Web content editorial assistant,
University of Edinburgh
My degree: MA (Hons) Linguistics, 2015
My current job
I am a Web Content Editorial Assistant for the University of Edinburgh Website Programme. The Programme manages the Content Management System (CMS) University sites starting ed.ac.uk/ use.
My role is primarily divided between support and project work. Support involves working with University web editors on anything from helping them to use our CMS to trying to diagnose bugs in the system.
Project work is more of the editorial side of things. Departments sometimes ask us to build websites or pages for them, so my job is to edit the content they provide and then build the sites/pages that will house that content.
I also edit and manage the publication of BITS, which is the Information Services Group magazine.
My career history
I started my job at the Website Programme a few months before I graduated. The previous summer, I had worked with the team while interning as the web editor for the University’s Festivals Office.
Using my degree skills and/or knowledge in my work
Writing for the web has a nice tie-in with linguistics in that it places an importance on how people actually use language. For example, we advocate writing content that uses our readers’ terminology, rather than corporate jargon.
Funnily enough, the Zipf curve comes up quite a bit in my job. I learned about Zipf’s law in First Language Acquisition, concerning a study done by an American linguist. The study found that a small set of words in a given language are used frequently, while the vast majority are used rarely.
In my job, we use the Zipf curve to talk about trends in websites where a small number of things are disproportionately more popular than a large number of things. For example, 8 pages on a 100-page site can account for 50% of the total page views.
My useful experience
My internship with the Festivals Office helped me get the role I’m in now as my employers had worked with me the previous summer before I joined. However, I wouldn’t have gotten the internship if it weren’t for my work managing the Film Society website and writing film reviews for The Student Newspaper.
Making my career decisions
During my undergrad, I knew early on I wanted to work post-graduation, but I didn’t know what work I wanted to do. I attended careers fairs, but I didn’t see myself working at any of those companies. While studying, my first thought was to look for summer jobs in events/festivals to gain experience because I enjoyed the work I did in the Film Society. After my second year, I worked at the Film Festival and Military Tattoo.
The next summer, I originally applied for an employ.ed internship with the Festivals Office, but they ended up cancelling it and running a web editing internship instead. It wasn’t what I was originally after, but I felt qualified, so I applied and ended up getting it.
I really enjoyed my experience running a website working with both the Festivals and Website teams. Heading into my fourth year, I was now interested in both events and website jobs.
I checked MyCareerHub regularly and came across the Editorial Assistant post in early January. Even though the role started before I finished my degree, the Website Programme was able to accommodate this by initially employing me on a part-time basis.
As you can see, there’s a bit of luck (or being open to opportunities! (ed)) involved in finding the right job. I probably wouldn’t have gone into websites if Festivals didn’t cancel their original internship, and the Website Programme just happened to be hiring as my studies were ending (we haven’t hired for a similar entry-level job since!).
My advice to students interested in my area of work
If you’re interested in web publishing, take advantage of getting involved in societies and activities where you can help manage or write content for websites and/or social media channels. This is a great way to gain practical experience in the field, and I’m sure most societies would be grateful to have someone contribute to their web presence. Websites need regular maintenance but often get neglected—think of all the times you’ve visited webpages with outdated information.
Before delving into the practical experience, though, I’d take the time to do some research on Writing for the Web. We read differently online than we do in print—we tend to be more task-oriented online, scanning information over reading whole blocks of text. There are established ways of how to effectively write web content to accommodate this.
If you’re interested, my department runs a Writing for the Web training course which is open to students. We’re looking to release an online version of the course in the near future.
My general advice on career decisions
Start working and/or getting involved with extracurricular activities as soon as you can. I especially recommend getting involved in running societies. You can’t get a job without experience, and societies are a great way to not only gain that experience, but also take on interesting and challenging responsibilities that you may not get to do in your average term-time or summer job.
If you’re a final year student, I’d also say it’s never too early to start looking for jobs. I obviously would have preferred to start working after exams finished, but the right job for me came along a few months before then. If I wasn’t looking, I would have missed it.