Isabel Parham, a recent graduate of Ball State University, currently works as a legal editor and codification specialist. She looks back on her time on the Compass Creative team and in Ball State’s English Department as being very valuable in regard to her editing work now. Through the numerous skills she has gained while being at Ball State, Parham hopes to let other English students know about applying them to more than what they might think.
What does a typical week in your position look like?
I work as a legal editor and codification specialist. In technical terms, I help supplement municipal codes. What this really means is that when cities want to update their book of rules and regulations, I add those new laws in, or take old ones out. The process begins with me looking through all the new ordinances that the city wants to add. Then I figure out where they’ll fit into the code. Next, I create a draft with the new wording, and then proofread that draft. Finally, I finalize the formatting for all the pages and then send it off to be printed.
I receive a batch of new projects from my supervisor about once a week, but it’s mostly up to me to organize what I want to tackle and when. Some projects take just a few hours, while others can take days. As an editor, you’re responsible for managing your time and projects. I really enjoy that I’m able to have so much control over how my day-to-day looks. Developing a good sense of time management and a self-starter attitude during my time at Ball State has helped me a lot in keeping on top of my projects.
Can you describe your work environment?
I think my work environment is a unique one, but it suits my personality. Editing and proofreading take a lot of focus, so I would say my office is much quieter than most. Many of my colleagues are former English majors (and former teachers!) and I’ve found that we all enjoy the quiet, peaceful environment.
I’m a part of the supplements department, but since we all work on separate projects, it’s less collaborative than some other teams might be at different jobs. I spend most of my time working alone. That being said, there are always people around to offer advice when I need it. There are a number of people who have been at my company for many years and have experience in almost every aspect of the codification process. Getting to learn from such knowledgeable colleagues has been fantastic.
Something I love about this job is that the hours are very flexible and many of my coworkers work from home at least once a week. I know some people who do most of their work at night, while others (like me) prefer to get into the office early. Because you spend a lot of time working on your own, you’re afforded a lot of flexibility in that area.
What are the most valuable skills you learned in your major?
I developed many skills as an English major that serve me every day as an editor. Editing isn’t always straightforward—you may read through a dense legal document full of unfamiliar terms, and then have to make a decision about where to place that legislation in the code. Being able to read a text carefully, think critically about its contents, and use a combination of context clues and personal knowledge to come to a decision is something I do every day, and it’s something I got lots of practice with during my time at Ball State. I also really believe that being a good writer and reader makes you a good editor. Paying careful attention to my own writing while I was in college has helped me a lot as I edit and proofread now.
How did your major (and particular classes) prepare you for your life and for this job? And are there any additional skills, credentials, double majors or minors, or experiences that you would recommend for a student who is interested in preparing to do what you do?
Being a copy editor for Stance (Ball State’s undergraduate philosophy journal) and being in the Digital Literature Review class helped me realize my love for editing, and absolutely helped prepare me for this position. I got experience editing challenging texts, working on a deadline, and collaborating with a team of people as we worked toward a common goal. I also found that, even in internships where editing was not my main responsibility, I would often be asked to copy edit or proofread other work because I had experience in that field already. If you’re interested in editing/proofreading, I highly recommend seeking out opportunities in the field as an undergraduate.
As a former Compass Creative student, how do you feel the skills that you learned with Compass influenced your career path or work ethic?
Being a part of Compass helped me get a much better understanding of that it’s like to work in a real office with a real team of people. You learn so many important skills in your traditional classes, but I think it’s essential that you contextualize those skills in an environment that functions like a real workplace. Gaining that experience is invaluable as you move into the workforce.
What is your advice to other Humanities students?
My biggest piece of advice is to have an open mind about what you want to do with your career after you graduate. When I was in school, I had no idea a job like my current position even existed. Now, I get to do something I enjoy every day and use the skills I developed in the English Department at Ball State. Your perfect position might be out there, and you don’t even know it yet! Explore as many options as you can and keep an open mind. You never know what you might find.