Name: Casey Brown
College & Majors/Minors: I attended Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. My major was in English with a concentration in Creative and Professional Writing; my minor was in Psychology.
Current Location: Oklahoma
Current Form of Employment: Institutional Grant Writer
Where do you work and what is your current position?
My current position is with my alma mater, Cameron University, as the Institutional Grant Writer.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
While I was a non-traditional students and worked for several years as blackjack, craps, and poker dealer before entering college, this job is the first that required an English degree. I heard about it because I was actively looking for jobs at my school. I wanted to give back to the place that had helped transform my life for the better. This job materialized and my boss at the time (I was working as a student English tutor at the Center for Writers) heard about it and told me. I applied and interviewed for the Institutional Grant Writer position during my last semester of college. It was lucky timing. I had been looking for a job for about a year at that point and had had many close calls. For example, I had a job offer that I accepted that was later pulled due to extenuating circumstances. Therefore, I was scrambling when I heard about my current position. Very lucky timing!
I also freelance as an editor and proofreader on Fiverr. I found out about that site, which is an innovative marketplace, from one of my classmates. She praised the site, and since I knew and trusted her, I looked into it for myself. It really is a very useful way to supplement my income, so I'm glad she pointed it out to me. Working there on the side allows me to help pay for travel to read my creative writing, which I otherwise might not be able to afford.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I think that all of the internships and student worker positions I had as an undergraduate were very important to my writing career. As I mentioned, I worked as a student tutor. I did that for three years, and I also worked as an editor for multiple publications: the Gold Mine, the in-house literary magazine, the Oklahoma Review, a national literary magazine, and the Cameron Collegian, a weekly newspaper. I also did reviews and contributed to other publications such as the Oklahoma Review, CyberSoleil, and Cuento Magazine.
When working for the Oklahoma Review, I volunteered to do layout and taught myself how to lay out a publication on Microsoft Word. I also did layout for the newspaper, which taught me how to use Adobe InDesign. All of those experiences shaped my voice as a writer, provided me with items for my resume, and taught me important life and work skills, such as the software experience, how to write professional emails, how to manage my time as a professional (which is different from how a student manages her time, at least in my experience), and how to sell my work. They also taught me how to be a good and respectful editor, which I absolutely love doing. If it weren't for those opportunity, I don't know that I ever would have discovered how much I love working with my fellow writers. I also built in publishing credits in my undergraduate years that are paying off now.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I paid attention, asked questions, learned how to write a resume and cover letter, learned how to sell my English skills for non-writing jobs. I visited the career center as much as possible, too. They were very helpful in providing me with a refresher on interview skills, job leads, and much more. If you have such resources available to you at your school or something similar in your community, use them!
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
For students, I would recommend making as many connections with your classmates, professors, and visiting writers as possible. Those connections will help you in one way or another, often in unimaginable ways, once you've graduated. The best possible advice I can give to students is to say yes to every opportunity you have to hear a visiting writer, work on a publication, attend open mics and literary festivals and symposiums, workshop someone else's writing, participate in an internship, and otherwise set yourself up for future success and support your local literary community. It is our charge to be active citizens of the literary community; if we don't take care of it, who will? It is tough to participate in those types of things when you are tired and stressed from your schoolwork, your family, your jobs, but challenge yourself to say yes to more of these types of things when at all possible.
To graduates my advice is to, after an appropriate amount of time has passed, revisit your undergraduate work (creative writing and/or essays and/or other work). Consider revising and submitting it for publication. I would also encourage those of you who have not found a job that uses your degree yet to not lose hope. Do not be discouraged. Keep looking, keep reading, keep writing. It is a myth that English major don't get jobs. Also, I advise students to join any organizations on campus such as Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society.