Refined Editing Skills to Boost a Writing Career

Sequence graduate Lia Mezzio gains promotion in the field of institutional giving

Use the right word.”

Oakland native Lia Mezzio says her mother—an English major who taught her early on to love reading, writing and languages—“was fond of saying that with a thesaurus in hand.”

During Lia’s high school experience at Oakland School for the Arts, her teachers introduced her to nonprofit organizations Youth Speaks and 826 Valencia in San Francisco. “Between the two,” Lia adds, “I engaged in numerous after-school writing workshops and open mics, had the opportunity to contribute to the compilation of Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006 and was published in an issue of the Iceland Review!” 

When it came time to pursue her undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley, Lia majored in political science and minored in peace and conflict studies—but a career involving writing was still her goal.

“My degree was strongly influenced by the major political events of my adolescence: September 11th and the Iraq War,” Lia explains. “I was interested in working for progressive nonprofits on campaigns and advocacy, and journalism and speech writing for elected officials were also very interesting to me.”

These interests gained traction during an internship where Lia provided publicity and fundraising support for the Oakland Food Policy Council.

“I learned more about local government and politics and utilized my writing and editing skills to produce monthly newsletters and press releases that focused on local, state, national and global food policy issues,” she says. “My writing and editing skills also came in handy when corresponding with the organization’s donors and other stakeholders—including candidates for Oakland’s mayor at the time!”

Lia’s next political-science career venture took her to Arizona in 2011.

Working to Empower

“I chose to take the position of a campus organizer with the Arizona chapter of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) to build my skill set in electoral strategy and other civic engagement,” Lia tells me. “Fun fact: Former president Barack Obama took this same job with the same organization but in Chicago shortly following his college graduation!”

This experience wasn’t about following in some big political footsteps, though. Lia used the opportunity to further explore what a writing career in politics would entail: “I used my writing and editing skills to write scripts, encouraging community members to sign petitions and make donations.”

A year later and back in Oakland, Lia’s career in political-science writing took a hit. Tapping into another goal of creating a more peaceful and just country, Lia became an Americorps national volunteer coordinator for their college track division and a community engagement coordinator for their reading partners.

“Confounded by the Great Recession and its limited job openings,” Lia imparts, “I found entering the field of politics, et cetera, difficult without a mentor or a network. All the travel and relocation was difficult for me, so I pivoted my career direction to education where I found there were more easily accessible opportunities. I also learned more about what under-resourced and underrepresented students and their families face on their own paths to success and well-being.”

Sought out by a former teacher of hers, in 2014 Lia also became a writing consultant and editor for My Writing Professor, roles she still maintains today. “My responsibilities include college admissions advising and helping prospective undergraduate and graduate students with their personal statements for their school applications. I also had the opportunity to edit manuscripts of first-time authors who have gone on to self-publish.”


The editing professional sequence certainly taught me new depths in grammar, composition, et cetera, that I have used to help my clients!”


In addition to her experience with the college writing website, she also volunteered as a tutor with Americorps’ Reading Partners and worked as a program tutor at the YMCA-PG&E Teen Center. Mentoring can be a great way to help others excel in a field or their career, and it is important to Lia to pay it forward.

“I was raised with a strong ethic of service, and I witnessed a lot of educational inequity growing up in Oakland where I attended both private and public schools,” she says. “Fellow students who unlike me never got the opportunity to attend private schools earlier on were behind grade level in their academics and other skills by the time we were all in a public high school together. I saw tutoring as a natural way that I could pay it forward and empower others to reach their potential and contribute to the best of their ability.”

Hitting Her Career Stride

By June 2019, Lia was working as a development assistant at Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland where she assisted the president and board in their annual fund campaign, donor cultivation, grants management and fundraising events. For those activities, she wrote original content, grants, reports and requests, among other communication, in order for the organization to meet the financial goals to support their mission.

“I was exposed to grant writing and other donor-facing communication,” she tells me. “I figured I could excel if I had an extra layer of education in the writing and editing field that taught me how to be more persuasive and polished in my fundraising communications.”

She began to consider continuing education options for herself and registered for our Professional Sequence in Editing.


Because of the Professional Sequence in Editing, I was a stronger candidate for the job.”


Although Lia had hoped to meet her instructors and fellow students in person, our editing professional sequence is only offered in an online format, which proved beneficial for Lia in terms of timing and the pandemic. “All my classmates were wonderful to network with, and I use LinkedIn to keep in touch with them.

“The Professional Sequence in Editing helped me to write winning grants—six-figures and above—and other compelling cases for support of Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland,” Lia asserts. “My responsibilities in grant-based fundraising increased during my studies.

“My consultant work at My Writing Professor is primarily about editing and helping clients learn to be great writers themselves. The editing professional sequence certainly taught me new depths in grammar, composition, et cetera, that I have used to help my clients!”

Lia found Grammar, Mechanics and Usage for Editors—the first course in the sequence—to be her favorite and most relevant to her own needs.

“Knowing the ‘rules of the road’ so much better than before gave me more confidence and efficiency in my professional writing and editing tasks,” she says.

And, a paid role with Oakland Promise was one of Lia’s career goals now that she had the road map, too.

A Promising Future

“I trust that because of the Professional Sequence in Editing, I was a stronger candidate for the job I went to right after, at Oakland Promise, where I went from being a nonprofit development generalist to a grant writing specialist.”


I certainly have more confidence in my abilities given the editing program, and my employer has reflected that by promoting me from coordinator to associate manager within my first year on the job.”


Already volunteering as a mentor with the organization to boost her résumé while she completed the editing program, Lia was eager to be hired by Oakland Promise and continue to help others thrive. Once their development coordinator, Lia utilized her newly refined editing skills, making a smooth career transition.

“I am able to write grants with much more ease and proficiency,” she says. “I am also called upon to do a lot of proofreading for my colleagues, a contribution I am proud of and enjoy doing. At my workplace I am basically the editor in chief, even though that is not a job title for anyone here. I am now an integral part of the Oakland Promise team!”

Her title today is associate manager of institutional giving. Fundraising communications for her organization continue to be boosted by Lia’s knowledge, her writing ability and the editing skills gained from the program.

“I definitely apply the skills I acquired in the editing sequence to write grants and correspond with internal and external stakeholders at my organization,” she relates. “I would most strongly point out that given the volume of grant writing I do—about 30 to 40 projects a year—being able to write and edit fluently is very helpful!”

Looking back on her career journey, Lia knows completing courses in editing has contributed to her advancement. She also thinks that anyone who finds themselves at a career crossroads can benefit from furthering their education and knowledge and shouldn’t let self-doubt get in the way.

“I certainly have more confidence in my abilities given the editing program, and my employer has reflected that by promoting me from coordinator to associate manager within my first year on the job,” she points out.

“Advice? Go for it! If you are discouraged by cost, time or doubt, I will simply say the return on investment worked for me. The Professional Sequence in Editing was personally and professionally an asset to my education and career.”