Break Trail

In some career fields, there is a specific trail you need to follow to get to your end goal. If you complete A, B, and C (in that order), and do them well, you are able to climb up the career ladder. Other careers do not have a well-trodden path. Sometimes it’s like you’re standing in the middle of the forest: a tangle of alder brush surrounding you and no clear, nor easy, path to be seen. In these cases, you just have a compass bearing, an end goal, and you have to figure out how to get there with nothing more than that. Everyone, it seems, takes a different route and there isn’t really one that is common, at least not that is talked about, or, to continue the analogy, flagged.

I just completed my first internship with a literary agent and fell in love with the work. It answered the question I asked myself in one of my courses: I love evaluating and critiquing creative writing, but I can’t make a job of that, can I? Turns out, yes. But the how isn’t as clear. It turns out the path to being a literary agent is largely unmarked. Agents land in their jobs through a variety of means—everyone taking a path that is specific to them. Some came through publishing, others made the move from a law career. The journey is dependant on your unique situation and skills. If you’re lost in the bush with nothing but a compass reading and a machete you can carve your own trail, but, if along that bearing you come across a lake and cannot swim, you have to go around, while someone who is a strong swimmer may decide to just swim the lake.

It is important to watch for signs when you’re making your own path, you don’t want to take on an internship with anyone who offers. Just like you don’t want to swim across a leech-infested lake, or continue down a game trail that is littered with grizzly sign. While maintaining your bearings you need to ask questions of those offering the positions and keep yourself safe. Ask reputable people within the industry for help. In my search for a new internship, I used the resources of the last agent I worked with. I’m not shy about asking after an agency’s reputation if I can’t find the information I need through my own research. It’s important to ask questions and ask for help. Of course, not everyone will be receptive to the questions, and if they aren’t, say “thank you” and move on. Always remember that anything you ask in a public forum is, well, public. Consider your online presence a part of your application, both now and in the future. Because professionals will look you up. With many of the internship applications, they ask specifically for social media handles.

The path to the career you want won’t always be clear, but there are resources out there to help you if you look hard enough and if you are stubborn enough to stick with it. Keep swinging that machete and breaking your own trail, and what might feel impossible isn’t (generally). You can get there as long as you have an idea of where there is. Don’t lose sight of the end goal and use everything you can. So while I hit my refresh button on my email, waiting to hear on the second phase of an application, keep looking, keep working, and don’t let yourself stall. You won’t get out of the alder brush by standing still.

Deanna Roney is an AU graduate who loves adventure in life and literature. Follow her path on the writing journey at

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