Name: Celeste Roberts
College and Majors/Minors: Nicholls State University - Class of May 2011 - English/Creative Writing with humanities and psychology minors
Current Location: Houma, LA
Current Form of Employment: Technical Writer for a Design & Construction Company and Monthly Contributing Writer for What Now Magazine
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I have worked for three years in Houma, LA, as a technical writer for Submar, Inc., a turnkey professional services company that identifies erosion problems and designs, manufactures, distributes, and constructs a variety of onshore and offshore erosion control solutions. I compose proposals after interpreting field survey forms, drafts of the project sites, and estimates. Each proposal features a site-specific solution to the erosion issue. I also edit legal documents, safety manuals, and company literature, and I track in-house and out-going projects. If a construction project is near our office, I sometimes visit the site with co-workers. In 2016, I started social media and company newsletter committees to showcase Submar's projects externally and internally.
I also freelance monthly as a feature writer for a local magazine, What Now, which shares information on events, shops, people, and restaurants in my hometown.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
My first job after graduating from college was in retail at a department store. I actively applied for various jobs while working and saving money. My ultimate goal was to teach English in Japan before settling in a career, but I knew I had to have a backup plan in case my dream didn't happen.
After six months of working in retail, I interviewed with Amity Corporation and accepted a teaching position in Tottori, Japan, where I lived and taught English for six months. It was a life-changing experience that built my confidence and showed me how important proper communication is. About four months after I returned home, I heard a former classmate was starting a local magazine, so I sent him a message and expressed my interest in contributing as a writer.
Shortly after, I accepted a job as the technical writer at Submar in March 2013 after submitting my resume for a completely different position. The manager interviewing me saw my portfolio and noticed my writing abilities, so he mentioned an unadvertised technical writing position if the company president approved (which he did!).
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I worked as a writing and French tutor for three years on campus. I assisted students from all disciplines and for all types of classes—English, business, culinary, Family and Consumer Sciences, biology... you name it! I helped many students who learned English as a second language, which challenged me to explain grammar rules and syntax a bit differently than I usually did for native English speakers. As writing tutors, we were not allowed to proofread and edit students' papers; we encouraged the student to read his or her paper aloud in order to identify any transition errors or content issues. Our job was to instill confidence and knowledge in "tutees" so that they could become more effective writers. My campus job taught me how to work with a variety of personalities and also how important knowing one's audience is. For example, the proposals I compose on a daily basis require technical language and terms specific to our clients while my feature stories for the magazine are more conversational and creative.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
In addition to working in the Tutorial and Academic Enhancement Center, I served as the president of English Society for two and half years and the editor of Mosaic, the campus literary magazine, for one year. I learned marketing and networking skills through my leadership positions. I helped to restructure English Society and market it to encourage more students to join, and now English Society is one of the most popular clubs on my alma mater's campus. I also developed camaraderie with my professors and showed them my determination to succeed within my degree program and in my future career.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
Become involved on campus with any clubs or organizations that interest you and could allow you to showcase your skills. Compile a portfolio of your best works to show potential employers; seek out freelance jobs for a magazine or newspaper to build your material. The "real world" needs your skills more than you realize. Co-workers, friends, family, and referrals reach out to me for editing and writing tasks or freelance jobs frequently. Your degree gives you the critical thinking skills, discipline, and communication proficiency not every degree program has. Writing is a skill that an employer does not have time to sit down and teach you; however, you can learn what your company is about and how to help it flourish with your abilities. Step outside of your comfort zone and apply wherever you can. You never know who will take notice of your resume and talents.