Another Edition of the Inquisitive Interviews is due today and this time we have a really creative person in the field of Advertising, PR and creative writing. The response on the previous 3 Interviews has been overwhelming and I thank all the readers who are making this an interesting segment to read through.
Inquisitive Interviews, the feature was born out of the requests by some of the students who read this blog, requesting information regarding careers. And with a view to help them make a better choice, I have started to feature various careers from different people, starting with people I know and hoping to slowly reach many different people. The Inquisitive Interviews feature would not only help the students reading the interview but also the interviewee providing them with some Online PR of sorts, the benefits of which I mentioned in another post earlier.
[ Q ] Tell us something about yourself ?
My name is Megha Abraham and I have been working for over 10 years in corporate communications, advertising, PR and now writing.
[ Q ] What do you Do for a living and Where ?
Currently I live and work in Dubai and am a senior writer with a magazine.
[ Q ] Is your salary what you expected it to be ?
Writing jobs don’t really tend to pay much, unless you get to the senior management level. Alternatively, if you’ve specialised in reporting or writing from University, and you score a job with a reputed publishing company / title, then there is a difference. But when starting out, it’s always good to keep a realistic expectation of what to expect when it comes to money versus experience. For me, the salary is a nosedive from what I was earning before, but my priorities and present lifestyle allows me to accomodate a lower paying job. So, I wasn’t surprised. Is it what I expected? Hell no! But I roll with it.
[ Q ] What is your average day like ?
It starts out with an hour’s drive to work, since the office is pretty far from where I live. Once in, I check my line-up for the month and start work on either the stories I have assigned or chalked out for myself. In addition we get a lot of PR material, which we use for our compilation pages. Getting that sorted during the first half of the delivery timeline is what I focus on most. Once done, I then focus all my energy on the features or articles. In between the week, some events or conferences might need attending, so we plan those in and attend them.
[ Q ] What’s the most interesting part of your job ?
Definitely the varied subjects, information and types of people one meets. Otherwise writing can be quite mundane, unless you really love it so much, that you’re willing to schlep a bit and do meaningless work until the right gig comes up.
[ Q ] What’s the most challenging part of your job ?
Sometimes the compromises you have make. Especially when you’re working in an organisation, where sales and ad revenue mean keeping a magazine alive. If you’re working for certain titles who really don’t care, that’s a whole different ballgame. It’s important to know what you want, where you are when it comes to life and circumstances and what you want your career to do for or for itself. Some days time management and on others lack of response. Especially in this part of the world, response rates can be quite infuriating.
[ Q ] What’s the part of the job that you don’t like ?
Routine. I’m not a routine person. Although sometimes one does crave it when you’re not up to it on somedays and just need the comfort of the familiar. I also don’t like beting jolted out my cruise control and like to plan ahead. Sometimes, being a writer for a publication can spring a few surprises on you because at the end of the day you’re working with people, and we aren’t a homogenous group when it comes to habits, work ethic or time management. So that part of it annoys me sometimes. Another thing I don’t like is meaningless work, which sometimes you have to do, it’s part of the process. But you asked what I don’t like, so yeah, I don’t like it, but I get it out the way, when I have to.
[ Q ] Do you get bored at your workplace at all ?
Sometimes, it’s natural. I work in an office which isn’t very big, it doesn’t have a huge team and we sit in office that is almost cut off from the rest of the city for an average of 8 hours. So, the office is all you get. If you need to go out somewhere that’s half an hour at least and unless you have an event to go to, or an interview to get done, you don’t step out, because if you do, you won’t be coming back, so again, time management is key here.
Sometimes research on silly/mundane/inconsequential topics (yes, you will get your fair share when writing for a mass reading target group) is extremely boring, and I do go cross-eyed when faced with the inevitable task of looking up colour swatches for a decor story or finding the latest updates from the celebrity world. Boring.
[ Q ] Do you report to someone ? How much of an impact the person you report to has on your job ?
Yes, I report to the Editor of the magazine in terms of hierchy. The impact is pretty straightforward, she/he runs the magazine and we ensure that there is relevant and enough content to go in. The editor oversees the entire outlook and the way the magazine is run and sometimes does oversee the content direction. So the impact is pretty meaingful.
[ Q ] Do you use all the skills that you learnt in school / college ? or where did you pick up the skills ?
Yes, I do, I specialised in communications, which also involved a course in writing. However, some of the most successful writers come from varied backgrounds as well, which means you need to really like writing or have some sort of specialisation that you can write about. I picked up my skills with practice and pure interest in as well. I’ve always loved books, writing and anything to do with the written word so that helps.
It depends on what kind of writer you want to be really, there are several types: technical, features, copy, novelist, blogger, freelance, project, and many more. So your background no matter what it is can be turned into a writing gig, if you have the interest and the wherewithal to get into it part or full time.
[ Q ] What’s your Alumni ? Where have you studied ?
Schooling : Bangalore, India
Pre University : Bangalore, India
Bachelor’s Degree : Bangalore, India
Master’s Degree : Manipal, India
[ Q ] Would you advice younger people to join in your industry ?
Sure, if they love it, and know it in their gut then, yes. I would also advise this, that if you’re getting into it for the money, then don’t bother. The money comes much later. Much, much later. You definitely need to like it, like a little bit (or a lot of, depending on where you start your writing career) of imbalance when it comes to timing, money, schedules and fulfillment. It comes and goes like waves, once you master that rhythm you’ll be fine.
[ Q ] What advice would you give to someone trying to get into the industry ?
If you’re already working or interning somewhere, try and freelance or send in work to magazines, newspapers, websites who commission work. See what the response is like from the editors or writers and keep practicing as much as you can. The more you write, the better you get at it. Also read up a lot, it helps with vocabulary, knowledge, other points of view and writing styles. Keep yourself updated as much as possible, it helps.
[ Q ] Anything else you want to tell the readers ?
If you’re young, try everything you can before you choose a career or a way of making a living. A lot of people will have opinions on what is good and what isn’t. I personally think it’s important to make your mind up for yourself.
If you’re mid-career and still not sure what you want to do and writing comes up as an option, try it while you’re still working and see if you like it. Weekends, free time, or a break from work can help you get started, and if you do and it’s what you’ve been looking for, then sure, quit and take it up. If it isn’t writing, then what ever else seems to be playing in your mind, try it first and see what it makes you feel like – happy, curious, maybe skeptical; it doesn’t matter – the thing is to try. Forget what the folks / peers / industry / general viewpoints said. It’s hard, yes. But if you do try, it works wonders.
[ Q ] Any online resources you recommend for people taking up this profession ?
I don’t have any online resources that I could recommend. However, I used to actively contribute to www.wordquotient.com who are always on the lookout for writers for varied feilds (if you’re a subject expert, freelance enthusiast, or want to find out where to start).
Otherwise, the really effective way is to do your own research, that’s when you find what you’re looking for.
You can get in touch with Megha at the link below :
On Linked In : http://ae.linkedin.com/in/meghaabraham
A big thanks to Megha for this insight into what a writer at a magazine would actually be working on. I am sure we will read more of what she writes in the future. Hope this interview is as useful to all the students reading this.