Editorial Assistant

Parna Mehrbani

Tell us about your work-what do you do? I work for an organization affiliated with the University of Illinois . I am the editorial assistant to the media/communications specialist. I do lots of Web site stuff, such as write copy, make updates, not too much design, but some, and I created a database for the Web site. I also do lots of mailings, writing the letters, gathering the mailing lists and creating labels, and the actual stuffing and sending of the letters. I do some graphic design stuff on PageMaker, designing program booklets for conferences. I also do lots of basic office type things, typing forms, sending e-mails, checking the mail, forwarding mail, requesting different types of information, and answering phone calls regarding the graduate programs that the council sponsors. What skills are needed? Definitely the ability to write well , proofread , edit and type . I also deal a lot with students as well as professors, so people skills and the ability to communicate is definitely necessary. Also, a lot of computer skills -- basically a thorough knowledge of the whole Microsoft Office Suite -- Word, Excel, Access, Front Page, Power Point -- the more computer abilities, the better. What was your major? I got a B.A. in English/Rhetoric and a second B.A. in Philosophy . How did you get started in your career? I worked here as a student and wanted to stay in the area and gain more computer and writing skills. I was offered a full time job and decided to stay for a year. What experience do you need in this job? I needed to be able to write when I got the job as an undergraduate. Now I need to write, do lots of web stuff and manage databases in Microsoft Access and spreadsheets on Excel . Describe your "typical" workday: I spend the morning answering e-mails, returning phone calls and catching up on stuff I didn't finish the day before. I like to do Web updates and additions in the morning because our resident computer consultant is only here in the mornings. I like to be able to get his help if I'm having trouble with something on the Web. He is the official Webmaster but deals mainly with server problems and more complicated issues, while I worry about the content and timeliness of the site. After lunch I usually update spreadsheets and databases , answer more e-mails and then find out if there is anything new that needs to be done for the Water Resources Center (I do all of the work for this part of my job in the afternoon). Projects range from typing forms , filing , updating old text files , to helping plan an entire conference. Lots of what we do at my office deals with supporting other graduate programs, so while lots of it seems simple, it is often very interesting to see how the several programs, as well as the university and the state, work together. What is the hardest aspect of your job? I have a hard time with some computer issues because our official Webmaster is only here in the mornings. Using a Windows NT processing system can be quite annoying. Basically, our computers are all hooked into each other, and the Webmaster is the only one that can change a lot of the settings and permissions. Also, because I was a student worker, and have only recently graduated, many of the people I work with still sort of treat me like a student, rather than recognizing I work the same hours as they do. Sometimes I feel like a glorified secretary...but we all have to start somewhere. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job? I really like doing Web design . I also really like seeing a "finished product." With Web design, as well as the mailings, posters, conference manuals, and other projects, I see the finished product and I feel like I've done my job. Furthermore, I really like the atmosphere that I work in. The people are really nice and understanding. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field? I think that in general it's hard to recognize whether an environmentally related organization is an action organization or a research organization . This is something that you should definitely find out directly beforehand because an environmental program that is directed at research, as our office is, is very different from other types of activist groups. Also, I would have to say, don't expect to start at the top. It is necessary to work your way up, and it does take a lot of hard work.