’s excitement and delight over “George Clooney coffee” is a testament to how important marketing and branding is to successfully selling products and services today. Sure you need to have a good value proposition, but without having the right marketing and branding initiatives you probably won’t get the attention of consumers who are already inundated with information and marketing from their phones, tablets, and computers, as well as print and digital media elsewhere. So the takeaway here? Nespresso is getting what they paid for. George Clooney is certainly making a positive impact on their products (at least for female consumers), and hey, he’s not so bad to look at either.

Higher Education Websites: A Few of the Best

Colleges and universities are in the business of attracting new students, maintaining their current student population and faculty, recruiting talented faculty and support staff,  and perhaps most importantly, fundraising to ensure their institution has the resources to provide their constituents with a first-rate education and experience. A key outlet to address all these parties is through a website. Unfortunately,  many colleges and universities lack powerful websites (which is absurd considering their own faculty teach web design and online communication). Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of what I believe are the leading higher education websites today, and have highlighted their strengths in the caption boxes.

W&M

The College of William & Mary. What I like: simple layout, vivid imagery, straightforward navigation bars, uncluttered, and easy on the eyes

Bates

Bates College. What I like: beautiful imagery, large image, white space, many quick links, and clear navigation bar

Hampshire

Hampshire College. What I like: ample white space, easy on the eye, straight to the point, non-busy, and simple

McGill

McGill University. What I like: unusually placed navigation bar, list of popular pages and tools, succinct list of news and events, and background imagery on the footer

Alberta

University of Alberta. What I like: prominent “apply now”, “careers”, and “give back” buttons, and interesting button navigation bar

NYU

New York University. What I like: minimalist design, lots of white space, extensive list of links, and color balance

WPC

Warner Pacific College. What I like: tailored to student users, tabs for faculty and parents, non-busy design, even balance between the header and the main content (news, links, and events)

OSU

Oregon State University. What I like: extensive footer with relevant links and easy-to-absorb events list

Depauw

DePauw University. What I like: header and footers are balanced, simple design, lots of white space, listing of key stats, and beautiful imagery

Loyola_accepted students page

Loyola University Maryland’s page for accepted students. What I like about this: innovative way to engage with students before they even step on campus, fresh colors, inviting, clear layout, big buttons, and lots of white space

Tufts_virtual tour

Tufts University’s virtual tour page. What I like about this: innovative idea (let’s face it, few prospective students can afford the road trips/flights required to visit schools), and eye-catching landing page