How to be Successful as an English Major

I am an English major and I am proud of it. You should be too.

“And what are you going to do with that major, Megan?” asked one of my relatives, incredulously. And once again, I found myself having to defend my choice of going into Editing and Publishing as an English major at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. And I doubt it would be the last. Do we have this reoccurring defense in common? Many are skeptics of the importance of English majors in the job market today. And so, I am writing a message to English majors everywhere, from a fellow English major—while I am not necessarily on the same path as you, we still understand each other. You may be focused on writing poetry, non-fiction, fiction, comics or screenplays. You might want to be an editor or work for a publishing company. You may want to teach English to high school students or even college students! It does not matter to them. I bet that large majority of you have experienced doubt about your college choice, whether it comes from close family, friends or a mentor of sorts. “An English major, you say? Now, why would you want to do that?” “How are you going to find a job?” “Don’t you know that is a dying industry?” “Is there a reason you are paying that much for college and then not make any money in the future?” they ask. They will tell you the benefits of studying the Sciences; or how Accounting is the field you really should look into. They will definitely tell you that Computer Science is the future of the world, and that you should get in while you can! Well, here are some ways to prove those people wrong. This is how you can be successful as an English major.

I would just like to start my advice off by saying that if you choose to study English, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOUR CHOICE. Remember, you are in charge of your future and you can do anything that you put your mind to. It is easier to be successful though, if you work hard and genuinely enjoy what you are doing. Colleges around the country offer English programs because it is important that people know the impact Literature and writing have on society. There is no need to change the path you want to be on just because someone else says it will not be worth it. Personally, I am not just an English major because I do not like Math or Science. They are two subjects that I am not particularly interested in, it’s true. But I am an English major because of my love for words, books, stories and creativity.

A common misconception about English Majors is that we are all going into teaching, because apparently it is the only field where we can find jobs. This is untrue, by the way, no matter how often you hear it. Many people assume that I am going into Elementary or Secondary Education when I tell them that I am studying English and are often surprised that the field has broader job opportunities. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, wrong with teaching. In my opinion, being a teacher is the most honorable, while also the most rewarding, job of all time. Keep in mind, however: you can do anything with English. Many recent media articles have focused on the fact that much of today’s work force lacks one major skill: being able to write effectively and efficiently.

English majors are versatile, meaning that they can work in many different fields. The skills they possess make them desirable for employers, especially their ability to read quickly, write well, and look at things creatively. For example, I was walking through the English Department at OU the other day and found a flyer with a list of jobs in which current OU English graduates are employed. These jobs included positions like Editor and Editorial Assistant, Book Reviewer, Proofreader, Freelance Writer, U.S. Department of Defense-Logistician and Process Analyst, Public Relations Manager, Technical Editor for Educational Publishing Company, Web-Content Writer, Advertising copy writer, HealthCare Administrator, Journalist and Higher Education Media Relations Specialist, to name a few. English graduates from OU have also gotten jobs at many famous institutions like Johns Hopkins University Press, The Palace, United States FBI, SMZ Advertising, Maryland Institute of Art, Lambda Corporation and Thomas Gale Publishing. Now before anyone assumes, “Well, these people clearly couldn’t get jobs in the fields they wanted, so they probably settled for something different,” it is important to remember that every person, English major or not, has their own specific interests and ideas. Being an English major gives you the opportunity to “wow” your readers through solid cover letters, exemplary work reports and being well-read all around.

One important thing to remember when you are applying for a job: Internships are so, so, so important. Many jobs require you to have at least one to two internships before they will even consider hiring you. A good amount of these internships are unpaid, but some can have a salary. It may be scary to realize. But college campuses are full of opportunities to make this happen! Forge connections with your professors, make friends with your classmates and do not be afraid to contact the Career Services office at your school. Professors can write letters of recommendation or be the person to help you find out what you really want to do after college. Your classmates will not only be your future competition in the workplace, but they are smarter than you sometimes. Do not be afraid to ask them questions and use them as a study partner. The Career Services office Megan Luttinenat your school is your best resource for building resumes, practicing the interview process and giving a look into what it is like to have a “real job.” I promise you, these will help out in the long run. Connections are key. Knowing someone in the industry is very important in today’s work place.

Lastly, I have some personal advice to give to you, little English major. Pay attention in your English classes. Do not be afraid to admit that you are wrong or ask for help. Ignore people who say “grades will not matter in the long run” and appreciate the education you are given. Join your English National Honors Society and any other clubs you want. Apply for scholarships and grants. But most importantly, believe in yourself. My parents have always told me to follow the path I want to be on and so far, I have found that I am successful as an English major. You can be too, if you do the research needed, make necessary connections, and pursue your dreams with passion and tenacity.
Good luck, enjoy your books and love the major that you are in. An English major can be extremely successful, when they choose to be.

-Megan Luttinen

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