UPDATE Aug. 2020: Since joining Job Portraits, Becca has moved into a Creative Lead role, where she now leads EVP projects and other engagements where copywriting plays a big role.
What do you do at Job Portraits?
I dabble in some longer-form writing, but most of what I do is copywriting—the words that end up on a client’s careers page, for example, as well as headlines and captions for our stories. Usually, my work starts by talking with a mix of people, from company leaders to other “culture keepers” who aren’t in senior roles, to understand the employer value propositions that set their team apart. Those EVPs become the foundation of my writing. The goal is to help candidates understand quickly what it might be like if they joined the company.
One of the things I like about writing at Job Portraits is we don’t take the usual, whitewashed approach to talking about companies. Candidates are smart. They know work comes with challenges. So I think it’s much more effective to just be honest and pull out real truths.
Tell us about your background. What led you to Job Portraits?
I’ve always thought of myself as a writer. When I was a kid, I used to make mini newspapers, and as an undergrad I studied nonfiction writing, along with environmental studies. Then I moved to San Francisco to try to be a journalist, but ended up finding some pretty cool communications work. I told host and guest stories at Airbnb and worked for a nonprofit called Future of Fish; part of my job was facilitating workshops with people from every part of the seafood supply chain, from fishermen and suppliers to chefs and consumers, where they’d work together to find solutions for overfishing.
Then I moved to Chicago and worked in user research for clients like FedEx and Nike. I loved that, but I missed writing, so I decided to go back to school and get my master’s in journalism at Northwestern. After graduation, I ran communications for a VC fund here in San Francisco, where I also worked with startups on their marketing and branding strategies. Being there in those defining moments, helping them build their first or second website, was really rewarding. It’s humbling to partner with people who are putting everything into their work.
I met Miki earlier this year, and I could tell right away she was energized by the same things I was—helping founders, writing, doing meaningful work. So we kept in touch, and when I decided to move into freelance writing she asked if I’d be interested in joining Job Portraits as part of a new partnership with another agency. It was a really cool opportunity, but I could tell she wasn’t just looking to fill the spot; she was incredibly thoughtful about what I would need to make it work. I’ve been part of the team ever since!
What's the company culture like?
There are genuine friendships on the team, and that’s great. But beyond that, there’s a fundamental support for just being a person that I think comes directly from the top. I work with Job Portraits part-time, and I remember when I started, I felt guilty that I was only putting in 20 hours per week. Then Jackson explained that even salaried employees work a range of hours—some people put in 40, but some do less than 30—and that’s completely okay. It’s about knowing your natural capacity and getting the most out of that time.
When he shared that, I was shocked—and I kept expecting that the concept wouldn’t quite match the day-to-day reality. But now that I’m a few months in, I know it’s true. Even at a company with a strong culture, it can be easy to worry about taking care of “life stuff” during the day. But here, I know Natasha is taking a break to walk her dog in the afternoon or Sandra is getting a haircut tomorrow morning, and I don’t have to feel bad when I want to go to yoga at noon. Weaving your work and the rest of your life together isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged.
What else is different about Job Portraits?
The first thing that comes to mind is the way we work with clients. Compared to my experience in traditional consulting, this is much more collaborative. Of course we push for things like accuracy, but we aren’t coming from a place of being the all-knowing authority. We’ve done this before, so we can guide you, but then we’re going to figure out a game plan together. I think that’s much more efficient, because while we do have expertise in employer branding, you have expertise in your team. If we work together, we’re more likely to get it right.
What’s challenging about your work?
For most of my career, I haven’t had a chance to collaborate with other writers. So being here, surrounded by experts, it was tough to maintain confidence at first. But one of the things I loved about Job Portraits is that everyone on the team can write, even if it’s not in their job title. I put myself here on purpose. And now that I have a few projects under my belt and have seen that people were happy with the results, I’m already gaining confidence.
Another challenge for me is getting comfortable with uncertainty, which is the start of any creative process. You get all these notes and transcripts and you have to wrap your mind around the form you want them to take. One thing that’s helped me lately is doing more outlining, which was rare for me before. I’m also learning to just take a stab and ask for input, whether from the client or our team. The more I build those muscles, the easier it is to remember that I’ve pushed through uncertainty many times before, and I can do it again.
What are you excited about as Job Portraits grows?
I’m excited to expand beyond capturing company culture and into doing more to inform it. We’ve worked with so many companies now that we have our own experiences to draw on, too. I think we can use that background to not only model strong culture, but help clients come up with specific ways they can be better humans for the people on their teams.
What’s your morning routine?
Someday, I’ll admit to myself that I’m not really a morning person. For now, I set my alarm aggressively early and then snooze it three times. I always think I’m going to get up and go for a run, but in reality, all I want to do when I wake up is drink coffee, eat toast with butter—my favorite food—and start working. The early morning hours are my most creative time.
What’s your superpower?
I can make friends with pretty much anyone. I’m one of those people who’s perfectly comfortable walking into a party by myself. I think if you meet someone where they are and start by sharing a bit of yourself, they’re much more likely to share with you.
What’s the worst advice you ever followed?
For a long time, I didn’t think I could be a writer. When I would talk about it as a teenager, my parents were very supportive, but everyone else was like, “Good luck with that.” Of course, those voices are the ones you remember. Now that I know better, I’m very careful not to pass judgment when I’m talking to young people about what they want to do. It’s so easy to think, “That’s never going to happen.” But it’s super important to keep quiet and just listen.
Tell us about a book that had a big impact on you.
I first read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden on a canoeing trip with my husband, and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve reread it every couple of years since and can’t stop recommending it to people. It has so many real, relatable moments that remind me of a person I know or an experience I’ve had. And it’s based near San Francisco, so it also gives you some cool context on the history of California.
If you could interview one person, living or dead, who would it be?
Man, I find it really hard to choose. Kurt Vonnegut or Anthony Bourdain would be amazing. They both had a sort of harsh exterior, but I think it came from a place of kindness and sensitivity—they looked at the world with eyes wide open and cared deeply about what they saw.
I’d also love to interview Michelle Obama, just because I want to hang out with her every single day. She broke barriers, but was so open and vulnerable about the fact that it was tough to do. That’s something I deeply admire.
What unpopular opinion do you hold?
I don’t like chickpeas or peanut butter! I’m open to hummus, but chickpeas are somehow mushy and grainy at the same time. I would never want them on my salad. And peanut butter is just too much. It’s overwhelming.
What’s your next adventure?
My friends and I are hoping to go on a ski tour in Yosemite next year. You leave at sunrise, get to a hut hopefully by sunset, and then basically have a party. People pack in wine and food and cook these extravagant meals. You can only sign up through one of those “click the button at noon” online lotteries, and they only take 25 people per night. We have a group of 10, so we’re putting in for 10 spots and hoping for the best.