Create Your Own Career

Natasha Azar graduated from Exeter with an MA in Creative Writing in 2014. She’s currently Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners. She talked to us about the often surprising benefits of being flexible in your career path.

Natasha Azar, Exeter alumn and Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners

Osage University Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in university spinouts. Before coming to Osage, I worked as a contractor for Siemens, a position which made me an attractive candidate for my role as a University Relations Manager. At Siemens I was a Communications Specialist under the Communications & Government Affairs group. I supported one of the R&D offices in New Jersey, from a communications and internal marketing perspective.

The best part of my job is that every day is different. I might be at a university or conference, designing marketing materials for an event, editing a podcast episode we just recorded, blogging the highlights of a recent webinar we held, or developing a new program to test on our universities. The startup landscape is always changing, so it’s the nature of the industry as well.

“You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job… nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.”

The biggest challenge I face is that my role is so unique and traditionally not found at a venture capital firm.  While there’s no clear career trajectory for someone like me, I think the experience I have has set me up for a plethora of options after this.  I could stay in finance, work for a university, or even keep with a relationship management role in a different sector such as government or politics. The lesson I learned is to be open-minded and assume I could qualify for a position I truly am interested in, even if it means venturing into a new industry.

I moved back to the US after finishing my MA at Exeter in 2014. At first, I was juggling my time between applying for jobs and freelance blogging. I wanted to move out on my own, but it isn’t news to anyone that it’s tough to make a living as a freelance writer. I instead focused my application efforts on positions that would involve some aspect of writing. At first I only applied for full-time permanent positions directly on websites of companies where I wanted to work, but found nobody was biting.  I chose a different tactic and met with a few different creative headhunting agencies.  These recruiters place individuals in contract positions which can be part-time or full-time, short-term or long-term. Contract jobs are much easier to attain with high profile companies as there is little to no risk to the company.  It’s a great way to gain experience at one or several recognizable companies – plus the placement process is usually expedient.  I used this method for 3 contract positions before falling into my current role, which is full-time with benefits.

When I decided to pursue a Master of Art’s in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, I didn’t believe the degree would be applicable to any career outside of writing – whether it be journalism, screenwriting, or novel writing. But when I was interviewing for the Communications Specialist role at Siemens – a position that would require ample interviewing of scientists and article writing about technologies being developed at our research & development centre – my future boss pointed out my degree specifically during my interview.  After I was hired, she said it gave me leverage over the other candidates as I would be able to provide a ‘unique voice’ and creative angle to the articles I would be required to write.

I found it hard to believe my Creative Writing degree could be useful in writing articles describing science and government contracts, but the experience taught me I had a very close-minded approach when it came to applying for jobs. I would read a job description and assume I wasn’t qualified for it.  By now, I’ve heard many stories from friends who have transitioned into different industries and roles just by catering their resume to the job they’re going after and writing a stellar cover letter.  You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job market if you want to get out of it, nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.

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