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Reflections on Life Post-Graduation
by Monica Sweeney, BA 2010

Fifty Shades of Pain? That’s the reputation of the job market for English majors. Okay, so I might not have felt pain. But I did feel Fifty Shades of Impatience when it took much longer to find a job in publishing than I thought after graduation.

But then it happened: about 15 months after graduation I landed my dream job. And you know how? First off, it was networking. Turns out that networking is not just for those in the Isenberg School of Management, and my own UMass relationships and experiences set me up for success. After throwing dozens of applications in a proverbial black hole, a friend with whom I had interned at the University of Massachusetts Press reached out to me and offered me a job with a small publisher. This is where I am today.

While UMass was the catalyst to finding this job, my undergraduate work made me qualified for it. My courses helped to shape my approach on the world, not just in analyzing text and writing, but in knowing when to scrap unsuccessful approaches. It fuelled and channeled my constant desire to craft language and pursue ideas, and to establish meaningful connections with other people in and out of my field.

Now several years into my work, I have had the amazing opportunity to come up with new book concepts and work with budding authors, but also co-author a range of books. My work has ranged from a series called Fifty Shades of Pleasure, which I published under a pseudonym (my bawdy Chaucer Capstone came in handy!), to Brick Shakespeare and Brick Frankenstein & Dracula, to a handful of craft books. I attribute much of my ability to handle these very different projects to the rigor of my UMass career and the expectations my professors set up for my classmates and me.

Studying Spanish (my minor), traveling abroad (the Oxford Seminar), and writing my capstone were all whirlwinds of excitement, culture, and language learning. But what these experiences translated to were real life skills. I learned to engage with Spanish writers and now can shape cross-cultural book proposals. And while I initially thought the purpose of my Capstone thesis was to fulfill my ComCol requirements and let me giggle over sexual jokes written in Middle English (which it did!), it ultimately taught me that dedication, resilience, and a sense of accomplishment can be felt after completing a gargantuan task. All the while I was sipping tea over literary discourse, deconstructing French film, and learning the nuances of Spanish, I was building the foundation for my career.

Monica Sweeney is an Associate Editor at Hollan Publishing
To find out more, go to

University of Massachusetts Department of English
170 Bartlett Hall, Amherst, MA 01003 | umass.edu/english | 413-545-4339