The Work Seminar

Ep. 1: Gillian Rosheuvel - MA in Writing & Publishing Turned Content Strategist

November 03, 2021 Jesse Butts Season 1 Episode 1
The Work Seminar
Ep. 1: Gillian Rosheuvel - MA in Writing & Publishing Turned Content Strategist
Show Notes Transcript

Gillian relocated from New York City to Chicago to explore her identity as a creative writer in grad school after a decade in technical writing and corporate communications jobs. Fast forward a couple years after finishing her MA in writing and publishing, the opportunity to work as a content strategist presented itself. She seized it and never looked back.

As a content strategist, Gillian has found work that allows her to “lift people up,” a value she aims to live by. She spends her working hours determining what content will help people with varied backgrounds and abilities use apps, websites, and software. 

Her path to content strategy has required self-advocacy, extensive personal time devoted to learning new skills, and a few contract-based roles that didn’t offer the benefits and security of full-time jobs. All of which Gillian explores generously in this inaugural episode of The Work Seminar.

*Please excuse a few minor background audio blips. What Gillian has to say is well worth enduring the occasional snap, crackle, or pop.*

Books & other resources mentioned

Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson

How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby Covert

Follow Carrie Hane (@carriehd) on Twitter

Check out more from The Work Seminar

Visit theworkseminar.com or find @TheWorkSeminar on social media. 

Sign up for The Work Seminar newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox.

Support the show (https://ko-fi.com/theworkseminar)
Jesse Butts:

Welcome to The Work Seminar, the podcast for people with liberal arts advanced degrees considering work outside their fields of study. Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining me for another episode. I'm your host, Jesse Butts. Today I'm talking with Gillian Rosheuvel. She's an MA in writing and publishing turned content strategist. Gillian and I met in grad school at DePaul. Gillian's now a senior content strategist for a large tech tech company. Gillian, welcome. Delighted to have you!

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Thank you for having me. I am very excited about this conversation.

Jesse Butts:

Me too. So you know, during the show, we talk a lot about, What you did in grad school? What you did after? And what you think about work in terms of what is a good fitdo you need to love it? What you recommend for others? But before we dive into that, I do want to take a bit to talk about what you're doing now. So can you tell the listeners a little bit about what you do? What exactly is a content strategist?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So a content strategist is someone I like to say, who is always asking the question "why?" And the reason I say that is because in the world of experiences designso designing mostly digital experiencesa lot of times, you know, there's not a lot of thinking about the role that content plays in those experiences. And the job of the content strategist is really to be the voice for that to say, you know, in this experience, if it is a, you know, appointment scheduling application, or if it's an e commerce website, the job of the content strategist is to say, "So how are we using content to aid, you know, the end user in accomplishing whatever goal they want to accomplish?" And I found throughout my work, in content strategy, that content is often something you think about after you've done the design of the product. And what really should be the case is, content should be considered an integral part of a digital product. So not somethingit's not just words that you kind of add later. It's really doing that thinking about what kind of voice and tone. Are we going to have for this experience? Is it going to be formal? Is it going to be a bit more friendly, a bit more irreverent? You know, just doing all of that thinking as you do product design. And that's really the role that content strategist plays. So in my work, I'm always partnering with user experience designers, and business analysts and marketing folks, web development folks, because my work kind of touches all of those areas. So I would say, yeah, content strategists, who does the thinking about content and an experience.

Jesse Butts:

Okay. And some of those terms that you were using, like a digital experience, for example, that would mean, whether I'm on an app or a website or a piece of software, something of that manner? Is that fairly accurate?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Correct. Someone has to do the thinking about like, how content informs those experiences, and how content helps people use those experiences. So that's, that's what a content strategist does.

Jesse Butts:

All right. I mean, that sounds like a really fascinating field. And I really want to hear how you got there. So let's start with with grad school, I mean, obviously, or maybe I shouldn't say obviously, but I mean, you didn't study a degree in content strategy, conversational design, things like that. I know we were both in a program that, you know, it had a professional writing emphasis, it had a creative writing emphasis, you could kind of forge your own path. And I do remember you and I think we had at least a couple classes that were more focused on creative nonfiction and maybe even fiction. So I'm curious, what prompted you to to enroll in grad school? Why did you decide to go beyond undergrad?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So I've got about 10 years separating undergrad and grad school. And I would say the main reason at the time was just restlessness. I was living in New York City at the time. I was really tired of living in New York. I'd been there seven years, and I was looking for something, some reason, to basically leave and it was you know, I had a couple considerations. All my family's based in New Jersey. So wherever I moved, I knew I wanted to be in a different part of the country. And I knew that I was going to be far away from them. I remember looking at a bunch of schools, I looked at schools in San Francisco, I looked at schools in Portland and ended up choosing DePaul because I had one person in Chicago that I knew. I had met someone in an online community. And I was like, Well, if I go to Chicago, at least I know one person there like. So instead of going to a new city, and just starting from scratch to meet people, and I liked the program that DePaul had, I really liked that there was, there were kind of different paths you could take, you could go the creative writing path, you could go the professional writing path, or you could, you know, choose one and dabble in the other, if you wanted to. I used that as my time to kind of explore my writing a little bit more and see, you know, what, what I was into as an undergraduate, I studied journalism. And I never, you know, you're getting into journalism, it's kind of difficult. So I never really got into journalism, but I did do you know, technical writing, technical publishing, corporate communications, and you know, that stuff started to feel unfulfilling after a while. So grad school was an opportunity for me to kind of get back to my roots, a little bit of focusing on writing, but also be in a new city, meet new people and kind of carve out more of a, an identity, a separate identity for myself.

Jesse Butts:

So when you mentioned restlessness, I relate to that. I remember feeling like work wasn't fulfilling me. And I really wanted something else. Attending grad schoolwas that more for personal reasons? Was it for career reasons? Did you kind of consider it a hybrid of this is something "I need to do for me" and "Doesn't hurt to have a master's in writing once I'm finished"? Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah, I think, although I probably couldn't articulate this at the time, it was definitely something I wanted to do for myself. You know, I had never, because I went to school in the same state where I grew up. And then I moved to New York, which, you know, again, I was kind of in the same area that I grew up, and I had never really gone to another city and carved out a life for myself. And I thought, you know, I want to at least have the experience of doing that. But also, I wanted to pursue my passion, I guess. And writing has always been my passion since I was a kid. And I wanted to do it in a way that allowed me to tap more into my creativity. Writing Corporate Communications is not the most scintillating stuff in the world. And I wanted, I wanted to give myself some space to explore writing that I was actually interested in doing. So I think it was a little bit of both.

Jesse Butts:

So when you were in grad school, were you working as well? Did you keep employment, or were you full time grad student?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So I was, I was working, but I was working in a way that like, I had a very flexible schedule that allowed me to focus on my studies, you know, while also earning money to support myself,

Jesse Butts:

Got it. And at the end of grad school had you, like you mentioned earlier kind of struck a balance between more professional oriented and more creative oriented courses? How did it end up skewing for you in terms of what you studied?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

I think it ended up skewing a bit more creative for me, because that was the stuff that, you know, I found stimulating, especially creative nonfiction. That was, at the time an emerging kind of genre, I guess. So I really wanted to pursue that and essay writing and, you know, essay writing as a means of thinking things through or breaking down, you know, a problem or an issue. And at the end of grad school, I can honestly say, I didn't know what I wanted to do. With that degree, I was like, Well, now I have this master's degree. And, you know, I have this, this experience, and I don't know kind of where I want to take it. And one of the things I did immediately after, was one of our classmates in the program, whose name escapes me right now. He was beginning a music website. He was launching a music website with some friends of his and he needed writers. So I wrote for like nine months I wrote like music reviews, cool concert reviews. I often forget that I even did that. But it was a way for me to continue focusing on my writing, doing something creative, doing something with pop culture, which I hadn't done before. And that was, that was a fun, fun thing to do. But I still I think at the end of grad school was like, What do I do now? I don'tI kind of don't know where I want to take these these new skills and this new experience that I've acquired. So it definitely took some time for me to find that.

Jesse Butts:

So what did you start doing after after grad school and after writing for that music publication?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So after grad school, I ended up working in a couple of different agencies, ad agencies, ad agency/ marketing agency, I worked for a marketing agency for about a year and a half, whose main client was Sears.

Jesse Butts:

Rest in peace, Sears. Always sad to see a Chicago company go to the wayside, but yeah.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Exactly, exactly. So I worked there for about a year and a half. And it was a lot of like copy editing, and, you know, doing that kind of thing. And, yeah, I took many winding roads for a while. I kind of got back into corporate communication at the community college system in Chicago, City Colleges. And I was on their marketing team as a Corporate Communications Specialist for for about a year, that job kind of led me to stumbling into content strategy, okay, because that was not a fun job. And I was looking for something new, something different. And I found a contract role at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. And they had just started building a Content Strategy Team. So I think a lot of businesses at the time were like "Content strategy, what's that? I think we need it" and started either hiring people to do content strategy, or building teams from within, to, you know, serve as content strategy experts. And I got hired on to this team as a copywriter. So I was doing marketing brochures, customer emails, but I was sitting in a content strategy team. The content strategist on the team at the time, she left after about eight months. And I had worked really closely with her. So after she left, I said to the manager, you know, what do you think about me? And I don't know if this was because I was a contractor, or if it was because I was on a new team, but she was like, "Sure." So that's how I became a content strategist, very accidental.

Jesse Butts:

But, but advocating for yourself as well.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Right. Because I, you know, I actually did think about it a lot before I asked her that. Yeah, so I always like to say like, I'm self taught, in many ways, because I remember like, I just took one Saturday, and I read that Kristina Halvorson book Content Strategy for the Web.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, I have my copy on the bookshelf.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah, yeah. And I just read it in a day.

Jesse Butts:

Obviously, you know, we talked about you advocated for yourself, you thought a lot about it. You... there, it sounds like there, there was maybe a little bit of a skill gap. And you took that upon yourself to cover that. The employer didn't say, "Hey, take a week or two and learn these things." That was presumably your nights and weekends for a good chunk of that learning.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Oh, yeah, definitely. I definitely didn't receive any support. I went to a bunch of content strategy meetups, just to kind of learn what kinds of things do content strategists talk about. You know, what kind of challenges do they face? That was about like, a good two, three years of doing, like education.

Jesse Butts:

That's a considerable amount of time invested. I mean, I have to assumeand please correct me if I'm wrongthat doing that it sounds like you really found a niche you want to sink your teeth into. Like, you probably could have, you know, spent a couple months on and off and been competent. But it soundsI mean, and if I'm inferring something is not there, I apologizebut it sounds like it was excellence that that would really drive someone to do that for two to three years and really wanting to make their mark. Is that pretty fair?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So I wanted to get myself to the point where I understood the lingo. And I could converse in a competent way about content strategy and, and have my own questions and develop my own ideas. Because one of the things I really like about content strategy as a discipline is that it's always evolving, you know, from when I first started doing it nine years ago to now, it's just changed so much and evolved and grown and kind of taken in input from other disciplines like user experience. And that's one of the things that really drew me to it was that it was something that everyone who's a practitioner was kind of collaborating to create and evolve. So I found that really exciting. And I also think, I found exciting that a lot of content strategy involves problem solving. And, you know, that's work that I find compelling, no matter what situation you're in, you know, just kind of sitting down with a group, and kind of puzzling out okay, how do we address this problem? You know, how do we break it down? How do we shape a solution to it? And I would say those, those are some of the things that drew me to it. And as I got more into it, I started to feel more passionate about content strategy, and the ways that it could help, you know, build really meaningful and inclusive experiences for people.

Jesse Butts:

When you talk about those meaningful, inclusive experiences...can you explain a little bit?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah, so I think this is one of the ways that I've seen content strategy evolve, because I think before it was about or largely about creating experiences that help people complete their tasks efficiently. And now it's widened to include things like accessibility. And one particular project I'm working on right now is determining the best way to collect data about sexual orientation and gender identity. You know, how can we do that in a way that's sensitive? How do we determine when we really need to ask for that data? And, you know, it's still something that a lot of companies are puzzling through. Because, you know, I think about myself, when I'm filling out a form, you know, in a healthcare setting, for instance, and, you know, typically you see, on a form, if they're requiring or requesting information about gender, it'll be some variation of male, female, other, or male, female choose not to disclose. And one of the things that a content strategist can do is say, you know, who's being left out of that "other"? Well, who are all the people in, you know, kind of encompassed in that word that is, is othering. And kind of dismissive. And how can we make the experience of filling out this form, more inclusive for them, and make them feel seen. And it's hard work, doing that thinking, but that's the kind of stuff that I think content strategists can do really well is, you know, leading those conversations in, in settings where it might not have been considered. You know, just kind of takes for granted that everyone falls into these categories, and some people don't, and but you want everyone to fill out your form, right? Yeah. And so that's how, you know, in the corporate world, we call it making the business case, I'm like you want, you know, compliance with XYZ, part of your digital experience, then you need to make it inclusive. So that's the kind of thinking that's really interesting. And that's the kind of problem solving that I just find really compelling.

Jesse Butts:

So many times after grad school, we find ourselves looking at careers, we might think, like, Am I really making big change? Am I really doing something that I find meaningful? And quite clearly, you know, you've found a part of content strategy that really does give you that feeling that you're helping with something bigger.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah. And, you know, I, I've just always, you know, fascinated and surprised by the paths, that content strategy takes me down. You know, accessibility was, again, something that I didn't really think about until I had to think about it in terms of building an experience building a digital experience. And then it opened this whole world for me of, you know, what else are we taking for granted when we create experiences? So that's, that's an area that allows me to do what I call like "work that lifts people up." And I do feel like content strategy is one of those disciplines where you can do that. And that's, you know, that's something that I think is something I've always been pursuing, you know, maybe without knowing it is, is doing work that creates a more just world, even even if it's just a little bit, right. If it gives someone access that they didn't previously have, I think, I think that's really important to be able to, you know, say that I helped to do that.

Jesse Butts:

Absolutely. Would you mind talking about, you know, did you have any reluctance initially to take a contract job? Were you open to them? I feel like, a lot of listeners, you know, may or may not really know what that's like. And is that the best way to find something good? Or do I only look for full time jobs? What was your experience with with things like that?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So at the time that I was in Chicago, the job market was kind of tough. It was post 2008. You know, I graduated in 2009. So just kind of a year out from the financial crisis. So the job market was really tough. And I found that contract work paid a little better. So in terms of just kind of needing to pay the bills, you know, I, in some ways, felt like that was the best avenue to go, you get paid better, but you don't really have access to all the benefits that a full time employee would. So I think for every person, you have to figure out how to navigate that. A couple years after I moved back to the East Coast, I was in a contract role. But by that time, you know, ACA was fully enforced, I was able to, you know, get on one of the plans, you know, I think like a bronze plan here in New Jersey. So I had some coverage, I back in 2009, I don't think that was the case. So I would just kind of go without health insurance, whichnot advisablesome of the employment agencies will provide benefits. I did work with one in Chicago that did provide benefits. So that was good. But, and I think it's kind of standard now for employment agencies to provide benefits. But again, we, in some ways, 2008, 2009 was kind of this like free for all, where it was, like, you know, a lot of those things that are standard now weren't yet in place, I will say that in terms of contract versus full time, I found that contract work is where I've been able to learn the most. Because a lot of times, like contractors are brought in to fill some sort of gap, whether it's somebody going on leave, or you know, someone leaving suddenly, and they need someone to pick up work very quickly, I found that coming into those site kind of circumstances as a contractor gives you a certain degree of freedom. Because it's all about kind of getting the work done. And so you're you're a bit less restricted in terms of like, you know, your employer thinking, Okay, these are the, you know, these are the the tasks that are ascribed to your job description. When you're a contractor, I feel like, you know, employers just kind of want, want to get the most out of you. Whether youwhether it's in your job description or not, and that, you know, a lot of times you have to get up to speed very quickly, whether it's on a specific project or about an industry that you don't know anything about. When I started working at Chicago Mercantile Exchange, I didn't know anything about working on a financial exchange, you know, trading, I had no clue. But in those situations, you just have to learn very quickly by necessity. And I found that having to do that really fast learning is what helps me grow the most. Not that you can't do that in a full time permanent position. But in a full time permanent position, you just got a lot more runway. When you start, you know, you're going through onboarding for a couple of weeks, and then you may or may not get assigned a project right away, so you've got a little more time. Whereas in a contract role, you just have to learn fast. You have to learn the job fast. You have to learn the norms of the company very quickly, and you have toif you're working with external clientsyou have to learn about clients and their industries very quickly. I would say like, the necessity of that is a is a real big motivator and has helped me learn and grow and acquire experience that I can take into other roles.

Jesse Butts:

Since you've had, you know, several contract experiences, are you full time with a company now? Or do you prefer working on a contract basis now?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So I'm full time in my current role. Okay, um, I have been contract, on and off, I would say for like, the last 10 years. And, you know, in, in my current role, it's, you know, I'm working for a tech company, they do a lot of software implementations. And there's enough diversity of projects, and clients that, you know, I feel like I've learned a lot, and I've only been there like, 10 months at this point. So right now I'm working with a healthcare client. And I'm learning a lot about that industry that I didn't know before. You know, in previous roles, I, you know, I worked with pharma clients learned all about, you know, clinical trials and how drugs get brought to market. Again, information that I didn't know before. And now I could take into, into future roles. Like I said, I think you can get experience, you know, in both contract, and full time, I just think like, the nature of that learning will be different. And, and I don't have a preference between full time or contract at this point, five years ago, I probably would have said, I preferred contract because it pays better, and you just get to learn a lot more, more quickly. But there's advantages. You know, there's pros and cons to both.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, and something listeners should be aware of too... Part of the reason contract work pays better is that the employer isn't having to...there's obviously the benefits, we think of like health insurance, dental, that type of thing. But also, employers have to match what you pay into Social Security and Medicare taxes. And when you're a contractor, actually, neither of you are paying that like.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Right.

Jesse Butts:

If you're a contractor, you will figure that out in your taxes at the end of the year. So, you know, do a little math to figure out what exactly that might be living-wise, you know, as far as what you'll have to set aside for some of those things.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah, that's a really good point. In recent years, I've seen employment agencies more and more, take on the payroll tax. And I remember like, maybe six, seven years ago, you would see offers for like, you know, "contract role six months, 1099," which means they're not taking out the taxes. I see that less and less, because I guess I'm on so many, you know, job boards, or whatever, still, that I still get random recruiting emails from time to time. But I actually, I never unsubscribe from those lists, because I always want to understand, like, what, what the labor market is like. A lot of content strategists I've worked with in the past, are just freelance self employed. So they're not going through an agency necessarily. They're just freelance, and they've got to do all of that work on all of that consideration of how much do I set aside for taxes?

Jesse Butts:

Yeah.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

You know, from each paycheck or what have you. So yeah, that's really important to be aware of, as you're thinking, or if you're thinking about taking on a contract opportunity.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, absolutely. And when you mentioned 1099, instead of sending you a W-2, which a lot of listeners might have have received, you know, that lists out how much you earned. People who are self employed or contracting not through an agency who does payroll, but with that company, they receive a different form called a 1099.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah.

Jesse Butts:

So it's just a little year end tax thing. One thing going back a little bit earlier, you mentioned a lot of experience in corporate communications, and then shifting to content strategy where, you know, obviously, you found something you're really passionate about. Can you explain a little bit about what that corporate communications work entailed and and why you personally prefer content strategy over pursuing a career in corporate communications?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Cool, yeah, I can do that. So before grad school, I worked in corporate communications. When I was living in New York City. I worked for two different insurance companies. On their corporate communications teams, specifically doing internal communication, so communications and marketing to employees. So it's very niche, you know, it's things like working on the content for the company intranet, or, you know, sending out those, those lovely employee emails that everyone loves to get.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah, absolutely. Love 'em.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yep, that was me. And so I always say that I have sympathy for people who do that work, because it's really thankless. And it's a lot of work. I did a lot of writing in those roles. And I got to do some strategy. But you know, my role was always kind of like, the the tactical role where, you know, the strategies already been determined. And now, you know, I have to execute it. So, I didn't really like that I wanted to be in the role where, you know, we were doing the thinking about how to communicate, and, you know, if we were going to communicate about a specific initiative, or, or something like benefits, if we're going to communicate about open enrollment? How would we do that? How would we go about it? And what kind of schedule would we be on? How would we distribute communications via email, via the intranet. And there was some event planning too, because, you know, representatives from the health insurance company would come in and give their talk about what's available. So I wanted to be doing more of that. And one of the reasons I left New York was I didn't find that wo k fulfilling. And I wanted to se , you know, what other types f work out there could I pursu , you know, with having a writi g background, but that was more t the strategic level. So po t grad school, I did a bit f corporate communications wo k primarily at City Colleges f Chicago, which was a uniq e environment, because studen s were classified as both n internal and an extern l audience. So I worked frequent y with the PR people, you kno , who were doing communicati n more to prospective student , and I was doing communicati n to, you know, current student , but I still was like, not sup r satisfied with that work. A d also, City Colleges of Chicag , at the time was a ve y challenging environment to wo k in. But when I got to Chica o Mercantile Exchange, I final y saw, like, the opportunity to e in a more strategic role to ta e the time to do the thinki g about messaging, you know, h w do we message something like e have the substance of t e message, but how do we frame t for people? You know, how do e communicate in a way that ge s them to take action, becau e obviously, that's a big part f content strategy. And I, in th t role as a content writer, whi h is how I started out there, I saw the opportunity to take ki d of the tactical experience I h d creating communications a d combine that with more strateg c work, doing more of t e conception of messaging, a d that I think that's how th t transition happened. As I mentioned, I somewhat stumbl d into that content strategy rol , but I think it w s serendipitous, because it was t a time when I was coming out f doing corporate communicatio . So I still had, you know, so e of that experience arou d execution that I cou d transition into strateg c thinking about conten

Jesse Butts:

This is a really nice segue into I was going to ask a bit about, you know, the self discovery of what did you have to learn about yourself. And it sounds like part of that, for you, was that strategic work and not, not just, not just doing the tactical writing, but thinking about it. Was that something you had known for a while was important? Like, was that something that now that you look back was, was clear? Can you explain a little bit about how to think about what will really matter to you as you start looking for, for work outside of what you've been doing? Or what you've been studying?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

That's a good question. And thinking back, it was the frustration that I felt when, as a communication specialist, you know, a project would be brought to me, you know, we need to communicate XYZ, but there'd be a lot of unanswered questions. Who's the audience? What do we want them to do? Or, you know, are we just communicating this for the sake of communicating it? Or is there something that the end user needs to do? And so, I think, for me, I wanted those questions answered before they came to me. And that was the part that I think led to me wanting to do more of the strategic work, because so much of the work that I was doing, you know, the thinking had been done. And so I, you know, it would slow down my work, because I would have to spend time answering these questions where I always thought that, like, the people bringing that work to me, knew the answers to those questions, but they took for granted that I did, as well. So that's what led me to wanting to be more involved in the strategy. Again, it's not something I think I could have articulated at the time. But ultimately, I would say, you know, if, if any listeners kind of find themselves in that situation of like, you know, this work is unsatisfying to me. Why is it unsatisfying to me? You know, really probe and try to figure out, what is it you find unsatisfying about the work? What are your frustrations? And what's the source of your frustrations? I have a really good example. When I was working at City Colleges of Chicago, I was asked to write a promotional web page for a curriculum program that was aimed at veterans. That's again, that's work that I think would be fulfilling. But so much, so many of the questions hadn't been answered, like, what are we communicating? What is the curriculum? Why is it specific to veterans? How is it different from, you know, targeting any other prospective students? And so much of that thinking hadn't been done that I couldn't do my work. It's it's things like that, where I found myself kind of thwarted in being able to execute the way I'm supposed to in a job that led me to wanting to be wanting to have a seat at the table when those discussions were happening.

Jesse Butts:

I'm curious if writing is important as a foundation. I mean, a lot of the things you describe as strategic thinking, they could be found in a lot of jobs that, that really have little or nothing to do with content. I'm curious if you always wanted to stay with writing. How does that play a role into how you found work that you enjoy?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So when I started out in content strategy, I remember being really excited because I thought, a lot of what I'm being asked to do in content strategy is what I was being asked to do, you know, during grad school. When I would have to write a paper or a reaction, I had to think about my audience. You know, in your, your day-to-day work, as a content strategist, you are formulating something of a thesis statement, a lot of the time. Right? So I just remember feeling like it was a good pairing, a good way for me to take the skills I had as a writer and use them. Not necessarily to writealthough I do a lot of writing in my jobbut to do the thinking that comes with writing. I'm still excited by the fact that I get to take those kinds of problem-solving skills that I developed as a writer and use them to develop content strategies. Because I think there's a lot of overlap there. And writers that I've worked with in different jobs tend to ask the same questions about audience, about the rationale for communicating something, and then pulling out a bit more to where does this messaging fit in a grander scheme of things? So yeah, I I found that my background as a writer has really helped in in the way I've approached content strategy.

Jesse Butts:

I have a pet theory that those workshops in grad school were so helpful, presenting your work to 20 smart people who are asking good questions and pointing out things that maybe you don't agree with all of them. But you have to sit there and absorb it. I think that's such a valuable skill. And obviously, you know, these are methods taught in undergrad as well but, but I you know, I'm curious if you've, you know, looking back at those workshops if you found something similar to be true for how you think about writing and doing that type of work now?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

I hadn't thought about it that way. But I think that's a great point, it, it has helped me be a lot more accepting of valid criticism and, and not thinkinglike I'm, in my work, totally fine with abandoning an idea if I feel like it's not working. If I feel like, you know, approaching something in a certain way is not, you know, serving the needs of the client, the needs of the project, what have you. Because, you know, I think like, there's times when I come up with, like, this great framework idea, like, we're gonna approach this thing in this way. And as you go through it, you realize, mmm, doesn't really work, you know, so. And those are the ideas that I say, okay, you know, I save that. Maybe it will work eventually for a different project. But right now, it's not working. So let's abandon it. And I'm totally fine with that, because I really just want to find a method of problem solving that works. And I, you know, I think that's one of the big takeaways for me from workshopping. And I have to say, I was really lucky at DePaul, like, we had really good workshops in class. And, you know, they're, like you said, we were surrounded by a lot of smart people. And it was great to get feedback from them. I feel like that's one way you learn about yourself as a writer. You know, things you don't realize about yourself as a writer in workshops, you, you get an insight into yourself, that I think, is really helpful.

Jesse Butts:

For people who, who didn't study writing. I mean, I think there's a really common thread with, you know, in the liberal arts fields, whether you're in. you know, drama, or dance, or, you know, studying history or, or what have you. Just this idea of, you've received a lot of criticism, that's something very valuable to an employer, not not not because they can berate you and get away with it. But I think that you're going to be learning new skills, you're going to be in a new environment, and hearing their different arguments and their different perspectives that you might not have had a lot of exposure to up to this point. Being able to take that and improve your work can really set you apart. I think that's that's something so important that people with the liberal arts background can bring to employers that we don't talk about, or we don't emphasize enough. As we've been talking about this, I mean, it sounds like you very clearly, and you've mentioned the word passion, too. I'm curious for you, how important was itor is itto love a job? Do you need to love a job? Is it something that you just like, and you like to have free time outside of it? What type of role does work play in general for you, and the importance of work in your life?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So I don't think you have to love a job. The most important thing for me in a job is always the people. Do I have support? You know, is everyone easy to get along with? Do we collaborate well? People always make the job for me. And I have been in some jobs where I've gotten really close with people. Because, you know, we're very supportive of each other, you know, when there's like challenges, and I don't, I don't think you have to leave a job. I know that. That's not possible for everybody. I do think it's important to have a job where you feel supported, and where you feel like you can contribute in jobs where I feel like I haven't been able to contribute properly. Those I don't find really fulfilling. You can be passionate about your job. But I also think it's important to just have something that you're passionate about. And it doesn't have to be your work. I'm really passionate about teaching, and teaching is something I've done on and off over the years. I love working with students. I love the sort of feeling of falling off a cliff that is teaching. Because I'm never going to throw myself off a cliff for real. So this is the closest I'm gonna get to it. But I just love, like, working with students, watching them grow. I love curriculum development. So that's something that I have is a passion that I can pursue that my current job lets me pursue. And if you have something in your life that you arethat excites youI think your job can can have its place in your life and it can be, "Okay the thing that you go to and you know, helps you pay the bills and whatever." But it doesn't have to be all consuming. It doesn't have to be your passion. You don't have to love your job. I think it's good if you at least like it, or like the people, because nobody should be miserable every day.

Jesse Butts:

Do you do any creative writing anymore?

Gillian Rosheuvel:

I haven't done a ton of creative writing. On and off, I've been doing freelance writing for some clients, more, you know, finance writing. Have not done creative writing, but it's something that I'm looking to get back to. I still journal. And that's probably the place where if I have any ideas for creative writing, that's where they'll go. So I don't lose them. But, s far, not doing a ton of c eative workcreative writingr ght now.

Jesse Butts:

Yeah. But I mean, obviously, the, the education, the teaching is something you're really passionate about.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Yeah.

Jesse Butts:

So you know, earlier, you did provide some guidance for people about the questions they should ask if they're, they're frustrated with jobs, and how to get to the root of that. And so I think maybe a good note to end on would be, have you come across any resources, whether they're books, you know, Ted Talks, videolike whatever things that maybe people should check out if they are considering taking a leap? Or specifically if they're, they think, "This content strategy stuff sounds interesting. Where can I learn a bit more?"

Gillian Rosheuvel:

So in terms of where you can learn more about content strategy, and I'll take a look over at my bookshelf now. You know, I love I still love Content Strategy for the Web. It's sort of the classic and, and a good kind of gateway into the world of content strategy. There's a ton of blogs, and you know, good folks to follow on Twitter. Carrie Hane is one of my favorites in the content strategy world. Content. in terms of content strategy, I love How to Make Sense of Any Mess by Abby, Abby Covert. That's more information architecture. But information architecture is something I dabble in a little bit. Primarily, you know, I sort of asked my UX colleagues about, you know, different aspects of information architecture. So I would start there. In terms of, I don't have any books for, you know, if people are considering taking some kind of career leap. But I would say, you know, the things to consider are, you know, what are you passionate about just in your life, try to find work that lifts people up. Take timemake timeto do some self education, whether it's about a new career discipline that you want to pursue, or it's about, you know, some other aspect of life, make the time to do that. That's something that has really been helpful for me over the years is just, you know, blocking out time to say, Okay, this is my learning time. I may not be in a classroom anymore, but I still want to keep educating myself. So yeah, that's that's the advice I would give people.

Jesse Butts:

I think that's a great note to end on. Thanks. Thanks for joining us, Gillian. It was great.

Gillian Rosheuvel:

Thank you so much for inviting me. It was my pleasure.

Jesse Butts:

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Work Seminar. If you like what you've heard, please take a minute to rate the show on your favorite podcast app. Know someone who would be a great Work Seminar guest? Or have a suggestion or two for the show? You can reach me at jesse@theworkseminar.com or @TheWorkSeminar on social. And special thanks, as always, to Jon Camp for the music and Isabel Patino for the cover art and design. Until next time, never cease from exploration.