Saturday, April 08, 2006

English Majors, Note:
Despair Not; No Matter

What Many Will Argue,
The World Needs You
Now More Than Ever

'Where there are words, there are jobs for the English major. But don't think the only jobs for English majors involve words.

Because the preferred mode of communication nowadays is not semaphore or smoke signals but language, it may be said that where there is lingual communication--speeches, presentations, commercials, advertisements, podcasts and broadcasts--there are jobs for the English major.

Consider that many people, despite being graduates of the finest institutions of learning this country has to offer, cannot always use words to communicate effectively--or even correctly. Sometimes they themselves admit it. They say they don't have a way with words or a command of the English language (as if language were a dog to be brought to hell, to do one's bidding).

When I was a teacher, foreign-born students would come to me at the start of the semester to apologize because, they said, being new to America, they were still struggling with the English language. I always reassured them: Don't worry. You'll fit right in.

Where there are people who need help using words to communicate, there are jobs for the English major. Those jobs may be found in corporate America just as easily as in schools.

But don't think the only jobs for English majors involve communction.

When health care or social agencies need to translate valuable information about policies or procedures for their non-English-speaking audiences, they depend on someone who not only knows Spanish or Chinese, but also knows English. Book publishers translate English-language novels, nonfiction and textbooks into other languages, and this requires a knowledge of English, as does teaching English as a second language.

Consider, too, how bursts of technological innovation have introduced to people of all ages not only new gadgets, new hardware and new software, but also an attendant avalanche of new words, terms and phrases to learn, adopt and use.

When the government publishes an 800-page white paper or a federal court hands down a ruling that is recondite and complex, the media consult with someone who can put into plain language what is anything but plain.

Where there is English, there are jobs for the English major.'
--From the new book, I'm an English Major--Now What: How English Majors Can Find Happiness, Success and a Real Job.


At 9:34 AM, Blogger Ron Copfer said...

You're so dead on with this comment, John. In 18+ years of business experience, and at least 200+ hires, I've really come to appreciate any person with an English degree.

Maybe part of it is my own struggle to get thru it in high school, (I think I averaged a good D+ after 4 years, which is probably evident from anyone that knows me!) Another part of it is my unbelievable resignation that a 4 year graduate of higher learning isn't generally any better equipped to communicate with written words than I was after high school. Sad.

That said, unless I'm hiring for technical talent, the English major has a clear advantage over any other degreed professional who comes looking for a job.

At 9:42 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

That's a pretty powerful statement, Ron. But just for the record, and contrary to the general assumption, not all writers were English majors, myself included. I was a history major, which I would argue is even better preparation for writing, at least if pursued properly.

But just think of what a powerful combination it is when someone is trained both in the technical side of their specialty and steeped in how to communicate well generally. That combination can be transformative in the workplace and in life.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Sarah said...

I was an English major. My parents considered it only slightly more preferable to my other choice, theater.

But they're okay with it now.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think editing a magazine is a pretty good use of one's English major, no? Parents have a way of eventually coming around.

At 2:22 PM, Blogger Wordsanctuary said...

A major field that allows for research, independent thought, and creativity can be transformative.

I've had college students quite surprised that English classes can allow for this type of growth.

Sometimes, the earlier experiences in English classes can be harrowing...Of course, there are great jr. high and high school English teachers too...but then there are the quirky or red-pen-as-sword-wielding ones that many of us lived to tell about.

"Survival is the best revenge..."

At 2:24 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Well said, Maria. And coming from a longtime English teacher such as yourself, it carries all that much more weight.

At 9:00 PM, Blogger brenna said...

I have two degrees in English literature from very impressive institutions of higher education and, to my shock and horror, they have resulted in ABSOLUTELY NO job offers. I am really beginning to think the study of English should be completely discouraged. I enjoyed my time studying English, but I wish someone had told me that I wouldn't be able to get a job.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Sorry to hear that, Brenna. But I hope you'll stay as optimistic as possible. I know that's easier said than done.


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