To the Undecided English Majors

By: Kaitlyn Sumner

So, you’re great at writing an 8-page research paper in under 24 hours. You’re able to finish an entire novel within a night and be ready for a class discussion the next morning. You can relate centuries old rhetorical arguments to modern-day marketing efforts.

The question you ask yourself daily: “What am I even going to do with this?”

Well, we’re going to remind you of three things:

You have skills.

You’ve more than likely heard the timeless question: “What are you going to do with an English degree?” (Another form of this question: “Are you going to teach/be an author, or…?”) This has cropped up multiple instances throughout your college career: a family reunion, a work meeting, an organization event.

You blush, or maybe you get annoyed. It’s literally always the same question, you say to yourself. You have to politely explain that, no, you aren’t going to teach. No, you aren’t going to write novels. And, yeah, you might do something like *insert your goal career here*.

You all laugh at the word “might,” talk about the other person’s glory days in college, and finish your conversation like it isn’t a big deal. But their question(s) still weigh on your mind.

If you want to be a teacher, that’s awesome! If you want to be an author, yay! The world definitely needs more authors and teachers. We need writers’ perspectives on the things going on in this world. We need teachers to teach these topics to their students. These careers are important.

For those of you that aren’t sure of what you’re going to do after school, you still have skills you can use. Ethan, an English Department alum, wrote a great blog post about how studying something he loved – literature and writing – taught him skills that he’s used in other jobs (and hint: it wasn’t just reading and writing papers). Even Sarah’s guest post (another alumni of the Department) had something to say about the transferable skills her English degree has given her.

The fact of the matter is that the English department isn’t just here to teach you how to read and write.

When you do a workshop for a research paper, it teaches you how to think critically about information being presented to you.

When you write a five-page persuasive essay, you learn how to communicate your thoughts and ideas in a clear and concise manner.

When you read a century-old text from another continent, you learn more about the world around you – which definitely helps your writing skills, but it also helps you relate to other topics that you’ve never been introduced to before. It also helps you relate to other people in a way that you may not have before.

You have skills, English majors. Own them and use them.

You have opportunities & resources.

You’ve realized that you have skills. So now, you just have to realize that you have the chance to learn how you want to use those skills. This brings up the idea of internships (or immersive learning projects). The English department has so many great opportunities for you. Luckily, we have a list for you here, so be sure to check it out!

“Internship” is a scary word. We know.

However, if you aren’t sure about what you want to do, these are going to be a great way to figure out. And even if you don’t know what you want to do after an internship or two, these will give you some experience that employers are going to love. It’ll also definitely open up some doors.

If you aren’t sure how to go about getting an internship, start by searching some catalogs. We conveniently have one on our department blog here specifically for internships, and you can also check out the Career Center’s Cardinal Career Link. There’s also a Stars to Steer By Facebook page for extra support and opportunities here.

You should also watch your email for any immersive learning classes or internships. We send you a Weekly Newsletter that not only has a list of all of all of the internships you’d be interested in, but it also has a lot of other great information in it as well! You also get lists coming from various places announcing openings of new immersive learning opportunities! Jessie Fudge, who graduated in 2014, actually landed an internship at the Indianapolis Monthly magazine by answering an email announcement! Read her experience here.

There are also Career Fairs every semester that we encourage everyone to go to, regardless of year. These will be a great way to network, or even just to see what’s out there. There are nonprofits and for-profits from all over the country. You are able to see all of the companies coming to the Career Fair at the Cardinal Career Link! There’s also an app that keeps you updated all semester long. The Career Center throws three Career Fairs every year: two Cardinal Career Fairs (one in the Fall, and one in the Spring), and a Teachers’ Career Fair (which would be phenomenal for you English Education majors, as well as those of you contemplating teaching).

So if you really aren’t sure about life after school, check out these opportunities. They’re free.

You have options.

Your experiences in the English department will give you skills that you can use in various fields (seriously, read Ethan’s and Sarah’s posts; they’re awesome). These skills will make you more qualified for many different paths. This will, hopefully, be invaluable to you in your future career.

You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to be a teacher. Those questions from people that likely hardly know you do not define you, or your future career. There are many careers, like non-profit work and web copywriting! Maybe you don’t have a set path, English majors, but you do have an empty board, and you have the ability to write whatever you want on that board.

Kaitlyn Sumner is an Wildlife Biology turned-English Studies major. She specializes in binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix, telling Shaquille O’Neal puns, and sometimes writing things. Please connect with her here.

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