What I Wish I Knew as a Creative Writing Major
I thought I’d make a career out of writing. That’s what I went to college for. I majored in English: Creative Writing because I loved it. I enjoyed sitting in the classroom, talking to my peers about short stories and poetry… until my senior year rolled around.
What was after college? What was I going to do with this degree that I so loved pursuing? Could I really make a career out of writing?
I worked a slew of odd jobs and writing internships before I landed at Pearson as a Registrar Support Specialist, something I never imagined I’d be doing. Now that I’m 30 and working a job I enjoy, I look back on my college career wishing I had known a few things before graduating. Things like what jobs I could get with this degree and what skills should I be learning to better prepare me for life after college—because it turns out, life after college wasn’t anything like I’d imagined.
If you’re considering majoring in Creative Writing, here are a few things to keep in mind:
A Degree Doesn’t Always Mean A Job
The first question for any English major is “what do you hope to do with an English degree?” It’s a legitimate question and sometimes a hard one. What can one do with an English degree other than teach? Is a creative writing degree even marketable?
As a whole, the purpose of getting a college degree is not primarily about getting a job. The purpose of going to college is to educate yourself, grow as a person, and gain experience and knowledge that will last you a lifetime.
I don’t think I’d be writing this post or any of my past blog posts if I hadn’t pursued writing in college and worked as a writing intern for a couple years. However, I don’t think I would have ended up in my current position as a registrar support specialist—the job that actually pays my bills—if I hadn’t gotten 8+ years of administrative experience and a couple years of management experience alongside my degree.
Just because you’re getting a Creative Writing degree doesn’t mean you’ll end up as a best-selling author or poet. If you want to make yourself marketable for a wide array of jobs, consider gaining specialized experience alongside your writing education.
So, what are some creative job ideas for creative writing majors? Here are just a few ideas:
Marketing communications or copywriting
Web content writer or blogger
Social media specialist
Are you looking to get a college degree? Accelerated Pathways offers custom degree plans that allow students to achieve their degree and save money. Reach out to our student counselors to get more specialized degree guidance and information about our programs.
A note on freelancing
Thanks to the internet, the demand for freelance writers has grown. Some companies seek help for projects that require excellent writing and communication skills but don’t feel the need to hire someone full-time, so they turn to agencies and job boards that can get the word out. This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurial-minded writer.
A few such agencies are The Creative Group, Creative Circle, and 24 Seven. You simply give them your resume and portfolio, indicate what kind of work you’re looking for, and they dish out your resume to jobs that may be a good fit. You can also browse job opportunities on their websites on your own and send your resume.
Check job boards like Indeed or LinkedIn. You can often find someone looking for a writer, editor, or expert communicator for various reasons. Just make sure you do a bit of research into the job and/or the company so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
Learn Non-Writing Skills
I love writing short stories and poems. Some of my best college memories are writing stories for my peers to review or talking to my writing professor about how to be a better writer over burgers. The skills I learned by taking writing courses are skills that I cherish even years after graduation.
However, looking back, I wish I had learned more skills than just creative writing. There’s more to jobs and careers than just simply writing. A lot of other skills and knowledge are necessary as well.
For example, I wish I had learned more about marketing and branding. This may have opened up opportunities for me in marketing and communications. For instance, when I interned for a branding agency, I had no idea what Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was or what the difference was between user experience and user interface. Were these pertinent to my role there? Not really, but my co-workers talked about them a lot, and I often felt lost.
Writing is great but learn other things too.
Don’t take odd jobs for granted either. Before I landed my job at Pearson, I worked as a front desk agent at a hotel, as a receiving assistant manager in a grocery store, and had a temporary job for a standardized testing service. While none of these by any means are dream jobs, I learned valuable skills in customer service, administration, management, and communication.
These odd jobs can be good ways to learn other skills that can give you a leg up in the race for employment, and while learning new skills or improving them, these various jobs can also help give you a boost in creativity based on your everyday interactions or duties.
Use Your Minor to Specialize
Minors are another great way to get some perspective in other fields.
On average, a minor takes up approximately 15-18 credits and usually helps fill up elective space in your degree. Don’t fill yours with writing classes. Some minors I would recommend to someone majoring in creative writing are education, business (specifically marketing, if available), journalism, and communications. All of these fields require creative writing in some way, and they are fields you’re most likely to pursue after college.
But ultimately, minor in anything you’re interested in. This will help you learn more, and give you more to write about! Besides, following your interests is a great way to land a job you love.
You’ll hear a lot of negative things about internships, like how they don’t pay well (or at all) or don’t teach you enough. To be honest, these things are true. But don’t be so quick to throw out the opportunity.
There are many well-meaning companies offering college students the opportunity to learn practical, on-the-job skills, and sometimes an internship can be a stepping stone to something better.
Making the decision to pursue an internship can be tough, and it comes with risks. You may not make any money, you might be new to the field, and you seriously have no idea what you’re doing. So, here are things you can do when pursuing an internship:
Make a budget. Can you afford to do something for free with the hope of something better in the future? After all, you do need to eat and to pay for the gas to get to your internship.
Make a list of local companies that may offer internships in your desired field. This may include companies that require you to commute, which will affect the aforementioned budget.
Contact your advisor and/or professors. They may have some very helpful information and connections. Depending on your school, degree, or major, you may even be required to complete an internship for graduation.
Treat it just like searching for any other job. You’ll be competing with hundreds—maybe thousands—of other eager students like yourself. You can’t win them all, but you should be persistent, professional, and confident.
When you interview for an internship, listen and ask good questions. Make sure you understand what the interviewer is asking of you, and if you don’t know something, ask because you’re there to learn.
Pursue What You Value
When deciding on a major, a minor, side jobs, or any of the myriad of decisions you’ll make in college, it’s important to know what you want to do in the future and set goals. These goals will help orient you and make the decision-making process a lot easier.
But even more important than setting goals is defining your values. The things you value are the motivators for reaching your goals. These values answer the question of “why?” Why do you want to achieve this or that goal? Why is this goal important to you?
For example, as a writer, I want to get a short story published, a common goal that many writers share. The value (or the motivator to reach this goal) is that I want to tell people about the things I care about, struggle with, and think about, to share my story and my perspective. That value is true even as I write this blog post. If and when I achieve this goal, I will make a new goal, but my values will remain more or less consistent for months and years to come, possibly for the rest of my life.
It’s your values that will carry you through all of the writing, job searching, skill acquiring, and interning you can muster, not your goals. So, what do you value? How do those values motivate you to reach your goals or your dream job as it were?
As long as you consistently pursue what you value, no matter what other choices you make about your major, you’re guaranteed to walk toward a meaningful future career.
Learn more about how Accelerated Pathways can help you get an affordable English degree that also gives you the flexibility you need to build other important career skills at the same time.
Levi is a Registrar Support Specialist here at Pearson by day, short-story author by night. When he’s not working (or writing), you can find him playing board games with friends, playing guitar, watching tv with his wife, or eating a delicious home-cooked meal.
Jacob Paul’s 2010 debut novel, Sarah/Sara, was called one of that year’s five best first fictions by Poets & Writers. His second novel, A Song of Ilan, is forthcoming from Jaded Ibis Press in the spring of 2015. His work has also appeared, or is forthcoming, in Hunger Mountain, Western Humanities Review, Green Mountains Review, Massachusetts Review, Seneca Review, Mountain Gazette, and USA Today’s Weekend Magazine, as well as on The Rumpus and Numero Cinq. His scholarly interests focus on comparative postmodernisms and what might come after them. He holds a BA in Literature from SUNY Buffalo, an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from The University of Utah. He teaches English and Creative Writing at High Point University in North Carolina. Read Aaron J. Cance’s FWR interview with Jacob Paul, following the publication of Sarah/Sara. For more on Paul and his work, please visit his author website.
Hayden Carrón in Conversation with Jacob Paul on Adolfo García Ortega’s The Birthday Buyer
by Jacob Paul
“There’s no emotional implication for the writer or reader, but an opportunity to talk about horrors”: Jacob Paul and Hayden Carrón discuss Adolfo García Ortrega’s The Birthday Buyer in the context of the Spanish Holocaust novel.
Beautiful Soul: An American Elegy, by Joshua Corey
by Jacob Paul
“Like its predecessors, Beautiful Soul appears postmodern in its aesthetics and innovations in that it leverages devices common to the Nouveau Roman and Experimental Novel.”
Slouching Past Totality; Or, What a Post-Postmodern Holocaust Novel Might Be
by Jacob Paul
What might the post-postmodern, contemporary Holocaust novel look like, and what should it strive to do?
Brief, by Alexandra Chasin
by Jacob Paul
Alexandra Chasin’s second novel, Brief, takes the form of the oral legal brief of an unnamed and ungendered “J. Wanton,” a “vandella,” petitioning an also unnamed judge for clemency in an elided case of art vandalism.