What is Drastic + Dramatic

Saturday, December 28, 2013

From Degree to Career: A UVU Success Story

I started my UVU education with a decided Creative Writing interest and over the years, thanks to the excellent English Department staff, I developed a great passion for language in all its applications. In addition to my creative courses I received a Technical Certification which ultimately made all the difference in my career path. I graduated April 2013, participated in a post-graduation, paid internship, and started searching for a job September 2013. 

Here's proof that I graduated ;)
When the stress of two solid months of job hunting, resume revision, vast networking, daily monitoring of job sites, a dozen applications submitted, a few flop interviews, and abrasive self-polishing culminated with a month-long illness, I finally realized I was experiencing what they all said I might—the real world. For an English major who views herself with average skills and average gumption, the real world is initially ugly and destructive to the confidence. It's far more romantic when viewed from within those poetic university walls. 

Despite dwindling confidence, still I knew I had highly applicable skills, admirable creative powers, and I was confident in my real-world experience gained from five separate internships. However, when November arrived I was, in every way, down, to say the least. But I kept pushing myself, if for no other reason than I had no other option. In my searching I came across an article whose author expressed similar difficulty to find a job and he gave some tips. I followed one tip: Ask everyone. You never know who doesn't know they have a lead for you until you ask.

While I had thus far been beefing up my LinkedIn profile and reaching out to professors for leads, I had neglected one very obvious resource: Facebook. It's so obvious I just hadn't seen what it is (a social networking site) for what it could be (a job networking resource). While I had used Facebook to toot my graduation horn and to tell people about my great internship, I had for some reason neglected to share my job-hunt woes with my Facebook adherents. I took a humbling moment to undress in front of my peers, tell them I was struggling and in need of any leads, clicked "post" and hoped for the best.

Within minutes a friend (who had just had a baby, mind you, and had so many other important things she could do) took 3 seconds to reply to me about her sister-in-law who had posted about an open position at her work place, a sales copywriter, someone to write about food. Hello, perfect. I researched the company, delighted when I saw it wasn't an MLM company, tweaked my resume to represent my most applicable skills, and sent in an application. That was Saturday night.

Knowing full well they wouldn't see my resume until Monday morning at the earliest, still I couldn't resist dropping by the following Monday and asking to learn more about the company. I talked to the main HR lady and we had a very pleasant conversation. She mentioned how the Director of Marketing would be looking into interview during the week. I left with great hopes.

I didn't hear back. By Thursday my hopes had turned to panicked desperation. I had to do something or this opportunity would simply, quietly, agonizingly pass me by and my life would continue just the way it had been. I had to take my fate into my own hands. I got the number for the Director of Marketing and called. She didn't answer, so I left a message that essentially said, "Hi, I've applied for your available writing position and I have been hoping for just such a position for so long. I haven't heard back from any of my recent applications, but I really want this job, so I'm calling to fight for a chance to interview for this position. Thanks."

Later that day she called me back. We set up an interview for the next day. My insides twisted with every imaginable feeling between desire and despair, but when the interview came, I was confident, spewed naturally with creative passion (that I'd built at UVU, that's the truth!), and what would you know, instead of making me wait until Monday to hear back from the HR lady, the Director set up my second interview with her right then for the next Monday. She would decide whom to hire after she got back into town. She would be leaving after my interview and getting back Wednesday. Wow! Did I ever get the last-chance interview or what?

I did research for the average Utah salary for sales copywriters, did a little interviewing practice with my brother, and I showed up Monday armed and ready. I was so confident . . . and then she told me it was down to me and one other candidate. I think I may have preferred not to know that. To come THAT close and lose out would hurt. But I knew I had been myself, prepared myself, and had nothing to regret in my initiative to go after a position I REALLY wanted.

Wednesday came. I was trying to keep my mind busy by writing on one of my many blogs when I heard my phone chime. It was the chime tune that meant I had received an email in my professional inbox. My heart leapt, time slowed, and I calmly reached for the device that held the literal fate of my life. The moment I saw: 

"Hi Emily,
Attached is a job offer from Food For Health International...."

I thrust my phone into the air like a victor's trophy and burst into tears. ha ha.

I now have a salary position as a sales copywriter with Food for Health International. I have been there a month and a half and have recognized with surprising clarity where so many of my skills learned at UVU are being applied in the "real world."

In school, we often don't think these movements we mimic to fulfill assignments will in fact become legitimate skills used to accomplish a professional need. In my job now I see even some of the earliest movements I learned at UVU in real application. Writing in different voices to different audiences—I use that every day. Revision—oh, if I could have realized how crucial that practice is in the real world, I would have taken paper revision so much more seriously. These aren't just assignments to give us work that earns grades, they are practice to give us skills that earn paychecks. I'm glad for a constant push for revision in school, because as a professional (!) writer now, I'm constantly revising, and it doesn't scare me because I already knew how hard it was to revise academic papers, so I knew I could do it.

I'm so grateful for my diverse and well-organized education at UVU (and above all, for my generous Grandma who made it all possible!).

I want to pitch two cents into the internship collection tray. As early as 2010 I started looking into getting internship credit. Worried I might not run into enough applicable opportunity, I actually created my first internship. I proposed to revise and edit the tour guide commentary manual for the company I worked for during summers. The proposal was approved and I used my spare time that summer to hone my research, revision, and writing skills.

From there I went on to apply for internal and external internships, securing two of each in my remaining years at UVU. The on-campus opportunities are so awesome. The English advisory staff wants us to expand ourselves AND the opportunities. I have watched the Touchstones Editor-in-Chief internship evolve and expand in graceful fashions in the years I was involved with the journal. It is supremely satisfying to know I was a part of that movement during my time at the university.

My external internships gave me professional world experience that was truly invaluable. I found out about the first, an editing internship with Deseret Book, through a UVU professor's connection to BYU. The other I found just following signs on campus, up to the meeting room where they talked about the opportunity. I know that I secured these internship positions because, through my UVU education, I gained experience in the field to qualify and confidence in myself to interview. 

I even modeled for a cover during my Deseret Book employment. So cool.
To those about to face the real world, I say, be ready to keep working hard! Expect resistance and don't give up, especially on what you want. To those still discovering what their passions are, I say, don't just mimic, absorb! You will use the skills no matter how small they may seem now. There's plenty to fear in our economy, but education is worth every effort and penny, and it will prepare you for a beautiful ride into the professional scene. No matter how much education you get, make it count. It will pay off if you use it.
Glasses aren't function, they're metaphorical: The Future Is Bright!

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