From Political Science to Content Strategy: A brief history
“Oh, so you’ll be a politician? Or a lawyer?” Those were the best guesses skeptical family members and their conspirators had about what I could do with a Political Science degree. I started college at Temple University as a journalism major, wanting to write for print in the mid-aughts, but switched to Political Science in my sophomore year. If I wasn’t hitching my wagon to one dead end major, I was grabbing on to an equally ambiguous one.
But I didn’t care. I drank in the liberal arts. I got the chance to do ethnographic research and talk to people about how they were taking politics into their own hands. I got to figure out how systems and institutions impacted people and policies at many different levels. I got to write — a lot — and had plenty of practice taking complex, theoretical ideas and translating them into something poignant. I loved bringing something esoteric to life through people’s stories. I knew I was doing something meaningful and useful.
Through all this, I learned two important things: how to think about problems and how to ask questions.
After graduation, I was certain I’d return to the ivory tower for a PhD. I worked as a researcher and project manager at a few nonprofits before I realized the PhD route was not for me. I quit my job and packed up my apartment in Brooklyn to head west, like many bright-eyed twenty-somethings exercising their own form of Manifest Destiny.
I had no idea what my next move was when I showed up in San Francisco. Up until that point, the career steps I had taken were all predicated on eventually going back to school. I thought I’d become a really cool professor who had a huge wooden desk, long afternoons to write and wore necklaces you can only find in museum gift shops.
So I did what I always did: followed the path of things that interested me and got me excited. I took a job at a university (old habits die hard) but this time in a communications role (case-in-point). This job — a mix of managing websites, running social media campaigns, and translating brilliant scientific presentations into something normal people could understand — was where I found content strategy.
Content strategy is user experience for word nerds. I get to combine all the things I love — research, problem solving, writing — and help create digital experiences that make people’s lives better. Have you ever downloaded a new app and found the onboarding experience not just useful, but fun? Content strategy probably helped there. Have you ever been delighted while online shopping by the way objects were curated on the site? Content strategy might have had a hand there, too.
I’ve had the chance to work with healthcare organizations trying to provide better patient care and with travel companies trying to make the experience of finding and booking travel less stressful. Now, in my role at Facebook, I get to work with a team of people everyday whose main focus is to support people through the scary, sad and confusing things that can sometimes happen on social media. In those situations, what, where and how we present something matters a lot.
I’m proud to be a liberal arts grad working in the tech industry, and there are more of us than you might think. While I took a meandering path here, I wouldn’t swap my major or experiences for anything. They made me a better thinker, a better problem solver and a better content strategist. But I do wish things like the Facebook Content Strategy Fellowship existed while I was in college. It can feel overwhelming to think about the different ways you can apply the valuable skills you gain as a liberal arts kid. Opportunities like this fellowship help connect the dots between majors and careers that can seem totally unrelated at first glance. Plus, it might have just given me a better response to those pesky career questions besides: “I’ll figure it out.”