When I was a bright-eyed senior in high school, ready to take on college and still terrified of what I would find there, I knew that I would major in English.
Well, why wouldn’t I? It had always been my best subject, not to mention the subject I loved the most. My dream was to write books for the rest of my life, so it seemed like the obvious choice.
But to everyone else….well, not so much.
Upon meeting your fellow freshman (and sometimes their parents) you will always–and I mean ALWAYS–be asked the same three questions:
- What’s your name?
- Where are you from?
- What are you majoring in?
“I’m Katie. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri,” I would say. “And I’m majoring in English.”
I learned very quickly that majoring in English was not exactly a ‘normal’ major. I met many other English majors, of course, but to those who chose a more–well–practical path, my choice made no sense.
So, more often than not, I was interrogated about my future. I came to dread the typical follow-up conversation, which always included one of the following questions (if not both):
- What do you do with an English major, anyway?
- Oh, so you want to teach?
I mean, they made an entire song about this in Avenue Q. Literally everyone asks this.
And yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds. If you are like me, and hate having personal conversations with strangers, you learn to provide a reasonable, well-rehearsed answer so everyone can move on with their lives and enjoy their dining hall meal in peace.
I told most people that I ‘wasn’t sure,’ but I was ‘interested in publishing and editing.’
I mean, that’s true. I am interested in those things, but it’s not the only reason I became an English major. If I had been completely honest, I would have said something like, “I love reading and writing and all I want to do is write books and learn more about literature and and OH MY GOD I love WORDS.”
But then I would have no friends, because I would have scared everyone.
It is also quite difficult to be honest about your dreams when you are constantly told that English majors are doomed to be unemployed.
But why should I care? I mean, I don’t want a normal job. I just want to write.
Here’s the thing: most writers don’t care about the amount of money they earn, but they know they need a steady job to support themselves until they can live off of their writing. Not all of us want to be teachers.
By my senior year of college, my anxiety about the future had taken its toll. My capstone class focused on job-hunting skills, and I had an internship with a literary magazine, but I still felt ill-equipped. I was scheduled to graduate a semester early, and I had nothing planned. Nothing at all. Well-meaning friends and family members asked what I wanted to do after college, and I broke down in tears.
I cursed myself and my stupid decision to major in English. Why didn’t I choose journalism? Why didn’t I double major in communications, or media? Why was I such an idiot? I convinced myself that I was going to be living on the streets (even though I have wonderful parents who would never let that happen).
Eventually, I decided to go on a three-month long mission trip (which is a story for another day). My fear of being eternally unemployed was put on hold…until I came back home.
The Great Job Search began.
It. Was. Awful.
I hate searching for jobs. Absolutely hate it. From cover letters to interviews, everything about applying for jobs exhausts me. Some people can handle this–for instance, my boyfriend once told me that he used to apply for ten jobs a day. TEN! I feel accomplished if I apply to four.
After weeks of searching and interviewing, something funny happened.
I was offered a job.
A job! Just for me!
The position was at a family clinic. I checked patients in and out for appointments and answered phones. It wasn’t related to what I wanted to do, but it was a job.
After a few months, this fact alone became slightly discouraging; would I always be stuck with jobs that were so far from my goals? Was it because I had decided on my college career as a 17-year-old?
My worries were founded on ideas that had been planted in my head from people who–although they meant well–had never experienced life as an English major.
I think I have learned a few things since then.
Take heart, English majors, because:
My first full-time job may not have been my dream job, but first jobs hardly ever are. I was not in a good place when I was hired (and by that I mean I was super depressed and crippled with anxiety), but as my heart healed, so did my perspective. I gained experience. I met wonderful people. I learned more about healthcare, and, as a result, have even more love and respect for any doctors and nurses out there. I desperately needed that job, and I am so thankful I was hired.
Majoring in English is not a hopeless endeavor. Do you know how many times someone has looked at my resume, scoffed, and told me that they couldn’t hire me because I studied English? Zero. That’s because English majors are actually awesome. The skills you learn as an English major are needed for every single job out there. Excellent written and verbal communication skills? Umm, that’s kind of our jam.
You can go to any job board and search ‘writing.’ Seriously. Do it right now. The options are endless, from copy writing to editorial assistant positions. I honestly do not know how the entire ‘English majors don’t get jobs’ idea started, because you can search ‘English major’ and get very similar results. Sometimes job hunting takes some creativity–and it definitely takes a lot of hard work, but you’ll find something out there. I promise.
To be honest, I feel a little hypocritical writing this; after all, I still have not found my dream job. I still find job hunting exhausting, and I’d love to just sit at home and get paid to watch Netflix (I mean, it’s 2016. Come on, America).
But I’m not as hopeless as I used to be. And if you are drowning adulthood anxiety, I am here to tell you that job hunting gets much easier. It’s a part of life, and it just takes practice–and maybe a lot of chocolate. Trust yourself and keep believing in happy endings. One day, you might not even need that nine-to-five. ❤
Jobs (& Hints) for Creative Souls
Careers After an English Major
What Do You Do With a B.A In English/It Sucks To Be Me from Avenue Q (warning: explicit lyrics)