English Major Musings is an evergreen Paperback Paris column curated by Contributing Writer Alicia LeBoeuf.
A few weeks ago, I attended a panel at my college campus that featured English major alumni who agreed to speak and share their experiences working in the professional world.
One of the questions members of this panel were asked was, “What is one skill that you think you gained by being an English major?” Their discoveries proved eye-opening.
This post will outline some of the skills that spoke to me the most, as well as experiences I have personally learned as someone also pursuing a degree in English. In short, these are five facilities every English major should be informed about because they can be vital notes for your resume or during an interview.
If this seems odd to mention when searching for a job, hear me out. When a member of the panel mentioned this one, it struck me as rather unique. But, as she went on to describe the fact that, as English majors, we are constantly becoming acquainted with characters in literature and analyzing them, I realized it was also incredibly accurate. English majors do gain empathy since so much of our coursework involves interacting with ideas such as human nature and the human condition. This is an important work and life skill since it can help one work more effectively with others, and may prove essential depending on the work environment.
2. Written Communication
Yes, written communication as a skill for an English major may come off as obvious, but it is an important skill that not everyone has when they are trying to search for a job post-graduation. I typically write essays instead of taking exams in my English classes, and this provides the opportunity to strengthen my writing skills. Creative writing classes also can be applied, since these classes are essentially still manipulating language, expanding vocabulary, and learning how to create a convincing, engaging narrative. Tell your employers that unlike other candidates, you can write well.
3. Oral Communication
The communication skills of an English major aren’t just limited to the written form. We also can thank our time spent in English classes for our ability to talk to others – whether that means contributing to a meeting, sharing ideas to a superior, or just getting along with others in the workplace. Some might not think of English majors as talkative – but I would argue that even the most introverted English majors have the ability to be well-spoken. All of my English classes involve both class and group discussion, so talking is something I end up doing a lot.
Creativity is also something that is important in the workplace, believe it or not, and there are many employers out there that are looking for people who are able to hone in on this skill. Being creative shows that you are able to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas that can help both your employer and yourself. English majors develop creativity through several different ways, but the method that jumps out at me the most is taking creative writing classes and dreaming up new worlds and characters. How often can other majors say that they must utilize creativity on a daily basis in order to succeed?
5. Critical Thinking
This is a big skill for English majors. I know that in every English literature class I’ve taken so far, we must analyze the text from multiple perspectives in order to increase our understanding of it. English majors use critical thinking every time they sit down to write an essay on a piece of symbolism or literary theory in relation to a specific text. Critical thinking allows one to view all the options and improve their problem solving, something that will be useful in any job.
There are, of course, more than just five skills you’re able to gain as a student of English, but the aforementioned skills proved most accurate in my own experience. I think it’s very important that English majors use these points to their advantage when seeking post-grad jobs because it might better your chances with potential employers.
While it’s certainly good for them to know that you have an English degree it’s better that you show how your training as an English student makes you a prime candidate for the position. You have all the skills necessary to make it in the professional world. Use them.
Stay tuned for the next installment of English Major Musings at Paperback Paris!
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