Bri Rooke is a Chicago-based editorial assistant at U.S. Catholic magazine and freelance editorial and production contractor at Agate Publishing. She has a B.A. in English from Ball State University.
What did you study while you were at Ball State?
I majored in English Studies with minors in Film/Screenwriting and Theatre.
What is your career now?
I have two jobs where I live in Chicago, one is as an editorial assistant at a print magazine, and the other as an editorial production contractor for a development publishing company.
What does a typical week in your positions look like?
I work 9am-2pm Monday through Friday at the magazine, where I do everything from administrative tasks like processing invoices and answering author queries to editorial work such as copy editing, proofreading, accepting author submissions, and writing columns. For my second job, the publishing company I contract with develops educational courses for clients, so sometimes I’m converting physical textbooks into e-books, formatting and copy editing online courses in Canvas, or helping write administrative documents for clients.
What are the most valuable skills you learned in the classes you enrolled in at Ball State?
I learned the value of experience during my time at Ball State. I didn’t really find out about the concept of internships until my senior year, when I began interning at a small magazine in Muncie and searching for internships in Chicago (where I now live). I applied to be a part of The Broken Plate team, and was able to gain experience in copy editing, proofreading, and sorting through submissions (all of which I’m using today)! Honestly, the time I spent collaborating with other students to work on projects and honing my editing and writing skills were the most useful things. Yes, courses on analyzing literature and studying the history of film were super enjoyable and helpful, but I’ve found so far that the courses that helped me the most were the ones that focused on the basics of writing and strengthening my skills.
Also, strangely enough, my Spanish classes have been extremely helpful in my career in the English field. At the magazine, I’m in charge of communicating with the translators who are helping to translate many of our English articles into Spanish, and I have to make sure the articles read well and format them accurately on our website. In my freelance job, many of the educational courses we develop are courses that teach Spanish to students, and I’ve often been tasked with combing through the courses to make sure that each Spanish word is marked correctly for screen readers. So, I’ve actually been using my Spanish knowledge more than I anticipated in the publishing field.
How are the skills you learned as an English student relevant to your career and life today?
Good writing is extremely valuable. Everything, from cover letters to resumes to emails to company communications, requires writing, and if you’re a solid writer, that will help you SO much in the professional world. I’m definitely thankful for the grammar and writing skills courses I took at Ball State because they have helped me become a much stronger writer. (Though I still have a long way to go!)
What is your advice to other Humanities students?
I’m not an expert by any means (I just graduated last year!), so feel free to take anything I say with a grain of salt. But what I’ve found after graduation is this: grades and academics don’t really matter. An employer isn’t going to look at your GPA or the courses you took in your sophomore year. What they DO look at is your experience and who you know. If you have a chance to take an internship, do it. I interned at a magazine for a whole year without pay, and I interned for six months without a paycheck at the publishing company where I now work. And now, I work two part-time jobs without health insurance. Is this the right way to go? I have no idea. But I do hope that I have my foot in the door now for editorial positions I apply for in the future.
Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of free labor is required to get anywhere. Is this system flawed? Absolutely. It’s built on experience and connections that can only be acquired through privilege and opportunity, and that’s not okay. I’m hoping that will begin to change, but in the meantime, if you have any chance to gain experience, be it through internships, jobs, conversations with professionals, etc., do it as hard as you can.