Are There Jobs for English Majors?
Peter Vogt MC Career Coach
August 10, 2009
Every year, thousands of English grads prove those who think, “you’ll never get a job with an English degree” wrong, landing diverse jobs in equally diverse fields. Want proof? Read these success stories:
Chad Gray, 24 George Washington University, Class of 2007 Union Organizer, UNITEHERE
Chad Gray travels across the US and Canada, routinely working with people twice his age as a union organizer for UNITEHERE, a trade organization representing 450,000 workers in the textile, apparel, laundry and hospitality industries in North America.
Gray’s job seems simple: Help workers form labor unions. But the complexity of actually performing such a role daily makes him appreciate his English degree.
“This may seem odd, but English is not math; it is not a precise discipline,” he says. “It was always very much up to me to decide what my paper was about, and deadlines were tenuous. The same is true in union organizing. It’s hard to conceptualize an organizing campaign, and the ways of approaching the problems are often nebulous.”
Gray’s advice to English majors: Remember the key overarching skill your degree gives you — effective communication.
“Don’t be intimidated by those who constantly stress the supposed impracticalities of an English degree,” he says. “Many liberal arts majors are impractical in the commercial sense, but the key is to use the tools of writing, speaking and communicating effectively and to your advantage.”
Maura Duggan, 23 Amherst College, Class of 2003 Sales Assistant, Meredith Corp.
You may not recognize the Meredith Corp., but you’ll most certainly know its publications, including well-established magazines like Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies’ Home Journal. Open these titles, and you’ll see lots of advertisements. Maura Duggan helps land some of these accounts.
Like all English majors, Duggan writes with the best of them. But her English major taught her to speak well, too, she says.
“Often on interviews, the prospective employers have commented, ‘Wow, you’re quite an articulate young woman,’” Duggan says.
Duggan’s advice to English majors: Make your writing ability the secret weapon of your job search correspondence.
“Writing unique, snappy and slightly offbeat, ridiculously confident cover letters and intro emails has brought me a lot of success,” she says.
Kim Dresdale, 23 George Washington University, Class of 2003 Account Executive, Hill & Knowlton Public Relations
“Everyone assumed I would go into teaching, because what else do you do with an English degree?” says Kim Dresdale, account executive for public relations giant Hill & Knowlton. “It was frustrating to continually have to explain that I didn’t want to teach, but that I wanted to go into the communications field.”
Immediately after graduation, Dresdale became public relations director for the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association in New York City, where she wrote news releases and pitch letters and oversaw the newsletter sent to the association’s 9,000 members.
Dresdale does similar tasks and more at Hill & Knowlton. “I need to do what I did for every essay I wrote for an English class,” she says, such as “figure out the main point, extract the important information and compile it into a coherent document.”
Dresdale’s advice to English majors: “Look at it as a major that will be desirable to all employers in all fields,” she says. “English classes teach you to write well, deal with large amounts of reading and think analytically. These abilities are an asset to any employer.”
Lindsey Sparks, 23 Oklahoma Baptist University, Class of 2008 Communications Coordinator, Express Services Inc.
Lindsey Sparks says the real-world experience gained in college means as much as, if not more than, your English degree.
Sparks owes her job as communications coordinator for temporary staffing and recruiting agency Express Services to the internship she did there the summer before junior year. “My strong writing skills helped me to land the internship, and I was then able to prove myself on the job, leading to a full-time position,” she says.
Sparks’s advice to English majors: Don’t overlook or ignore internships and their close cousins, temp jobs.
“Temporary positions can help students and recent graduates gain additional experience and try out positions in a variety of fields,” she says. “The experience can help them obtain a full-time job.”