I have been avoiding the discussion of life after college for a while and I have experienced many trials and tribulations after deciding not to go straight to Graduate school after graduating from College. It has been quite a journey from two years ago, til now…
Hopefully I can give a little insight to people in my situation and/or current college students who are pursuing a degree in English. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret pursuing my degree in English, however, I do wish I also mastered a certain trade that would be useful for finding a career or job after graduation. This doesn’t just apply to English majors either, but I am speaking from my own experience.
I was forewarned about the struggle of English majors while I was a Freshman, and again in my junior year of college but I pretty much ignored them because I just knew that I would have no trouble getting a job after college. There were so many things I could do with an English Degree (shrug and deep sigh).
I was faced with the typical questions of, “What are you going to do with an English Degree?” “Do you want to teach?” “Are you going to become a teacher?” “Are you going to go to Graduate school?”, etc. It was overwhelming but I knew I wanted to get into the workforce, not to teach but to join the corporate world.
Little did I know however, or wanted to accept I guess, that it wasn’t going to be that easy.
I did brief research on different career opportunities for English majors other than teaching and I got a vast array of fields and careers I never even thought to go into with an English Degree. At that time it proved that teaching wasn’t the only jog for me to do. But I was faced with the realization that those types positions are in competition with Communications, Journalism, Business, and even some Psychology majors as well. The market is better than it was in 2009 but citizens over the age of 55 are no longer retiring or planning to retire as they once were when the economy was better and financial security was there. This leaves senior citizens still in the job market which essentially is still competition. Even more so, other majors are looked at even before English majors; because the truth is that English majors are undervalued in the cooperate world.
Now I expect a lot of critics to think that I should have known better or not have been so naive, which in some respect I understand, however, my skills are equally valuable in any work setting that is comparable with any other major and I say that confidently because most jobs/careers consist of on-the-job training/learning. This is not to de-value different careers but I’ve worked at enough companies to know that my degree is not inferior.
But hindsight is 20/20 right?
My advise now to seniors in college who don’t plan on becoming a teacher is begin actively job searching. Create a spreadsheet to help keep you organized in your search. I go into detail here about Getting Organized in Your Job Search (5 Helpful Tips). Also, start applying to at least five jobs a day. I let my senior year pass me by, having applied to no more than 15 jobs (if that). I had the excuse of my senior thesis/project not giving me time to job search but I could have made time. POINT BLANK. Also, reach out to the networks and contacts you have created over the summer whether it be through internships, volunteer opportunities, etc. Email former intern supervisors, mentors, ask your parents or older siblings to help network if that is a privilege that you have. Get a group of friends who are also looking to work right away and motivate each other to apply.
I can count on all 10 fingers and may even need extra hands to count all of my friends and associates who took the teaching or graduate school route post-undergrad. I have only a few friends who went right into the corporate world. TFA was a big recruiter at my college.
I reached out to my mentor who helped me out tremendously as well as a non-profit organization that I was a part of since high school. They really helped bridge gaps in my resume with work experience.
Lastly, become a better listener. That was the big lesson learned coming back home and not seeing my career begin to form that way I hoped after college. But in all of this, stay positive; your confidence, ego and self esteem will be tested (it’s a given), you will hear more no’s than you’ve ever heard in your life. But how you bounce back will be what shapes your character. Continue to surround yourself around people who re-enforce your skills and abilities. Keep your spirit well fed :). Remind yourself that you’re AWESOME and let no one make you feel otherwise! Even your own-self.