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Andrew Blackburn

Andrew BlackburnK-State Graduation Year: 2010
Degree: English – Creative Writing
Current Employer: Hallmark Cards
Position: Writer

 

 

How many times, if any, did you change your major during college?

I only changed majors once, but it took me about two years to declare a major in the first place. Before landing in English, I considered Education, Print Journalism, and Music.

Describe the process of choosing your major.

It took me a long time to decide on a major because I have a lot of different interests (I tutored chemistry as a sophomore, considered majoring in math, and ended up in English). But when I figured out that being a writer for Hallmark (or at least somewhere) was what I wanted to do, I decided that becoming an English major would be the best way to improve the skills I would need to get there. Once I knew what I wanted to do after college, deciding on my major was pretty easy.

What activities/organizations were you involved in while in college?
  • Resident Assistant
  • K-State Concert Choir 
  • Navigators
Did you complete an internship or have related work experience prior to receiving your job?

Yes, which is how I ended up getting the job I have now! I applied for an internship at Hallmark after my junior year, but I didn't get the job. I tried again after my senior year and got hired! My internship was twelve weeks of basically working as a real Hallmark writer. There was a lot to learn in a very short time, but I had the chance to write in a wide variety of styles. It gave me a great chance to evaluate Hallmark as a company, and it gave Hallmark a great chance to evaluate me as a potential writer.

Describe the process of finding your first job.

Thankfully, at the end of my internship with Hallmark, they offered me a job! I spent a lot of time job searching before I interned at Hallmark, but ultimately the process of getting my job mostly involved doing a good job as an intern at Hallmark. I did well enough that they wanted to keep me, and accepting their job offer was a no-brainer.

Briefly describe a typical day at your job.

One of my favorite things about my job is that there is no such thing as a typical day. I get assigned a new project every two weeks or so, and my job is to create and submit pieces of writing to the editorial director who is in charge of the project (they'll then use some of my writing for whatever product they're in charge of creating). For me, I've found that I am able to focus my creative energy best in the morning, so I usually try to give myself some uninterrupted (read: internet-free) writing time shortly after I arrive at work, if I can, and then focus on more analytical stuff in the afternoon (editing, emails, etc.).

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The people I work with, the variety of work, and the still-unbelievable fact that I get to write for a living.

What are the most challenging aspects of your job?

The most challenging thing about my job is something that every writer can probably relate with: the task of creating something out of nothing. Being given a blank page to work with every single day is energizing and exciting, but it can also be really intimidating.

What advice would you give someone interested in your field?

If you want to be a writer, then write a lot, read a lot, and get good at working with people. That last part is severely underrated—often as writers, we think that good writing will be enough to get us where we want to go. That can be true sometimes, but if you ask an editor (or whoever you might be working with as a writer) if they'd rather work with an amazing writer who is also a jerk, or a slightly-less-amazing-but-still-really-great writer who is always positive and respectful, they'll definitely choose the second one.

Has your career path taken any unconventional turns that you never would have expected?

Not really—I've been at Hallmark since 2010, and haven't had any huge, unexpected changes to this point.

How have any changes in your life situation affected your career path?

I got married two weeks after I graduated, which also happened to be two weeks into my internship at Hallmark. I thought that would be a problem, because my wife still had one semester of school left. But at the end of the summer, when Hallmark offered me a job, they said they were willing to wait for my wife to finish school before I started. It made me feel really valued as an employee, and it showed me something I've seen confirmed many times since—if a company finds the person they want to hire, they'll often be willing to be flexible to make sure they get them.

What were the major lifestyle changes your first year out of college that made the transition hard from college to the world of work and how did you adapt?

Two big things—no homework, and fixed hours. No homework is awesome, obviously. But having fixed hours was an adjustment after getting used to being able to set my own class schedule at the beginning of each semester and spending my time however I wanted. It takes more discipline when you're expected to be at your job from 8 to 5 (or whatever your set hours may be) each day. Beyond that, I'd just say there's an increased sense of responsibility. College prepares you for the real world in some ways, but it's not the real world. There have been things I've learned since graduating that have made me say, "What? How did I not know that?" But you experience stuff, you sometimes make mistakes, and you move on. And life keeps going on, which is nice.

What was the one thing you did in college that has had the most impact on your life or career?

I think choosing my major strategically was a really good decision. It was sort of a risk—English majors can serve as punch lines sometimes since there isn't really a booming job market out there for people who know a lot about literature and creative writing. But I figured out what I wanted to do and picked the best major to get me there, and that was huge.

What tips do you have for current undergrads about opportunities they should definitely take advantage of while they are in school?

Check out Career & Employment Services. There are a lot of people there who will help you figure out how to communicate your skills, and they can help you find a job. It's a great resource that is sadly underutilized. Also, pick your professors' brains. I don't think I realized until I got into my career what a cool situation college students get to be in, surrounded by really smart and accomplished people who know a lot about the subject their students happen to be interested in.

Was there a specific class you remember that sparked your interest in your career direction?

I loved my advanced creative writing classes. They were workshop style, so we got to talk about our work with our classmates, and I remember falling in love with both writing and reading in a new way as I worked with my peers and professors on becoming a better writer.

Was there a specific person in college who had a significant impact on your life or career?

There are definitely several people, but I think immediately of Katherine Karlin and Elizabeth Dodd. They taught my advanced creative writing classes, and they both encouraged me to continue pursuing creative writing. When someone with their level of skill sees something in you, it means a lot. I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing today without their encouragement.

What didn't college teach you that you wish you would have known before you started your career?

It has become my belief that the single most important thing you can be in any job is…nice. Being nice to people is supremely undervalued, and people don't emphasize it enough. You can be the best in the world at what you do, but if you're horrible to work with, people won't want anything to do with you. It's important to be skilled, but it's more important to be professional and to work well with people, and I don't think I realized that until I started my career.

 

For more information, Andrew can be reached at blackburnandrew1@gmail.com.