College to Career

Curious about what happens after graduating with your degree? You can spend time googling career options but we think it might be easier if you browse through what remarkable things our alumni are up to.

These recent graduates are #goals and have some advice to share with you! Learn about their transition from college to a career, what their daily work life looks like and how they set themselves apart from the competition.

Check out our feature of the week below or view all features.

Meet Rachael Wright, '11 

Courtesy of Courtney Jacobs Photography
Courtesy of Courtney Jacobs Photography 

Author, Rachael Wright LLC
BA History & BA Political Science

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My days are divided into two camps: writing a first draft and editing. While writing a first draft, I write from 9am to 1pm and aim for four thousand words. This is an exercise in both ignoring myself and immersing myself in the story. First drafts are unpolished, often terrible, but a quick way to get the entire story down on paper. After I’ve completed the word count for the day I will spend an hour or so working on my website, blogging, marketing or my social media accounts. If however, I am editing a draft then my days are much more structured. I edit a novel at least four times before it’s ready for my copyeditor. My first edits are largely done to correct plot holes and any glaring issues with the structure of the novel (i.e. too many secondary characters). After the first edit is completed I send the draft off to Beta Readers who send me their thoughts on the novel and any issues that they’ve seen. After the Beta Readers finish I begin adding layers of character development, adding a local flavor to the setting, flushing out adverbs, and superfluous words.

A typical day editing looks like this: 8:30 read through an entire chapter, making notes and determining what needs to be changed; 9:00-12:00 input changes into the Scrivener app that I work on, 12:30-1:30 short break for lunch, 1:30-4:30 research for novel (police procedures, layout of streets, read Greek newspapers) as well as preparing for tomorrow’s chapter. At 5:00 I leave to pick up my daughter and at this point I’m finished for the day, although I will print and read through a chapter in the evening, to prepare for tomorrow’s work.

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career?

The majority of my preparation came from fantastic faculty. Regardless of what gorgeous buildings or fantastic sports complexes or gyms colleges build, the heart of what makes a ‘good’ degree are the professors. Three professors contributed inordinately to my success; Dr. Vincent Patarino, Dr. Tim Casey, and Dr. Douglas O’Roark. Dr. Patarino has twice now edited my query letters for literary agents and sat with me discussing everything regarding the publishing business and the ways in which my novels could improve. I double majored in History and Political Science and the sheer amount of books to be read, essays to be written and primary source documents to be mined for relevant information was, at times, vastly overwhelming. However, it was this discipline, this work that transformed me into the writer I am today. There isn’t much difference between writing a thesis and writing a novel (I cried during both). There are arguments to be made, vast amounts of research to be gathered, questions to be answered and underlying it all – passion. One of my political science professors said to a class, when asking what our thesis’ would be “it’s no surprise that Rachael’s chosen to study the UK.” English/UK history has been my passion from a young age: its myths, legends, stories, and my own ancestry, are what propelled me to writing.

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position? 

Courtesy
Courtesy

The most difficult part of my transition was suddenly being my own boss. I was not hemmed in by deadlines but I also didn’t have professors that I could see multiple times a week to ask for assistance or to pick their brains about what was weak or needed work in my novel. But as I have had some distance from college, 6 years, I’ve found that I have to start becoming someone else’s mentor. I have to give away what I’ve learned and use it to shore up the next generation. It’s always more comfortable to be the mentee, but vastly unrewarding in the long term.

What advice would you give to incoming college students? 

It’s quite a challenge coming from home where your parents have always made sure your homework was completed, and that you ate a decent meal every night and went to bed at a decent hour. The sheer amount of freedom is very disorientating, at least it was to me and my friends, and it’s very challenging to find a new rhythm for yourself. My best investment was a planner, the paper kind. Write down every assignment ahead of time and always keep your syllabi. Have fun with your new freedom, and start to build friendships with your professors – especially those that are in your field of study. 


Meet More Recent Grads