Post-Grad Adventures: Being An English Major

English majors are very proud of their bookshelves.
English majors are very proud of their bookshelves.

A new series.

Life after college is kind of weird. While you’re trying to figure yourself out and what you want, you’re also trying to figure the world out and your place in it. In the last six months, I’ve thought a lot about who I am as a person, what my strengths and weaknesses are and what makes me the happiest.  One of the biggest realizations I’ve come to is that my time as an English student will probably be one of the most influential experiences of my life.  If you’ve read about my undergraduate and senior project adventures, you’ll know that I thrived in the academic environment and thought a lot about what I was learning. Getting an English degree was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I’m only starting to realize just how much it’s going to help me in the workplace. Here are five reasons why.

I can actually discuss things. 

One afternoon, two of my coworkers and I were talking about office chairs, of all things. This ultimately morphed into a conversation about inequality (I’m not 100 percent sure how it happened, but it did.) One coworker remarked that she didn’t really have discussion opportunities in college. To me, that was really shocking. As an English student, I had to participate in discussion about the texts we read and contribute my own ideas. I enjoy talking with people who may have different opinions, and I can hold my own. Four years of discussion-based literature classes helped me with that, and I really miss the environment.

I know what good writing is.

Two of my core classes were about expository writing and the mechanics of grammar, and I’m so glad that I took both. Outside of the English department and in the real world, I’ve noticed that most people in the professional setting have consistently terrible grammar and writing skills. The writing skills I developed in college, which I continue to hone, are an incredible asset.

Detailed analysis is my default setting.

When the app I’m working on was still in beta, my boss would ask me for feedback on certain elements, the strength of the headlines or captions attached to video  or if I just liked the app overall. I would send back substantial paragraphs with my thoughts, which didn’t really take a lot of effort or time. I always explained my reasoning for my suggestions, because I knew that just saying “I like it” or “I dislike it” without elaboration wasn’t helpful. I had to do the same thing for any paper I ever wrote for a literature class, because presenting an idea without any support or significance wasn’t an argument. I’m so glad that this is how I operate, because it helps me be a more productive team member and employee. I tell myself every day to be better and push myself to think even deeper, which was a mantra I took on as a senior literature student.

I think critically.

One of my favorite professors built the foundation of his Shakespeare, drama and composition classes on a very simple question: “What does X do?” By inserting whatever you’re dealing with into the X part of the question, you can look at it in a different way beyond what something could possibly mean or inform that meaning. That question is another thing from my program that has stuck with me. I ask myself “What does X do?” at least four or five times a day, both at and away from work.

When my boss asks me to suggest headlines and captions for the videos that make up the app’s programming, I think about cohesion, the sound of saying the copy out loud, and cultural sensitivity. I also need to keep character count in mind, which forces me to come up with succinct sentences or phrases. And in knowing my audience, I need to come up with things that are appealing to young people on a global scale. While critical thinking is a crucial part of a lot of degree programs, English afforded me a particular edge. I know for certain that if I had pursued another major that I probably wouldn’t be thinking this deeply about things that most people aren’t aware of, but know that some things work better than others.

I know a little bit about everything.

As an English major, you get a lot of interdisciplinary training through having to read a lot of different things. You connect what you’re reading about to current events, other classes you’re taking . Even though I’m out of school, I’m trying to not lose that student mindset of being a sponge. I’m soaking up everything I can get my hands on. And in the workplace, being the coworker that knows a little bit about everything never gets old.

Do you feel this way about your major? Let’s talk about it in the comments.


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