Kiley Neal graduated from Ball State as a first generation college student with a BA in English concentrated in Creative Writing and a minor in Philosophy. Her work experience includes blogging, social media management, and other content creation in a marketing setting. When we interviewed Kiley in 2019 for this article, she was the Content Manager at Zotec Partners in Indianapolis. Since then, she’s become a regional marketing strategist at Heartland Dental, the nation’s largest dental support organization providing non-clinical, administrative support services to 1,400 supported dentists across 37 states.

What does a typical week look like for you?

Though I’m fairly new to this position, I’ve never settled in at a job so quickly before. In a typical week, I’m juggling a handful of projects, and what I’m immersed in on Monday is rarely what I’m focused on come Friday, which is exciting and challenging. Some are small tasks that can be done in an hour or a day, some are chunks of larger communications initiatives that will take months to come to fruition. Smaller tasks include researching and writing copy for intranet posts, emails, webpages, social media, and more, editing the work of my brilliant teammates, or mocking up graphic materials in Adobe Creative Suite. Large-scale tasks include creating and maintaining a content calendar as well as task lists for individual projects, organizing and repurposing our existing content pieces, and driving initiatives like our Employee Ambassador Program or the ramp-up for our move to an incredible new building in 2020.

What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major?

How have they helped you post-graduation? Storytelling. We as English majors know that storytelling is a skill that is honed, not just an inborn talent, but I think we too rarely test the limits of what our storytelling can do. As I have often said in interviews: Storytelling is the beating heart of marketing, whether it’s externally or internally focused. You’re never just selling a product or service, you’re selling a story, and what you want is for customers to see themselves as the protagonist of that story. This philosophy helped me blog about shoes, it helped me post on social media about moving services, and now, it’s helping me increase company engagement and create a better, more connected work environment for my fellow employees.
And honestly… you’ll be surprised by how many employers are awestruck at your ability to craft a pretty sentence.

Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?

Hands down, Cathy Day’s Literary Citizenship class. I wouldn’t be in this role or even this field without it. That class was the reason I got my Social Media internship at Midwest Writer’s Workshop, and that internship is the reason I got my first blogging gig. Plus, I distinctly remember a conversation with Cathy about my career path: Back then, I thought it was enough to keep working at a pet shop and writing fiction on the side. She encouraged me to consider a true profession, which is something that — as a first-generation college student from a dying small town — was not something I had ever really imagined for myself (outside of striking gold with a bestselling novel).

I spent three years working on BSU’s philosophy journal, Stance, and was Editor-in-Chief during my senior year. I got to read and evaluate absolutely brilliant papers from philosophy undergrads all over the world, some of which benefited greatly from our staff’s editing. This experience, in conjunction with my philosophy minor, improved my ability to distill complex thoughts and ideas — my own and others’ — into clear, concise, persuasive copy.
I also have to shout out my Professional Writing class, which I think was fairly new at the time (or maybe the minor was new…?). Not because I learned a lot, though I did, but because it felt so easy and natural that it planted the seed in my mind: I might be good at this. And finally, Jenny Grouling Snider’s senior seminar on Narrative in Gaming, because it brought me great joy and was another planted seed that said: There are so, so many ways to be a storyteller.

Do you have any advice for English majors who are trying to decide what to do after graduation?

Being an English major at BSU was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. For a few years after graduation, while I was still stuck in retail, I wondered if I had made a mistake by not choosing a more “practical” major. To current English majors, I would say: Don’t lose hope. Believe that your skills are valuable and marketable. Know that while the dream never dies, you don’t have to write the Next Great American Novel in order to make a living with your degree. Build each other up, and continue to celebrate one another’s successes long after you’ve graduated. If you find a mentor who helps you grow in your chosen field, they can be an invaluable source of knowledge and encouragement. Even introverts (I know there are a lot of us) can build a successful professional life.

More specifically: Content writing is more rewarding than you think. If, like me, your first love is fiction writing, you might be surprised by how much you enjoy finding new ways to use your gift for storytelling. No matter how flashy, expensive, or beautifully designed the content might be, it’s easy to tell when a marketing department doesn’t have a great writer on their team. They need you!

You can reach Kiley on Twitter and LinkedIn.