Jessica Mayflower Beinart graduated from Ball State University in 2011 with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. She spent eight years working as a Paralegal and Book Keeper for Bay’s Family Law before moving on to state government, where she now works as a paralegal for the Department of Workforce Development. Jessica enjoys legal research, writing, and editing.
What was your first job after graduation, and how did that lead to your current position?
My first job post-graduation was as a professional blogger for Emmis Communications on a temporary project for B105. I wrote a short column weekly about the “post-college experience.” It paid so little, it was almost volunteer work and only served to teach me a bit about how team projects work outside of school. My next job led me to where I am now. I took a job as a legal assistant at a family law firm that evolved into a paralegal position where I got to do exciting things like give a presentation at a state bar conference, publish an article in a legal journal, draft legal documents for major court cases, and manage social media accounts. After 8 years in private law, I decided to move on to state government and now work as a paralegal for the Department of Workforce Development’s legal team.
What are the most valuable skills you learned as an English major? How have they helped you post-graduation?
Obviously, the most valuable skill any English major has is proof-reading of both your own work and others’. The second most valuable skill I learned, however, was to question someone’s rhetoric. Working in law, I have often had to counter my own argument or even my superior’s argument. Lastly, I have to mention that my professional writing classes helped immediately as both a professional blogger and as a legal assistant. The number of times I told the Indiana State Bar Association’s Solo & Small Firm Conference planning team that “white space is not your enemy” is laughable. The biggest thing new grads bring that the “old guard” doesn’t have is experience in social media and branding.
Is there a particular class or professional opportunity that you remember having a big impact on you?
I had three classes that really changed my perspectives and helped shape who I am today. (1) Gender Studies (2) Women’s Literature of the Beat Generation (3) English Literature, Special Topics: Constructions of Otherness. These three classes really pushed me to question the status quo about topics that tend to separate people. Gender, sexual orientation, nationality, race are all issues everyone encounters, but those in the legal profession especially have to remember to consider the perspective of people who aren’t exactly like themselves. Working in state government, it is important for me to think outside the mindset of a millennial, Caucasian, bisexual, female from a lower-middle-class upbringing with a bachelor’s degree. I work for Hoosiers and Hoosiers come in all shapes, sizes, and patterns.
What advice do you have for English majors?
You don’t have to outline your entire life today or even tomorrow, but today is a good day to start deciding who you want to be and what steps you can take to be that person. Your career will consist of more than just your salary and benefits package (the struggle is real), it will also consist of a gnawing desire to feel fulfilled. So, decide what you need in your day to day life to feel fulfilled. For some, it’s financial stability and for others, it’s service to their community; start deciding who you are and what matters most to you.
Lastly, I would remind anyone starting out their career that the great part about new grads is their new perspective, so feel free to ruffle some feathers and propose changes. Legal/government offices tend to get stuck in the “this is how we do this” mentality and fight hard against any change. Your ideas have value.