The Top 5 Things to do With Your English Degree

  1. Roll it up and use it as a telescope to spy on your successful neighbors.
  2. Print a fake MBA on the back of it.
  3. Sweep piles of dirt onto it when you can’t find your dust pan.
  4. Forget where you put it.
  5. Arts and crafts: origami, sketches of your empty studio apartment, paper airplanes, etc.

Or, if you are in the mood to be demoralized, you can use it to apply to jobs.  However, this is not recommended, as most English majors are very sensitive and do not take rejection very well.

I would know; I am one.

It was a long, grueling nine months after graduating with a degree in English before I finally landed a real job.  And you can bet that it wasn’t for lack of trying — though I started with jobs I thought I’d have a shot at, like editor, copywriter, content manager, I quickly branched out into every field I found an opening in, from landscaping to locksmithing.

Dusk to dawn I was browsing classified ads and tweaking and submitting cover letters and résumés, always trying to coin the perfect phrase to catch a recruiter’s eye and give me the advantage.  It should have been a breeze, right? After all, language was my specialty.

But day after I day I sat in front of my computer with my phone on my desk, waiting for an email or phone call.  None came.  Not one.  For nine months.  By the time I actually got a response, it was amazing I had any self-esteem or willpower left at all.

Since that time I have moved on to other positions with other companies, and have had much greater success than during my first round of job hunting right after college.  And the job, while important for restoring my sense of self-worth and giving me minimal “real-world experience” was not the reason for my success, either.

Rather, I found that it was my approach to the job search that needed to change, and furthermore that I wasn’t really aligned with my interests in a way that would ever prove productive.

For all my fellow English majors and graduates, here is a brief crash course — built out of my first-hand experience and success — to applying for a job:

Go Beyond the Résumé

A great résumé might tip the scale in your favor when the decision is between you and another candidate, but at the end of the day, a résumé — even a great one — is just that.  It’s only a piece of paper, and won’t effectively communicate to your potential employers why they should hire you instead of some other, probably equally qualified candidate.

Applying to jobs is a personality game, one that hinges on subtly persuasive and impressive communication.  The good news is that you just graduated from a degree plan that taught you those skills exactly.  So use them to your advantage.

Any given job will have hundreds, maybe thousands of applicants.  Go above and beyond what an employer would expect to distinguish yourself from the rest:

  • Call the company directly and try to make an appointment with the hiring manager.
  • Walk into the office of the company you’re applying for and chat with the manager there, if time permits, making sure to tell her very clearly what your reasons are for applying to that company or that field.
  • Always be friendly, courteous, and knowledgeable; make them remember you by being the best.
  • Do ten times the research other applicants will do.  Know everything there is to know about the company, and more importantly, its employees, and then try to find intersecting interests and beliefs — and then talk about them.

Tactics like these will emphasize your personality and compatibility with the office (which are two essential qualities of a great candidate) before you even have an interview.

Doing research will also make you stand out when you do get an interview.  Little things like knowing when the company was founded, or that the CEO loves dachshunds could make or break your application.

Deepen Your Résumé

This has as much to do with what is on that piece of paper as what is within your heart.  Often English majors are unable to find a job because they haven’t figured out their real interests and consequently haven’t done much outside of school.

While you are searching for a job:

  • Volunteer.  Find an organization whose mission you are naturally drawn to and are aligned with and then volunteer with them.  Volunteering not only looks great on your résumé, it also will help shape you as a person, and will speed up the process of finding out what you truly enjoy.  Plus, you will meet people while volunteering who will help you get a job by connecting and recommending you to others.
  • Get certified.  If there is a certification process you can undertake for one of your hobbies, do it.  Being certified might not mean much, but it certainly reflects that you are passionate enough in your trade to get certified, and that speaks volumes.
  • Join communities.  Another way to deepen your résumé is to join organizations, societies, or clubs that are related to your interests or dream career.  Involve yourself with the community, and you might even circumvent the job search process, just by being in the right place at the right time.

It takes work and time to get a job, but if you want to be successful and happy, you’re going to have to do more than just write a perfect résumé and sit at home submitting applications online.  Get out into the world and connect with people, use your highly developed communication skills, and the right job will find you.


This guest post is contributed by Lauren Bailey, who regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99


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