In college, I had initially been hesitant to major in English. What could a degree in reading and writing possibly get you?
English is the one thing I have always been good at for my entire life. I had received countless compliments from my teachers over the years, and several of my papers had been chosen to use as examples for the following year. Writing was something that came completely naturally to me, so much so that I couldn't imagine a life without it.
I figured, being able to analyze complex pieces of writing and express them in a way that is creative, clear and concise could be helpful for a multitude of different jobs.
But, not many people saw it that way...
Every time I would tell someone I was an English major I would get one of two responses, "So you want to be a teacher?" or just an "Oh," not-so-subtly masking the fact that they really didn't know what to say to that. Not that I have anything against teachers, I have the utmost respect for what they do, but teaching was never something I saw myself doing.
To assume that my major could only lead to one possible career path was always a little insulting.
I had also been interested in science for most of my life, so I minored in Biology. This was always accompanied by strange looks from my classmates when I would introduce myself during icebreakers on the first day of class. English and Science don't tend to mix, but when my genetics professor suggested I look into a career in scientific journalism, I realized that combining my love of both subjects was, in fact, possible.
As I progressed through my English classes, though, I met some people who were in similar situations as me. One girl started off as a History major and added English to help improve her writing skills. Another girl had been a Math major and decided to switch to English at the last minute because she couldn't handle the stress of her previous major. She ended up getting an internship at a major company in New York City.
I slowly began to see how valuable an English major could be. I felt better with the knowledge that my classmates were heading down similar paths, too. I graduated with the confidence that there would be a whole world of opportunities waiting out there for me. Armed with my ability to write clearly and informatively and to read and comprehend complex texts, along with my unique minor, I was ready, with little doubts, to begin the career I had been dreaming of for a while.
But, then, weeks turned into months post-graduation, and my confidence slowly began to die out. I watched all of my friends get jobs, and then, celebrate their one-year anniversaries on LinkedIn. When I told people what I wanted to do, I watched their expressions morph into a look of slight confusion as if the job I had described had sounded fake. I was looking specifically for a junior copywriter/content writer position at a pharmaceutical company, a position that would allow me to combine both my love of writing and science.
I realized, though, that when one thinks of pharmaceutical companies, they think of doctors and scientists, not writers. I was told to try going into sales, selling medical products. I was duped into interviews where I thought I would be learning creative marketing techniques, but instead, was to be selling products to customers on the streets. I didn't want to harass people in stores to "try our product!"
I just wanted to write.
I had gotten several interviews for writing positions at various companies but was never chosen... even when I felt I had done my absolute best. I started to wonder if it was me and my interviewing abilities, or if the skills and experience I had acquired at school just wasn't enough.
Should I go back to school for my Master's? I had no idea what I would consider getting a Master's in. Was majoring in English a stupid choice after all? Should I go back and get another degree?
As I spent month after month working at a supermarket (the same job I had had in high school) to pay off my student loans, these questions constantly raced through my head. I felt like I was watching my life passing me by. Everyone I knew was moving forward with their careers and their lives while I was standing still, watching it all happen.
Then, somehow, despite the pandemic, I finally got the job I had always hoped for. With the added unique experience of interviewing from home, I finally made it to the top. I finally got to know what it felt like to be a company's first choice.
It was amazing. A year and a half later, and I could stop wishing, hoping and praying.
So, to my fellow English majors still in school wondering if you made the right choice, I'm here to tell you that yes, it's possible to succeed as an English major.
However, I do have some advice.
Pick a unique minor that showcases your interests and talents, especially one that is relevant to your desired career path. At my school, you weren't even allowed to major in English without having a minor or double major. Doing so would not give you enough credits to graduate.
I chose Biology because of my interest in science and my desire to go into the healthcare field, but minors in marketing or business would also be incredibly useful for those looking for copywriting/content writing positions. Do your research and figure out what your specific career goals are, and find out what minors you could get that are most applicable to them.
This will make you stand out on your resume and in interviews and also provides a good topic of conversation for a potential employer to ask you about.
Make sure you have a lot of writing experience to add to your resume, whether that be through internships or freelancing. A lot of employers will ask to see work that you have published, and you want to make sure you have a decent sized portfolio to show them.
Lastly, don't lose hope. It is so, so easy to do. After a while, the constant rejections and/or lack of interviews will get to you. But, that doesn't mean that your unique skill set won't be useful at a different company. In my location, particularly, there were not a lot of entry level writing jobs to begin with, so that made it all the more difficult.
But, they are out there. They do exist.
Don't let anyone tell you that English is a useless major or that you'll end up as a barista at Starbucks for the rest of your life. Creative jobs are, unfortunately, often overlooked and under appreciated, so you will have to fight for them.
Trust me, though, it is worth the fight.