Sunday, 16 September 2012

Guest Post: Three Things I Never Expected to Do with My Creative Writing Degree

Today another guest, Angelita Williams, pops by to share some of her writing experience:

3 Things I Never Expected to Do with My Creative Writing Degree

Every year, thousands of students across the country flock to colleges and universities in pursuit of higher education. Some pursue degrees in science, others study math and then there's the few who gravitate toward the writing and literary disciplines. I, myself, was part of that last group when I was a student fresh out of high school. All my life I had loved to write, so declaring a major in creative writing seemed like a no-brainer.

Sure, I heard all the horror stories and warnings about choosing such a non-specific field, but what did I care? I was 18 and ready to take on the world. All that job stuff would figure itself out later, I had learning and living to do. Besides, why would I force myself to switch to a major like engineering or accounting when all of my friends studying those subjects were downright miserable all of the time?

So I stuck it out, and graduated right on time with a pristine creative writing degree in hand. As many graduates are, I was a mess of mixed emotions—part excited, part relieved and part TERRIFIED about my future. Compared to the friends I mentioned before who pursued more traditional paths, I was a bit directionless when I graduated. They all had jobs lined up, or knew exactly what grad schools they'd be going to, but I, on the other hand was still desperately applying for any job I could find that even remotely required my writing skills.

Luckily it all worked out, but little did I know then that I would end up happy in a lucrative job doing what I love. I held a lot of random jobs, missed a few opportunities and did some downright strange things before I made it, and just want the college students and recent grads of today to realize that.

Below is a list of three of the most unexpected things I did before I got to this point in my career.

Helped Cover Up a Corporate Scandal

Since it's the one I'm probably least proud of, I figured I'd better get it out of the way first. For a brief stint right out of college, I landed a job with one of the largest engineering firms in the world at the time. I was hired as a writer/editor for their communications department and, although I wasn't exactly a fan of what the company did, I loved my specific job. I spent the majority of my days editing marketing materials, writing and researching articles and interviewing industry-leading decision makers, all to help develop promotional content.

Sure I couldn't get too creative, but I was getting paid to write—and getting paid well at that. Ask anyone who longs to be a writer and they already know a not-so-impressive paycheck comes with the territory. So I definitely felt I had hit the jackpot, until I started noticed some questionable things going on around the office.

Executives were always on edge. Our media relations department was working around the clock and we all started receiving random inquiries from outside parties—journalists, lawyers, the like. Turns out, one of our big wigs had been engaging in some less-than-legal activities during his time overseas, and there was evidence to prove it.

Suddenly, instead of writing about project updates or community activities, I was drafting damage control press releases, engaging in media training and deliberately omitting details from documents in the interest of the company. The stress finally got to me and I threw in the towel, because ethically, I knew what I was doing was wrong.

I was using my writing skills to mislead the public all for the sake of the mighty dollar, disgust doesn't even begin to describe what I felt toward myself. So, I cut my ties with the company and to this day know it was the right thing to do. Talk about an unexpected job. Thankfully the others are much more entertaining and less gut-wrenching.

Write for a Number-One Radio Show

Shortly after my stint in Corporate America, I found myself working for one of the biggest media groups in my city. They owned several radio stations and even an ad firm, and I worked in their promotions department. My primary job was to assist with events and giveaways the stations coordinated, until one day I was asked to fill in as a "sidekick" during a live broadcast. The host's usual partner had gotten unexpectedly sick and they needed a female voice to go over the air. Being the only girl in the area that was employed by the company they threw me a set of headphones and a microphone and shoved me on-air.

The broadcast wasn't exactly smooth at first, but as it progressed I got more comfortable and subsequently let my personality shine through. The host was impressed, but more importantly so was the program director. Later that week he arranged a meeting with me and told me to stop wasting my time in the promotions department. He felt I had raw talent and real wit that their top-rated morning show could use.

So the next week, I was working from 4 in the morning until noon, writing show content, interview questions and more for the city's number-one radio show. It was such a whirlwind. I couldn't believe that not even a month ago I was lugging around station equipment and now my words that I had WRITTEN were being heard by thousands of people all around me. To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.

At the time, if I had had my choice I would have stayed there forever, but unfortunately, as is the nature of that business, my run was shorter than I would have liked. The show eventually lost its draw and ratings slipped. Before I knew it contracts weren't being renewed and my professional future was once again up in the air. I eventually lost my job, but the company offered me a part-time position so that I could stick around in case something else opened up. However, I knew then and there this was NOT an industry I wanted to stay with. Sure it was fun while it lasted, but I could never see myself continuously dealing with that sort of instability and uncertainty , which brings me to my next position.

Draft Text Messages for My Boss

After my stint with radio, I decided I was much better suited for an average, everyday desk job. Sure radio was exciting, but I knew I needed to be somewhere stable for my growing family. So I took a job as a personal assistant for a very rich, very old oil executive. At first, the bulk of my work centered around scheduling and memos—then he decided to get a smartphone.

Some of you might be thinking this is great, good for him for embracing technology. Only problem was I was the one who got stuck with the task of teaching him how to use it. During my time there he never really caught on, but that was no surprise to me. A majority of my days would be spent with his phone in hand, typing out texts as he dictated them to me—yeah, exciting I know. I had a hard time believing this guy was for real. But, I guess when you've got that much money you don't really care anymore.

Needless to say that job didn't exactly work out either. I quit shortly after that and now find myself here, doing what I love—writing.

This piece is not meant to deter future students from pursuing their passions, but rather serve as a window into reality. No, you will likely not land that perfect job right after college and no, you will not make an amazing salary right off the bat, but with a little persistence and hard work you just might be able to do what you love for a living. Isn't that what we're all after anyway?


Angelita Williams is a freelance writer and education enthusiast. She strives to instruct her readers and enrich their lives and welcomes you to contact her at angelita.williams7@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments.

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