What Can You Do With an English Degree?

Whilst shopping at Carson Pirie Scott, I observed (eavesdropped) a couple of ladies who had run into each other randomly. I listened as they played catch up and maintained a somewhat blah degree of small talk. I drew a little bit closer as they began discussing one of their children who, to her mother’s dismay, was getting a degree in English.

Her friend/acquaintance asked, “Well, is she going to teach?”

The mother of this English major expressed her disappointment and incredulity that her daughter was, in fact, not going to be a teacher and what in the world could she do with such an inferior degree.

If you major in English, there are a LOT of career paths you can take. These are just a few ideas.

It was, at this point, the time I felt it necessary to interject. Yes, I did jump from being a fly on a wall to joining their conversation. Because OMG people need to understand the relevance and brilliance of English majors everywhere.

I marched right up to those women and interrupted the fuck out of their conversation. “There’s actually a lot you can do with an English major.”

They looked at me only a little funny, because in the Chicagoland area, and probably by extension the Midwest, it is entirely normal for people to just jump into your conversations. We’re a pretty friendly people. Even if we do eavesdrop and take joy in overhearing people quitting their jobs out of the blue.

“I have a Bachelor of Arts in English.”

“Do you teach?”

“No, actually I don’t. I’m certified to teach English, but I have no desire to do so. On the contrary, there are many things that a degree in English can prepare college grads for that other degrees don’t.”

“Really?”

Well, duh, lady.

“I’ve actually had a couple of thriving careers with my English degree, and the beauty is that I’m not tied down to just one. I was a catering manager for a couple of years, and now I’m a senior copywriter for a Fortune 100 company.” (And now I’m an editor. Maybe one day I’ll own a restaurant or something. It’s the circle of life, bitches).

The ladies were impressed and maybe a little less judgeysaurus rexy about the whole English major thing. As I walked away, I was transported back to my senior year of college in which one of my favorite professors, Dr. Prescott, led our senior project class. The project? Write a research thesis discussing one career path you  can take with your English major.

Of course, not knowing what I wanted to be when I grew up, as I had JUST dropped my education minor (to teach English) the previous semester, I looked to what I knew. Dad was in wine sales for years before he took on ownership of the bar. Liquor sales seemed like a brilliant idea. Plus I could source dad and some of his cronies for my first-person sources. It was ingenious. I got an  A.

English majors, and really anyone with a degree in the liberal arts, often get a bad rap for being lazy and stupid (LAS – Liberal Arts and Sciences). None of which is actually true. Lazy? Fuck no. We’re intuitive. We’re clever. We believe in working smarter not harder. If we can write a paper in 3 hours when we’re given 3 weeks, why in the world would we waste time writing it early? If we work better at 2 am than at noon, we’re going to write the shit out of a final paper in the middle of the night. Because we can. We understand our strengths and weaknesses. We know where and how to thrive.

-Literature is unbelievably helpful, because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships,It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick.-

As an English major, I learned more life skills than most of my friends in other more direct degree programs. Sure, a business major is going to learn how to land a deal or make a sale, but I learned how to talk to and more importantly, write to people. To engage my audience in a way that makes a sale feel natural and authentic. I learned how to negotiate a big fancy contract without ever discussing contract negotiations in a class, because I know people. I know words. I know the intrinsic value of human interaction in every aspect of business. Someone who went straight from their B.S. to an MBA program without working a day in their life doesn’t necessarily have that luxury (this also doesn’t mean that that don’t).

So what can you do with an English major?

Whatever the fuck you want.

Did you go to college? What did you major in? Did your major lead you down an expected career path? 

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!

Sometimes, I have the Most Interesting Life

When I was in my early twenties, I was obsessed with Carrie Bradshaw and Sex and the City. I wanted to be Carrie. I thought that I WAS Carrie.

I mean, of my group of college girlfriends, I was most likely to become a writer. I was the most broke and most in debt. And still I was a shopaholic. And I wore very bizarre style combinations that really…stood out.  Of course, I was also the most neurotic when it came to relationships, and I often screwed everything up with my neurosis.

I spent the first half of my twenties with my own real life Big, on and off; back and forth…except that other than our slight difference in age, he wasn’t Mr. Big. But he did make me bat shit crazy. And I did a lot of stupid shit that I’m not quite ready to admit. But I bordered on Carrie Bradshaw’s world of crazy.

Everytime Big and I broke up, I would watch through all six seasons of SATC…and I’d feel lost, then empowered, and then I’d miss him again. And then we’d get back together.

Until one day I realized…that Carrie was bat shit crazy. And it was at least partially her fault that she and Big never worked out the first several times. And it was her fault that she and Aiden never worked out. And the string of other dudes. She was neurotic.

I was neurotic.

And I was done.

Sometime after my 25th birthday (my quarter life crisis, which happened to be the same day the first SATC movie came out) I realized that I needed to break the cycle.

And I gave up on MY Big. And I gave up on Carrie. I haven’t watched an episode of the show since.

But the other day, I started thinking about where I am now and the really cool shit that I get to do as a writer. I am living the part of Carrie Bradshaw’s life that I wanted.

I’m a writer.
I get invited to amazing parties and events and interviews.
And I get to write about my life as I see it.

As Sandra Bullock once said, “Life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan.”

Sometimes, it’s way better.

Hey! Did you know you can buy my book on Amazon? 37 women wrote about the struggle for perfection, and I'm one of 'em. Go check it out!