Is Copywriting Your Gig?

By: Kenny Lapins, DePaul LAS 1991, senior copywriter for Centrifuge Brand Marketing

As you look beyond your collegiate career to the lifelong career that lies ahead of you, you’re probably asking yourself, “How do I invent a time machine so I can stay 21 forever.” But once you realize pursuing such technology is mere folly, you should get serious about what it is you want to do.

The importance of choosing the right career cannot be overstated. You don’t want to be stuck in a career that neither matches your skill set nor captures your interest. For some of you — you lucky, lucky, creative few — copywriting will satisfy both criteria.

There are a few things you can do to determine if you’re a copywriter-in-the-making. First of all, ask yourself, “Am I a writer?” Seems like a simple enough question. But a writer is more than a person who writes. A writer can’t help but find all the typos in the restaurant menu. A writer will unexpectedly pull their car over onto the highway shoulder to make note of a story idea, a character sketch, or even just a good line. A writer uses complete spelling and correct grammar on all text messages. A writer sees a clever turn of phrase on a billboard and has three reactions (in this order):

  1. Oh look, what a clever tag line.
  2. Man, why didn’t I think of that?
  3. Ugh, I’m a complete failure, a fraud, and I am going to be publicly humiliated by my peers any second now.

If this describes you, congratulations: you are destined for many sleepless nights worrying about the three, eight-word tagline alternatives you need to write by 10 a.m. tomorrow. And of course, when you actually get to the office in the morning, you end up writing 15 alternatives because your subconscious was working on them all night and now you are just getting out of the way of the flow. Having an embarrassment of riches is its own problem of course because now you have to cull those 15 perfect alternatives down to the best three, but would extol and defend each one like it’s your child getting bullied on a playground.

Copywriting is a rewarding field for a writer. To me, each sentence I write is pored over laboriously and painfully. So when a creative director runs over to my desk quivering in fear, sweat beading on her brow, screaming, “Oh my god! We need four words to fit in this banner that encapsulate the client’s entire go-to-market strategy in the next five minutes or we’re all dead!” it’s a call-to-arms, it’s a rallying cry, it’s what I live for.

But don’t be deceived. Account managers and clients (oh, those pesky clients) can edit your words and you just have to sit there, smiling, telling them how great a change that is, how it will clearly drive more business to the site, and how they are geniuses, all the while inside you’re weeping like a baby. Most often, however, the benefits outweigh moments like these. The first time you see your words shining on a billboard, hear your voiceover ad copy spoken on the radio, or encounter your brilliant tagline on an in-store display, the choir of angels you hear in your head makes all the striving for the perfect word well worth it. Suddenly all the pacing around the office you did as you searched for just the right turn of phrase is long-forgotten. The IT expense your agency incurred because they had to replace the keyboard you smashed against the wall in a fit of pique now seems a worthy investment.

If this still describes you, one word of advice I would impart to you is this: when you are interviewing for a creative position, remember that you are selling your intangible creativity, not your measurable skills. This is why your portfolio will be more valuable to you than your resume. Think of it this way: if you were commissioning an artist to paint your portrait, you would review their body of work. It would be much more important to your decision-making than how they perform in an interview. If you went by the interview alone, you may end up with a cubist and in the final portrait your nose could be on your cheek and your body represented by a big, purple box. While it may objectively be a beautiful portrait, it’s not what you were looking for. Copywriters have different styles. Some are best at comedy, some at heartstring-tugging, some at making bland corporate-speak melodious.

When you are interviewing for a creative position, remember that you are selling your intangible creativity, not your measurable skills. This is why your portfolio will be more valuable to you than your resume.

Are you a copywriter? Only you can tell. But if the palette in your hand is filled with words rather than globs of acrylic paint, if you have an opinion on the Oxford comma that you will literally fight for, if you are enraged when people confuse “literally” and “figuratively,” you may be. And I welcome you into the Guild with outstretched arms.

Kenny Lapins is a mentor with the DePaul University Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network. Kenny volunteers his time to network with DePaul students and provide career insight. Visit Handshake to connect with Kenny and other ASK mentors.

Communication & Media Degree: Career Possibilities for Every Interest

By: Brittany Wierman, DePaul University communication & media major ‘20

Few things are as frustrating to a communication and media student as being asked the ultimate, inescapable question, “what job are you going to get with your major?” Some students have their career goals cemented, but for those of us who are still unsure of how our major will lead us down the path of success, have no fear—the communication and media program is equipped to prepare you for a career in whatever niche fuels you.

So what exactly does a major in communication and media look like? Michael Elias, career advisor for the College of Communication explains, “the major itself was designed so students could experience classes across the entire curriculum in the College of Communication.” Essentially, students in this major can explore all different types of communication avenues including film, journalism, public relations, advertising, broadcasting and more to discover which field suits them best.

…Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths.

Since the field of communication is so broad, Michael suggests that students reflect on their personal interests and skills to narrow down possible career paths. As a communication and media major, you can consider seeking career paths as a reporter, press agent, communication coordinator, event planner, human resources manager, and even a disc jockey, all depending on what peaks your interest.

The possibilities are expansive, which means taking different courses to help you uncover your interests and choose a concentration is key. Even if you have a hard time choosing just one specialization, don’t fret; at the end of the day the development of good communication skills through this program will benefit you in your future professional life. Michael elaborates, “[communication] is the foundation of how we relate with one another… it’s what makes us who we are, the ability to express ourselves.” In other words, whether you’re in an interpersonal, intercultural, mass media, or professional setting, the ability to communicate effectively is fundamental to your success.

For more information on specific career paths, major advising and career planning, check out these major and career guides, and stop by the Career Center to connect with your career advisor.

Lessons Learned: Believe in the Company You Work For

By: Kenny Lapins, Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) mentor and DePaul University graduate from the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences

In this article, Kenny Lapins, DePaul alumnus and mentor, and senior copywriter at Simple Truth, discusses the process of identifying your core competency and defining your career. And, finally, the power of believing in the company you work for.

Each of us has a core competency. In my case, it is writing. My core competency can be applied in many ways: technical writing, corporate communication, advertising, online copywriting, or journalism. Each type of writing has its advantages and disadvantages.

  • Technical writing is challenging, but potentially dry.
  • Online copywriting allows for creativity within confines of strict word count.
  • Journalism provides freedom, but often comes with impossible deadlines.

Once you identify your core competency and narrow your focus on the applications that best suit your personality, you define your career. However, one aspect remains: where to apply your skills. You may have an industry that appeals to you, such as consumer-packaged goods, automotive, or finance. Then, within the industry you choose, identify the companies that appeal to you.

What might not be obvious during this process is that you really must believe in the company you work for. Whether it is morality, ethics, or simply a desire to work somewhere you can feel proud of, what your company does and what it stands for will become important the longer you work there. If you choose a consumer-packaged goods company, are the products ones you would use? Are the manufacturing processes harmful to the environment? If you choose advertising, is there a chance you are going to have as your client a company that you are morally opposed to?

The lesson learned from my career is that I will not last long at a company I do not believe in. After all, if career advancement is a long term goal, would I really want to become senior management at a company I do not believe in? Even if that company is giving me a great opportunity to ply my core competency in creative and satisfying ways, if I don’t believe in the result of my work, I will not thrive.

The Alumni Sharing Knowledge (ASK) network connects DePaul students and graduates with alumni to explore college and professional transitions, life challenges, and university and career questions. To connect with Kenny and other ASK mentors like him, visit Handshake. Questions? Contact ASK at