Editing Alumni Story: Becoming a Grant Writer Al Smith Writes a New Career Chapter
Editing Alumni Story: Becoming a Grant Writer Al Smith Writes a New Career Chapter

Al Smith moved to Seattle in 2012 with a creative writing degree and the goal of crafting a career working with words. But lacking professional experience and a local network, Al found the search for a job that fit their degree frustrating.

“I couldn't find my way into the industry,” Al said. “I realized I wanted to do something creative, I wanted to do something with writing, but I didn't seem to have the background that people were looking for — or the connections.”

To pay the bills, Al took a job at a doggy day care, then landed a position doing administrative work at the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center. It was an organization with a great mission, but it wasn’t the job Al wanted.

“I was bored, restless and unchallenged,” they recalled. “I was sort of at my wit’s end.”

Finding the Answer

Al considered graduate school, but the cost and time commitment were daunting. Then they discovered the Certificate in Editing.

“I found this certificate program and I was like, ‘This is exactly what I want,’” Al said. “It’s after work. It’s a year long. I get to make connections with professionals, but it’s not like going back to school full time.”

It also helped that the certificate was a well-established program offered by the University of Washington.

“The UW editing certificate in particular is well known and has a good reputation as one of the few editing programs that means anything,” Al noted. “I chose it particularly because of the name and its reputation.”

In Their Own Words

Certificate in Editing grad Al Smith explains how the program helped them launch a fulfilling career in the field.


Getting Inspired

Al appreciated being able to gain hands-on editing experience during the program. They also found a lot of value in getting to learn from a wide range of experienced writing and editing professionals.

“The instructors and guest speakers were all from totally different parts of the industry, doing different things — working for magazines, working for REI, working for airlines, working for marketing companies,” Al recalled. “I hadn't valued writing and editing in that way before, and seeing all these different high-level professionals using this skill in so many different ways was really inspiring.”

Moving Up

When it came time to find that perfect editorial job, Al didn’t have to go far. The experience in the certificate program opened up doors at work that were previously closed.

“My supervisor was like, ‘Wow, that is so cool. I can’t wait to use your skills,’” Al recalled. “Over the year I was taking the course, I just got more and more opportunities. People were coming to me with projects that were relevant to my skill set.”

At the same time, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center was expanding. After completing the certificate program, Al was promoted and became a grant writer and communications coordinator with the organization. They feel the certificate program played a key role in getting this opportunity.

I get to work for a cause that aligns with my deep values while using editing and writing skills that just get sharper and more effective.

Al Smith

“I think pursuing a professional certificate demonstrated to the leadership in my organization that I am motivated, skilled and interested in honing my craft,” Al said. “They knew that if they offered me a challenge, I would excel.”

Today, Al’s job is anything but boring.

“I do all sorts of writing every day,” they said. “I write for our board members, for our foundation partners, for the public, for our social media. I write our annual report. I write grants. I'm making complex arguments and editing every day.”

Making a Difference

Al clearly enjoys doing editorial work. Beyond that, they’re happy to be using their skills to raise awareness of an important social issue.

The nonprofit center where Al works is dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual assault with therapy and legal assistance, and the organization also advocates for change in Washington state. The issue is drawing increasing attention, and Al finds it gratifying to have a job that contributes to this effort.

“I am very lucky,” they said. “I get to work for a cause that aligns with my deep values while using editing and writing skills that just get sharper and more effective. It’s an incredibly fulfilling role.”

Al reflected on the powerful impact the program had on their career: “I have grown so much professionally,” they observed. “It changed my life. It changed my direction. And that’s awesome.”

For more alumni stories from UW Professional & Continuing Education, visit the News & Features section of our website. To learn more about our certificates, specializations, degrees and courses, explore your options or contact us.

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