How my degree prepared me for a job in SEO: English Literature

By Ashley John - Digital Marketing Consultant.

Books in a libraryAs an English Literature student, I, and probably every other person who studies the subject, was regularly greeted by the same question: "So, you want to be a teacher then?" Despite the question mark, this always managed to come off as a statement, as though my decision to study books meant I was destined to mould the minds of future generations.

After finishing my undergraduate course, I went on to study a postgraduate degree, also in English Literature, which led to another year of people asking/telling me that I was going to be a teacher. After graduating, I was finding it difficult to find a job, leading me to almost throw in the towel, assuming that teaching really was the only career path for me.

Unless you go into a specialised degree (medicine/dentistry/etc) it can often be difficult to know exactly what career you want to go into - my personal childhood fantasies were librarian, author, and of course, astronaut. Lots of people study a subject they’re passionate about, in hopes that the subject will give them transferable skills, making them suitable for a variety of career pathways. Luckily for me, my degree gave me the skills needed for a job in SEO.

From books to backlinks and blogging

Search engine optimisation involves a lot of writing; there are blogs, social media updates and reports which have to be done on a weekly basis, which means that every week I’m writing thousands of words of content for a variety of different clients, and subsequently, audiences.

Aside from learning where all the keys are on a keyboard and how to open a Word document, one of the most important things my degree taught me was how to control the tone of my writing, a skill that seems invaluable in my position. Each of our clients has a different company brand, and it’s crucial that I am able to replicate the tone a company uses, otherwise problems could arise – If McDonald’s were to replace their menus with names more commonly found on a Michelin-starred restaurant menu overnight, then there’d be lots of confused customers come the morning. My degree allowed me to explore and experiment with different writing styles, such as creative, academic and semi-formal, which meant I was able to cultivate a natural tone (which I’m using in this blog) while also being able to write in different styles at the drop of a hat.

As a fact that will be surprising to absolutely no one, being a literature student involved reading a lot, and then finding more stuff to read, meaning I’m a pretty quick reader with a knack for research – again, perfect skills for a job in SEO! Keeping up with the news, knowing about local events, being aware of national holidays (no matter how ridiculous), give you opportunities to push clients into the eyes of a ready audience, but to be able to do so you need to read a lot of articles, and have effective research skills.

However, the biggest skill my degree taught me was how to procrastinate! All the hours that I spent using Facebook, browsing Twitter, watching videos on YouTube, and generally just exploring the Internet, meant that I became adept at social media and understood online culture, which is great news because I can tell people I get paid to write updates for, and browse Twitter, which I used to do for free! Disclaimer: I may be massively oversimplifying my role for the sake of humour.

Of course, there are lots of talents that I didn’t learn from my degree, which I instead learnt by being addicted to trying new skills. For example, I learnt to code because I was bored and thought it would make me more employable (it did). But what people who study non-specialist subjects always have is passion, a passion to try and learn new things, and when it comes to SEO, that’s probably the most crucial asset to have in your skillset.

We hope to make this a series where each of us at Orantec tells you how our degrees prepared us for our job, in the hopes that one day humanities students across the world won’t be asked about whether or not they’re going into teaching, instead being asked “So, are you going in to digital marketing?” If you have a digital project, we’d love to hear from you! Our team of digital marketers and developers have the creative talent and experience to help enhance your digital presence, contact us today!


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