English major Justin Jacob

Meet English major and junior copywriter, Justin Jacob

When Justin Jacob began his studies at Wayne State, he couldn’t have imagined where he would end up. After getting involved with the Composition Learning Community, Jacob became interested in pursuing an English degree. He had his mind set on becoming a professor, but an internship at Campbell Ewald, an advertising agency headquartered in Detroit, led him down a different path. Now a junior copywriter for the same company, Jacob can’t see himself doing anything else. What follows is a brief transcript of a conversation with Jacob, lightly edited for clarity and concision.

What made you interested in pursuing an English degree?

Originally, I was a pre-med bio major. I just started taking a lot of English courses, and I got into the CLC—the Composition Learning Community—as a peer mentor. Being engrossed in that environment eased my transition to the English major. Throughout my middle and high school years, writing was my strong suit. For whatever reason, I didn’t see that earlier.

How did you get involved in copywriting?

Last spring, I applied to be an intern at Campbell Ewald. I was selected to be an intern for their social media team, and after three months of doing that, a position opened up to be a junior copywriter. Honestly, a funny motivation for me joining advertising was the series Mad Men. It isn’t the greatest introduction since it shows the negative side of ‘50s advertising, but the premise of being a copywriter and coming up with ideas was very appealing to me.

You mentioned earlier (via email) that you wanted to be a teacher. How did your experience as an intern change your mind?

Yeah, I wanted to be a professor. I wanted to teach students, and I figured writing and composition were my go-to. But being an intern allowed me to see a whole different world, one I wouldn’t have seen from an outsider’s perspective. Most people don’t get to see the behind-the-scenes stuff. You might get a glimpse, but not fully into it. So when I was an intern, I was able to hone my photography skills, hone my writing skills, hone different sets of skills that I otherwise didn’t already have. Being an intern allowed me to develop and refine those skills.

When were you an intern, and what exactly did you do?

I was an intern from May 15th until August 18th. I worked on the social media team. I did everything from taking pictures for clients to posting on social media pages. It was really cool; I got to write a ton of copy, day-in, and day-out. I was hoping that, by producing quantity, as well as high-quality stuff, they would be able to use my material.

But I think the most important thing that I did involved the company social media pages that needed to be refined. They needed to be a little bit more developed than what they were already, so a co-worker and I sat down for days straight and wrote this whole social strategy. It’s a 50-page guidebook about what we want to do, and every client has one of these social playbooks. We went through and created the entire deck.

Did you go straight into this copywriter job out of your internship?

One of my mentors is a group creator director. I was approached by her, toward the latter half of my internship, and she told me that some opportunities were going to be opening up. Basically, you just have to seize every opportunity you can. Campbell Ewald was ready to go forward with me, so I went from a social media intern to being a copywriter. It was a jump, but a jump to something even more.

Do you feel your coursework at Wayne has helped you in your career?

Yeah, prior to taking multiple English courses, writing was my strong suit. It wasn’t so much the coursework as being in the CLC itself, being around those professors and those individuals every single day. They were teaching me how to be a better writer, how to articulate things.

It’s often thought that English degrees can only result in getting a teaching job. If somebody’s interested in English, but not teaching, would you recommend that they still pursue an English degree?

There seems to be this weird misconception that English majors can only do three things: they can be an author, a teacher, or they can just read books and live a secluded lifestyle. It’s funny, a lot of people make jokes that English majors end up working in fast food for the rest of their lives because they can’t find a job. But it’s not true. English majors are some of the most well-rounded individuals in the respect that they’re not taught what to think, they have to do it themselves.

We’re taught, from early coursework, that only you can come up with these ideas. English majors are the kind of people who aspire to be leaders because they think outside of the box.  That’s the most important trait that anybody can have. I’m not dogging any other major—it’s just that I think the liberal arts, in general, are a great starting point for doing anything. You can walk in anywhere and do anything.

I know a Wayne State alumnus who studied anthropology—he’s a social strategist now, analyzing social analytics. Anyone can make those opportunities happen and do something different, even if it’s just barely tied to their degree or major. Even Mark Cuban, one of the world’s biggest entrepreneurs, said that liberal arts majors are the future of the world because their thinking is that “outside the box” thinking. 

Is there any advice you’d give to up-and-coming English majors?

If you’re unsure of your future, if you keep getting brought down by people who say English majors aren’t capable of doing this or that, if you have people who doubt you, I think it’s best that you stick to your gut. Don’t dissuade yourself from doing something that’s going to make you happy in the end. You don’t have to be in that line of thought, that English majors are only teachers or authors. If you start off thinking and knowing that there’s so much more to do than just these basic things, the sky’s the limit. You’ve got this huge world in front of you, so don’t let anybody else determine what you’re going to do in it. Only you can do that.

By Tristan Shaw