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!

A Bookworm’s Guide to Slackerdom

Mom, you may not want to read this…

Confession Friday: I have a degree in English from an excellent university…but I never once read an entire book for class.

True story.

In the third grade parent-teacher conference, my teacher, Mrs. Jacoby, told my mom that I was lying to her about all of the books that I was reading. Mom knew that I had no life but the one in books, so she got really mad and bitchy. I’m pretty sure that was mom’s last parent-teacher conference. I also think this scarred me for life in regards to school, teachers, and reading books.

I was talking to the Word Worm about blogging–She writes a fantastic bookworm blog–and she mentioned something about Shakespeare (you can read her blog to find out what she said). I, the lover of Shakespeare that I am, told her that I was a fan of reading Shakespeare. I read Romeo and Juliet (which everyone says wasn’t very good, but I loved it) when I was 12. for fun. At home. I’ve read Much Ado About Nothing SEVERAL times. I did attempt to read Twelfth Night several times to no avail, but other than that, I’m kind of a fan. Hamlet, MacBeth, even Julius Caesar…all enjoyable reads for me.

She then questioned my tactics in college…and asked if I ever read a full book for school. In all honesty… not counting a graphic novel called Maus… no. No, I did not.  I had read bits and pieces. Excerpts. Listening to class discussion (when I showed up for class). Talking to my classmates. Sparknotes. Cliffsnotes. Gradesaver.com. Classic Notes. Classic Reader. And when in doubt, I Googled it. And it worked. I never got lower than a B in my English classes. (OK, and to be fair, there were some books and stories that I had already read.) My mad-writing skills got me exactly what I needed: A decent grade and plenty of time to do other things.

As an English major, required literature was something Chrissy considered...optional. She managed to pull off a splendid GPA considering she didn't read one entire book for class.

College and Computers 🙂

I was a very organized slacker…I had a notebook for every class. Each notebook was filled with excellent doodles (as doodling would help my brain calm down so that I could actively listen). Each notebook had a very important front cover. The cover listed the number of excused absences that I was allowed in that particular class, a dated list of missed classes, and the excuses that I used to not go to class. I made sure that I didn’t overuse cramps or migraines (though those pesky headaches happened regularly). There was even a time that I thought I was having a panic attack…that turned out to be the results of a little too much booze the night before…

That being said, you all know that I’m a voracious reader. And if you don’t, you should see my gratuitous post discussing my ridiculous unwavering love for Pride & Prejudice. The obsession is almost disgusting. But whatever. I read. I do. I just don’t read when someone tells me that I must. I saved every book from all of my classes, college and high school (sans Childhood’s End, which, until Fifty Shades of Grey, was my least favorite book in the history of ever.) Then, I spent summers, and even free time during school, reading. Yes, that’s right. I’ve read a good portion of the novels that I should have read for class…long after class ended.

Here’s a list of the best books I never read in college:

Candide (even though I walked into class after reading the Sparknotes version and told the prof that I had, in fact read it and loved it. After actually reading it–it’s pretty awesome)
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which ironically became my favorite American novel)
Tess of the D’urbervilles (which is really super depressing, but well written and uber Victorian… Stupid 50 Shades of Grey for ruining the association.)
The Canterbury Tales (In my defense, the teacher tried to make us read it in middle English. Do you have any concept of how hard that is?!)

OK, and here’s a list of some of the best books I read in college for no reason but to read:

The Stand
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Les Miserable
Great Expectations (Actually a reprise from my youth…thanks to those marvelous Great Illustrated Classics)
The Tenth Kingdom (A book based off a cheesy TV mini series on NBC. If you watched it and like it—I think I love you.)

Have a great weekend!

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!