By Sara Ramaker
Summer is here! While that means warmer weather and longer days, it also means the newest batch of high school graduates is considering college majors and recent college graduates are taking their first steps into their careers.
I’m glad I’m not in their shoes, but I was once.
When I graduated with a professional writing degree at Grand Valley State University in 2007, I had my heart set on technical writing. I was excited to create boring, black and white, cut and dry directions and manuals. Instead, I spent almost seven years in journalism writing stories, taking photos, and serving as a filter for the flood of incoming press releases for three local newspapers.
That experience was never on my radar, but it was necessary.
Years under the editor’s red pen and wading through hundreds of great and not-so-great submissions asking for free coverage gave me the understanding and experience necessary to become the one who does the proofing around LKF. The unique gift of hindsight now allows me to craft press releases that are both intriguing and convenient for our media partners to share directly and spark deeper coverage because I know what would have made my job easier when the roles were reversed.
Feeling stuck and burnt out in community journalism, I threw myself though the first escape hatch I could find and subsequently spent a little over a year as a personal/office assistant in Kalamazoo.
Logical career move, right? The answer is no, but also yes.
At LKF we talk a lot about the idea of “right person, right seat.” I had a feeling from the beginning of that office assistant position that I wasn’t in the right seat and probably not even the right person. In the process of testing out anything that looked like it might be capable of supporting my weight as a seat in that company, I learned a lot about myself, made connections, and gained experience.
Eventually, my cumulative work experience and newly formed connections made their way to then LKF owner Carol Fricke and current owner Heather Isch. I was offered a home at LKF after one nerve-wracking interview (Heather is tough!) and a family lunch (basically an all-staff firing squad of professional and social questions with food as a buffer).
Less than two years in, I was promoted to Content Strategist allowing me to use skills honed at both my previous positions and what I had learned at LKF to help technical and non-technical clients promote themselves and demonstrate thought leadership.
When asked if I would make the same choices again, I stifle the urge to simultaneously cringe and smile. Thinking about all the times I thought I would die right alongside the newspaper industry or the short-lived job I jumped rather blindly into out of desperation are painful.
Realizing that I wouldn’t be at LKF without the skills and insights I gained at the paper or the connections I made at my “escape” job, gives me a rosier perspective of the past.
Looking back, I made a lot of the right, wrong turns in order to find my way to LKF.