The English majors’ guidebooks into the job market on the shelves today—Great Jobs for English Majors, I’m an English Major, Now What? What Can You Do With a Major in English? and Liberal Arts Advantage: How to Turn Your Degree into a Great Job—offer up similar advice, including this consistent tidbit:  figure out which specific industry you want to pursue.  Industries aligned with a language/literature/cultural studies background always make the list of recommendations (publishing, education, advertising public relations).

            I suspect these books are written by people who: (1) have landed in the industry of their dreams, or at least the industry they now have some longevity in or (2) people who aren’t really aligned with a particular industry but have studied them from afar.  That would be why, for example, these books don’t recommend careers in, say, Information Technology, even though there are jobs there ideally suited to people who can write, analyze and reason.

            But is it really all that important for students just ready to leave college to find the “right” industry?  Or is it more important to find a job, an interesting job, where they can put their skills and abilities to work and start realizing the value they have to offer, even if it isn’t an industry, or a job, where they might want to spend the rest of their lives?  I vote for the latter (albeit wordier) option.

            Just find a job, and to heck with industry considerations.  Here are some job titles to consider:

            Business Analyst

            Project Administrator

            File Management

            Data Administration

            Customer Service Rep

            Administrative Assistant

…no matter what industry they’re in. 

            Because I spent my career in Information Technology (IT), I had the opportunity to work in several different industries.  Every business needs technology, so every industry needs IT.    I had the opportunity to work in banking (yech), retail (yeah, pretty interesting), higher ed (better than okay), and for an electric utility.  The last one was by far the most interesting—complex, political, life-sustaining … and all because someone figured out that swinging a magnet in a circle elicits an amazing energy we’ve managed to harness and deploy across the planet.

            But I digress—sort of.  I didn’t discover the electric utility biz until many years into my IT career.  Now, if I’d read the kind of how-to-get-a-job books aimed at liberal arts majors on the market today when I started looking for a job, I might have spent many years waiting tables while searching for an ideologically-aligned opportunity to appear. 

            Just get a job, in any industry.  Expect to change jobs and industries a few times, and meantime just learn, collect a paycheck, and do good work.

One thought on “When English Majors Look for Jobs

  1. I agree. I spent my last two years of college reading those books. At the time I felt like they were giving me direction, and I still want to work the industries mentioned someday, but I ended up in the sports and recreation industry doing office support and I like it (keep in mind I’m athletically challenged and sports illiterate).

    But I’m learning about business, honing my office skills and putting some of my writing and editing skills to use. If I was holding out for that publishing job, I wouldn’t be doing any of that.

    Plus it’s more about the people you work with and the organizational culture. You can have your dream job, but if you work for a soulless conglomerate and that’s not your thing, you’ll still be miserable.

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