A few weeks into starting college as a Chemistry Major for Pre-Optometry, I quickly learned that it was not the path for me. So, I declared English and spent a year where I started before transferring to Northern Kentucky University. This was the best decision of my life for many reasons. Just outside of Cincinnati, my new school was the land of opportunity – which I desperately needed. Beneath the crippling question of “What can I do with my degree?” I began to panic. That is, until I learned these 7 things through landing an internship in Development Writing at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center! For those who may not know what development writing is, development is important because it fundraises to support all areas of the hospital to both sustain and improve care.
1. Use Your University’s Career Services.
NKU’s Career Services is magical and all the workers there are fantastic. They really, truly care about us as students and want to see us succeed. They help with career planning, resume writing, interview practice and more! I’m positive that if I had not utilized all that they offer I would not have been placed in my internship. In fact, it was on my university’s job board that I found it.
2. Audience Matters
As an English Major, the focus of my studies is on the Rhetorical Situation. According to Lloyd Bitzer, every Rhetorical Situation has three main components: exigence, audience and constraints. As a Development Writer, when I draft Letters of Intent/Inquiry (LOIs) and proposals, my audience is the donor. The exigence, or problem needing addressed, is whatever project for which I am asking funding. The constraints are the funding interests and focuses of the donor. Development writing is never really about the need, it is always about the donor and how they can make a difference. This is why knowing the audience is extremely important.
3. Experience is Experience is Experience
Sometimes during my internship I work on huge grant proposals. Other times I spend days stuffing envelopes. As an English Major, I’d always rather be writing. Stuffing envelopes was not part of my job description when I was hired, but I’m beginning to learn a lot about how Development works this way. There’s more to it than just asking for and receiving money as relationships need to be made and maintained to keep the funding coming. This is why it’s important to keep the donors updated about the hospital through mailings and I’m learning that there is no such thing as bad experience. Especially when it’s paid!
4. Your Professors Were Right
During Syllabus Week, professors often say that no late assignments are accepted. That’s because they’re not. As I stated earlier, Development is all about the donor. What they say goes because it’s their money. When they set deadlines it’s very important for proposal writers and project leads to adhere to the donor’s timeline. This is because if a deadline is missed, then the donor has every right to deny funding. What’s worse is if a grant has already been awarded and a reporting deadline is missed, then the money can even be taken away! Development is a very time-sensitive business.
5. Some Days Are Easier Than Others
I’ve never been as happy or as stressed as I am at my internship. Working at a not-for-profit organization means that I get to contribute to really important work that helps save lives. However, it also means that my internship comes with a lot of pressure. Failure to write grant-winning proposals means that the hospital doesn’t receive the funding it needs and this is definitely not an internship for the faint of heart. However, I believe that nothing worth having comes easy and I believe that is true of all internships.
6. Luck Has Nothing To Do With It
As an intern, I get told a lot that I’m “lucky” even though I’m not. I earned my internship as a result of my hard work. It’s not something I found at the end of a rainbow one day, it’s something I looked for weeks to find. I continually hold the argument that English Majors are some of the hardest working students in any university. This is because we practice daily all the skills that employers seek. We know how to meet deadlines, collaborate, communicate and receive criticism. Most importantly, though, we as English Majors know rhetoric.
7. I Can Do Anything With My Degree
If it wasn’t obvious by my leading question “What can I do with my degree?” I’m an extremely anxious individual. I’m always looking to the future and how I can secure success. This internship, though, has taught me that it’s not always about the future. Sometimes it’s important to focus on the moment at hand, and in this moment I am an intern. At the end of the day, internships are all about learning. I’m learning about Development, writing and myself.
Thanks to the combination of my internship and Dear English Major, I’m learning that as an English Major, I can do anything I want with my degree. And so can you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Shannon Winter begins her final semester of undergrad this week at Northern Kentucky University where she majors in English with a track in Writing Studies and she minors in Public Service. She recently finished her yearlong internship with Cincinnati Children's and is about to begin a co-op with the City of Cincinnati. Shannon lives in Northern Kentucky with her longtime boyfriend and their two cats. She loves pop-punk music, donuts, and Parks and Recreation. Feel free to follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.