Welcome to “3 Questions with …”, a recurring feature on the Career Center blog. We’re asking alumni of all graduation years and career interests to share a bit of their experiences and advice.
Melissa Fiorenza, ’06, AVP of Content Strategy at CCA and Freelance Writer
1. In just a few sentences, please tell us about your current job/graduate program/vocational endeavor.
My full-time role as AVP of Content Strategy for CCA, a higher education marketing agency, involves helping colleges and universities differentiate themselves, connect with right-fit students, and get the word out about each institution’s incredible academic programs, students, faculty, alumni, research, and more. We produce everything from advertising campaigns to print materials to blog content and beyond. (The best part is visiting the campuses and feeling like a college kid again!) Outside of CCA, I’m also a freelance writer, mainly in the health and wellness space. Lately, I’ve been writing for brands like Orangetheory Fitness and Eat This, Not That!.
2. How did your time at Tufts influence your career journey?
I knew early on that I wanted to be a writer, and that I wanted to cover all kinds of topics. To that end, I chose courses that would hone my journalism skills (shoutout to Professor Neil Miller!) and ones that would expose me to unique areas of study (Professor Lee Edelman’s Hitchcock course was fascinating). A hands-on Ex-College course I took with Michael Blanding, called Making a Magazine, also crystallized my desire to start out in magazines (which I did, in New York City)—as did my CMS minor.
Lastly, Tufts faculty and staff were really great about emphasizing the importance of internships—and I am so grateful for that. I held four during my time there—one at Cosmopolitan magazine, two at Boston publications, and one at a PR agency. I tell every college student: Intern, intern, intern. They taught me so much about myself and my goals, and they very much impressed future employers.
3. What advice would you offer to a student who wants to pursue a career path like yours?
A few things! 1) Whenever I’m hiring a writer, I ask to see clips. Surprisingly, not every college graduate who aspires to write professionally has clips to share (clips that aren’t class essays). So my advice for students would be this: In addition to taking journalism and writing courses, intern someplace you can write—or at the very least, start writing somewhere like medium.com.
2) I’d also encourage writers to take marketing and SEO classes. Although I started my career working at magazines with Hearst and Time Inc. in NYC, I ultimately found my way to marketing agencies and learned that content marketing is essentially journalism with a marketing goal. There’s a lot of crossover, and a lot of opportunity to write about topics you’re passionate about.
3) Tufts has a fantastic alumni network. Reach out to someone who works at a brand or publication you love and ask if they have any writing opportunities for students. Do this after graduation, too. A former editor of Women’s Health once told me you have nothing to lose by reaching out to a contact—no matter how long it’s been since you caught up. They either help or they don’t. Go for it!