BY LAUREN NESS, MARGARET ROY, ASHLEY OSTROWSKI, AND JESSICA CAMERON
The average individual will hold between 12 and 15 jobs in their lifetime, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Given that reality, many college students can feel uncertain regarding what constitutes a productive college experience.
Heather Cherry’s present success as a social media marketer and content consultant came out of diverse beginnings. Her journey through various experiences and jobs prepared her greatly, demonstrating that variety is indeed a key to success.
Cherry obtained her bachelor’s degree in interior design from Westwood College. Upon graduating, however, her career options were limited. Little did she know, her additional experience as a journalist would awaken her passion for writing.
Prompted to revisit her career goals, Cherry received her master’s degree in professional writing from Chatham University. She began with freelance writing in 2011, as blogging was growing in popularity.
Freelancing fostered a marketing mindset for Cherry; she was continually evaluating how she marketed her abilities to others and vice versa. Her passion for marketing and content development grew from there.
“I’ve always been an independent learner and that’s how I work best,” she said.
Reflecting on her journalism background, Cherry explained how it prepared her for her current work. It requires intentional search for people and their stories.
“You had to find stories when there really weren’t any,” she remarked.
Right now, she does exactly that: sees the opportunity, then directs it to a specific audience across various mediums in a way that is appealing.
"Journalism really built me to what I am,” Cherry reflected.
Heather Cherry currently provides social media management and content marketing as well as freelancing on her own blog. She works with small businesses and becomes their temporary marketing director, emphasizing that she wants to teach them how to market through social media themselves.
As a lifelong learner, Cherry had to learn to “ask what people’s needs are” and how they could benefit from her services. Sometimes it was not always easy overcoming this obstacle, but asking people for their help or to attend one of their meetings became a crucial part of her success.
Networking has been key in her line of work and it’s something Cherry has been able to do really well. The ability to build relationships, reputation, and trust is invaluable.
“Sometimes it’s awkward because you feel as though you’re just kind of spearheading your way in when nobody wants you there, but eventually, in most cases, they open up to you and they’re like this is great! We want you on our team!” she assured.
Cherry is unique in that she still sees value in print media even though much of her work is focused on newer, online forms. She has her own blog, but got her start in journalism and by freelance writing. This included being published first in The Nanny Magazine and now in Pittsburgh Parent. Cherry is intentional with her work.
“There’s so many ways we consume content and we just have to be aware of that," she said.
As a social media marketer, Cherry is able to help businesses by telling their stories in fun and exciting ways. Through inspiring others to buy a business’s products or services, her job is more uplifting than discouraging.
Oftentimes, she resembles the their marketing director as many businesses struggle with branding or marketing their services in a modern age, especially online.
Before she expanded her business beyond a small, personal one to what it is today, Cherry realized she was not where she wanted to be. She saw a need and fulfilled it, going from a Communications Specialist to a “boring job” to finally realizing her potential in the marketing field.
Cherry has worked with many different clients, but she always loves working with smaller businesses. She believes that they are under-served and enjoys the personal touch her services bring.
In her opinion, the best part of working for yourself is the flexibility that comes with being your own boss. She remarked that the ability to choose her clients and control her finances is incredibly freeing.
“I love it because you can challenge yourself differently every day... you get to learn constantly. I feel like I’m an eternal learner!” she expressed.
However, Cherry emphasized the challenges involved in owning her own business. Being your own boss means you are also all the employees. Aspects such as budgeting and finding work can prove difficult. It also means that, when she takes the risk of putting herself out there, she must be ready to face rejection.
While her business is challenging, it is also necessary. Cherry’s services remain indispensable as long as there are businesses in need of social media, blogs, and website help. Her goal is to help them utilize their websites in order to provide long-term business marketing.
Even as a freelancer, Cherry tries to work regular hours every day. If she has a busy week of networking or event planning coming up, she makes sure to work ahead. Her favorite part about her work schedule is that every day is different, but she is still able to maintain a general routine.
Cherry noted that using social media for marketing is still a relatively new phenomenon. She noticed a really big push for businesses to use social media about five years ago. Corporations were ahead of the trend, and now small businesses are starting to see the power of using social media. The trend of more businesses using social media will continue.
Cherry encourages students to pursue their passions by being on the lookout
for opportunities. She stresses the importance of seeking work in an area in which you want to improve your skills, even if it is unpaid. Students interested in writing, for example, could contribute to their college or church newspaper. Cherry’s various jobs and experiences have given her valuable knowledge that she has used as a marketer.
“I’ve done a lot of odd jobs, but everything has benefited me. No opportunity is worthless,” Cherry stressed.This coming fall, Cherry is running the Young Writer’s Conference. She began this program as a way to teach high school and college students writing skills.
Additionally, Cherry wants to bring awareness to the importance of writing in every day life. When she was that age, she thought the only successful path for a writer was writing books. But writing is so much more than that.
No matter the career, effective written communication skills are necessary. The writing conference teaches students why all of us are, and should be, writers.
Heather Cherry's unique career journey is a source of encouragement. Rather than viewing this ever-changing world as daunting, college students and graduates can approach the road ahead confident in the significance of variety.