As every college senior knows, the end is near. No, not death – it is something we like to call “the real world.” For many students, this “real world” is quickly approaching and some look to alumni, who have ventured out to this final frontier, for inspiration. Melissa Pope is one of these alumni who kindly sat down for a Skype interview in the midst of a very busy “real world” life.
Pope stayed in Castleton for the summer after graduating in May with a degree in communication. Initially, she had a summer job working with kids with autism. When it came to the “real world,” however, Pope didn’t quite know how to proceed
“I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was kind of scared to go out in the real world. So, I stayed in Castleton, but then I was thinking: holy crap! I graduated and everyone else is going back to school. I don’t want to be that girl that’s graduated and stays here forever!”
After her post-college crisis, Pope called her sister at the University of Virginia. Almost on a whim, Pope asked if she could move down and live with her. She said ok, and it was off to Virginia.
Then came the job hunt.
At first, she didn’t have much luck
“One thing that was hard when I moved down here.and this is going to sound cocky.but getting what I wanted. I’m Melissa Pope. People know me! Not to sound cocky, but everyone in Castleton knew who I was and I didn’t have to try very hard because I knew everyone pretty well. When I first came down here and I didn’t hear back from people immediately about jobs or interviews, I was surprised. In the real world it doesn’t matter if you’re Melissa Pope, it matters what you do and how you do it.”
Not finding much luck with local papers, Pope decided to take more drastic measures and applied to every and any job she could find, just so she was able to pay her bills.
Eventually, through a friend of a friend, she got in contact with an up and coming magazine called “Scrimmage Play.”
“I will tell you one thing — journalism is all about knowing people and having contacts. There is no way I would’ve gotten this gig if I didn’t know the right people and ask around. But I found out that it was a sports magazine and I would be writing sports articles. I had never done that before, because that was the “boys'” area of writing, not mine.”
The magazine covers all sports for 19 high schools in the area and also includes profiles about major players and keeps tabs on the rivalries between schools. Despite never having written a game story, her first assignment was covering a high school football game.
“My boss handed me a stats sheet before the game and said, ‘Here you go.’ I had no idea what I was doing. I was just standing there by the field feeling like a moron. But I had Dave (Blow) in the back of my head saying: ‘Learn through experience, Melissa!’ I felt dumb, but I kept asking ‘What yard line is that? Wait, why did they throw that flag?’ After about 10 minutes, it suddenly clicked and I got so excited! I thought, ‘This is what it feels like, this is what I want to do.'”
Soon after, Pope also got in contact with a music magazine called Magazine33, which covers local musicians and bands performing in the area. In between her writing gigs, Pope also works at a local salon and assists a student at the University of Virginia with cerebral palsy.
Asked what her advice would be for aspiring journalists, she said “One thing I would say is, don’t worry about how much you’re going to get paid . everyone that goes into journalism, does not go into it for the money. If you’re passionate about doing what you love, just do it. You could always work at a tanning salon in order to write on the side! But if you have that passion, you just have to keep doing it.also.always listen to Dave! That’s how I stuck with writing and I owe him for that.”
Blow, asked about Pope’s success, said he wasn’t surprised to learn she landed a writing job, but he was psyched at the news.
“Melissa was one of the harder working students I’ve seen, especially in her last couple years. She took any assignment thrown her way and had a successful internship at the Rutland Herald,” he said. “I guess I am a little surprised she’s writing sports because she was always more into news and features and Hollywood stuff. But I think it’s awesome and she should serve as inspiration to current CSC students.