Jess Deyo

Photo by Griffin Winters

Today’s Shero Spotlight is one of my best friends, Jess Deyo! I met Jess in a journalism class a few years ago, and she has been one of my biggest mentors and inspirations since then. From graduating a year early as a first-generation student to interning with Ohio Magazine and now to working as an associate at RevLocal, Jess is killing it in her field. I am SO excited to have her on the blog today!

When did you first become interested in journalism?
Well, it was tough because a lot of high schools have some form of a journalism class where they talk about journalism. But for me, growing up in a really small town, we didn’t have anything but English and I didn’t even take English in person for the last two years of high school. So, I actually had no idea what journalism was until a month before college started and the reason I got interested in it was because Snapchat started doing Cosmo stories on the app and they did that with all of the women’s health magazines. So originally, I was like, Oh, that’s just English, but then I figured out that’s journalism. So, once I saw that, and I realized what it was, I didn’t have some groundbreaking revelation that I wanted to be a reporter, but I knew I wanted to tell stories. 

How did you find your niche in terms of topics you like  to write about?
I wrote for Backdrop magazine for three years and I started out kind of covering everything from campus events to plays and performances. It honestly wasn’t even until the end of my second year when I started figuring out what my niche was, because at the end of my second year, I started covering women’s issues. At the beginning of my third year was when I wrote about sexual assault on two different occasions and then I figured out that that’s not the only big issue that I liked writing about. So, the rest of my time at Ohio University I could argue that all of my stories were about poverty, drug use and things like that. 

How did your first introduction to magazines like Cosmo turn into a passion for writing about social justice issues? 
I liked Cosmo because it was a lifestyle publication, but it was focused more on how to have the perfect lifestyle. I liked the idea of telling people’s stories, but once I started looking around learning about the world and taking classes, I figured out that nobody’s perfect. I started thinking, how can I normalize their stories? How can I normalize discussing the lifestyle and struggles of someone who’s addicted to drugs? We should be talking about these issues more than we should be talking about what to make for your husband on a Sunday brunch. 

From your experience, what advice would you give to first generation students?
As a first-gen student I literally didn’t know how to apply for college, where to apply to, what my options were, what majors were offered or even what a bachelor’s degree was versus a master’s degree … I always emphasize to other first-gen students that it’s okay to be in debt because most of the time if your parents don’t go to school, they’re not going to be owing thousands of dollars to a university. 

Photo by John Pierron

What was your most memorable experience from your internship at Ohio Magazine?
My most memorable experience from Ohio Magazine was the easiest thing I did for my internship, but it was the most enjoyable. It was written for 42+ Magazine, and I had a story that was in their print issue and I made a quiz about if you really understand the difference between like whisky and whiskey and other types of alcohol. It was really fun and I got to share it with my parents and it was like a huge appeal to dads everywhere. Overall, I really enjoyed interning with Ohio Magazine because there were only three people I would routinely see when I was there so I got to know the staff on a personal level. 

When you were job hunting, what were some of the obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?
My biggest obstacle that I had to overcome, first and foremost, is just that nobody would respond to me. Sharing my resume, my clips and putting time into applying and then  getting no response was frustrating  … So when I was looking for a job, I honestly felt so beaten down and not good enough because nobody would even say no to me. Also, I struggled because of my age, which I knew was going to be a little bit of a challenge because I graduated when I was 20. But, I was in an interview and someone actually said that I wouldn’t have enough knowledge to share with the team because I would have the same experience as an intern basically implied that my degree meant nothing and graduating at 20 is not really that big of a deal … You don’t want to be talked to like that especially when you put in a serious amount of work and a serious amount of money into your education. 

What advice would you give to other post-grad girls who may be in your same position when applying for jobs?
I would say just remember all of the qualities that you bring to the table and that you’re not missing out on somebody who won’t reply to you, they’re missing out on you. So, it’s really their loss, it’s not your loss. Even go as far as to journal about that a little bit. I would find myself writing down not just my career qualities that I bring to the table but also about who I am and why I am enough. Sometimes you will feel terrible, and that’s normal. So, really take time for yourself and don’t lose track of how far you’ve come. 

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As a senior studying magazine journalism at Ohio University and a passionate feminist, I created Freely Femme as a way to use my love for storytelling to highlight some of the most inspirational women in my personal life and beyond.

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