If you’re planning to major in English, I bet you’re worried. You’re worried about your career prospects. You’re worried that you’re preparing yourself to lead a life of noble pursuit that comes with modest paycheck. And what good is a modest paycheck in this economy?
Maybe you’re worried you’ll land a job that has nothing whatsoever to do with your education—fry cook, hammer swinger, landscape maintenance worker, all of which not only don’t require an English degree but don’t require a degree at all. You’ll be over-qualified and under-employed.
I bet some well-intentioned family members have tried to talk you out of majoring in English, all the while pointing you towards the College of Business.
“You could get a degree in Marketing,” they advise. “After all, you like to write. You could make lots of money writing ad copy!”
Or maybe you haven’t started worrying about this yet because so far you haven’t had to support yourself. You know the day is coming, and you’ve already felt the real-world effects of the price of gas and car insurance. But sometime between now and then, something will work out, you think. “Meantime, I’ll just major in English.”
I know something about this because I majored in English when I was in college. Here’s the conversation I remember:
“So, you’re majoring in English. What do you want to teach?”
Now, maybe you do want to teach, but I didn’t, and so I’d say, “I don’t want to teach.”
Then I went on to a 25-year career in management in large corporations. Despite the usual profile of an English major’s future, in my professional life I made real money, managed large groups both here and overseas, led high-dollar projects and major corporate initiatives in a variety of industries. I attribute success in my business leadership career to three things: I can think critically, I don’t mind ambiguity, and I can write. I learned these things in college, in my English classes.
Personally, I’m tired of the assumption that English majors are headed for lifetimes of noble poverty. In fact, the next time I’m listening to “A Prairie Home Companion” and Garrison Keillor again mentions the prospective English majors’ career options at McDonald’s, so help me I’m going to call him and give him a piece of my mind.
To him, and to everyone else who suggests nothing lucrative can come from majoring in English, I say this: You are missing one important point: Businesses need humanities majors. At some level business leaders know this, but they can use help to see just how. If you’re worried you don’t quite see the connection yourself, well enough to make use of it, let me help you.