There’s something comforting about those three little letters that precede the pre-professional majors at Emory. I’m talking about the pre-med, or the pre-business major, a title which assures the neophytic undergrad that leading up to graduation someone will be there to hold your hand through resumes, internships, research positions, med-school interviews, or jobs upon graduation. A universal sigh of relief echoes across the well-manicured Goizueta Business School lawn before ricocheting off its marble steps, as parents watch their well-dressed, well-prepared children, take on the world—resumes and cover-letters tucked neatly inside leather folders.
For a Creative Writing major like myself, this was never the case. There was no hand-holding, no interview advice, no technical preparation for what I wanted to do after college, and I was more or less clueless. At the end of my freshman year, I went to the career center, question marks in tow, without a clear idea about what I wanted to do. I wanted to write. I wanted an internship. At least I thought I did—isn’t that what I was supposed to do? The career center advisor did his best to direct me to job-hunting sites available to all college students, but having never held a real job aside from babysitting, I wasn’t exactly a prime candidate for the competitive writing internships I so desired.
I went home that summer hoping naively to find a summer job there—hopes that were soon crushed underfoot and smeared across my pathetic resume. My resume listed babysitting, as well as a smattering of petty high school achievements that held little to no value for an employer. I went to the mall and picked up an application from what seemed like every store I had ever set foot in—eleven in total. I applied to them all and heard back from three. Of those three that I interviewed at, I was selected for part-time—very part-time—employment at one of them, a popular lingerie retailer. A month into the summer I found two more part-time jobs as a typist in one doctor’s office, and a data-entering research assistant in another. I ended up working a lot that summer, but not in any way that I could conceivably imagine would end in a writing career.
Upon returning to school for my sophomore year, I declared my creative writing major with renewed hope of fostering a writing career. But when summer time approached, my former panic returned, and so did I—to the career center. They showed me the same sites as before, and I applied to seven or eight places, with no encouraging responses. Dooley’s week came and went, and the spring semester came to a close. I had no job prospects for the summer, and I wasn’t looking forward to training for the upcoming Fall Cross Country season in Florida’s blazing heat for the second summer in a row. I longed for the pre-professional assurance that if I completed X, Y, and Z, I would be rewarded with a job.
I scheduled the routine end-of-semester meeting with my new creative writing advisor to make sure I was on track to completing my major. As a newly declared creative writing major, I was unreasonably intimidated by my advisor, a soft-spoken professor, who appeared infinitely wise, and knowledgeable beyond my sophomore comprehension. However, I was put at ease by his soft southern drawl, and kind eyes. At the end of our short meeting, my advisor asked what I had planned for the summer, and I shared with him my disappointing failure at obtaining an internship. He asked where I had applied, and, after listing off the places which had deemed me unfit to serve them coffee, I was quite unexpectedly let in on a departmental secret: Emory’s Creative Writing professors are very well-connected in the writing community. In fact, one of the most influential writing shadows in Atlanta was cast by, none other, than my own advisor. He told me to send him the contact information of the places I had applied to intern in Atlanta, and he e-mailed each and every one of them on my behalf. Within a matter of days, I had messages in my inbox from my top three dream internships, and I spent that summer in Atlanta as an editorial intern for Creative Loafing.
After completing my first real internship, my job search gained momentum, and I was able to get an internship every semester thereafter until I graduated. I worked as a marketing intern for the Georgia Lake Society, and offered my writing services as a textbook writing aid the following semester. After the textbook was published I got an internship writing for Gulf Coast Blog (www.gulfcoastblog.org), run by the Center for Gulf Coast Sustainability (CGCS), a not-for-profit start-up dedicated to preserving the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. and alleviating its environmental shortcomings. As a Gulf Coast resident from Clearwater, FL, I not only shared the organization’s passion for the region, but I was able to nourish my passion for writing as well. Over time, the CGCS was transformed into an incorporated sustainable business-consulting firm, and my writing blossomed along with it. I watched the blog grow from a one-page template to a business hosting an informative blog, with social media, videos, and physical business office.
Upon graduating early in December 2011, I was promoted to Editor-in-Chief of the blog, and I was able to hire three interns of my own to renew the website’s content each month. I continue to assign my interns current topics relevant to the Gulf Coast under the categories of Travel & Culture, Sustainable Business, and Political Correspondence, and I edit their articles before they are posted onto the blog. The blog is a testament, not only to my growth as a writer, but more importantly, my transformation from a student looking for an internship to a newly-grad, showcasing my work on the web.
Although Emory does a wonderful job guiding its pre-professional majors to post-graduate success, there are many ways in which the rest of the student body can receive the professional guidance they need. We often forget that it is the success and expertise of our professors that got them their current positions at Emory in the first place. In the real world, people don’t offer you their help in these situations, and they definitely don’t hold your hand—that only happens at Emory. The students who are proactive enough to ask teachers and advisors for help, are the ones most equipped to handle the professional void that awaits them upon graduation. In my case, I was lucky enough to have an advisor willing to offer his help without my asking, and I will be forever grateful for this—one of the most important lessons I learned during my time at Emory.
[This article was originally published in the Emory Alumni Association blog, The Post : http://eaavesdropping.emory.edu/2012/04/15/advice-from-a-newly-graduated-creative-writing-major/]