For me, the only thing more frightening than “Kanye 2020” is the career fair. Never having been to one, just the idea of attending makes want to crawl to the bottom of a carton of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked. As an English major, I’ve always thought of career fairs as nothing more than an opportunity to flirt with the cute boys in their pretty business costumes.
Many English majors, and liberal arts majors in general, fear that business majors have a monopoly on all career fairs. Well, that simply isn’t true. “All sorts of employers want the skills that English majors have,” said Professor Suzanne Matson, Chair of the English Department at Boston College.
Additionally, English majors cultivate oral and written communication skills through regular classroom discussion and infinite written assignments. Corporations can train you but they need someone with a foundation in communication and critical thinking. Believing that your English major offers invaluable skills to the business world is the first step to not combusting into tears at a career fair.
Always remember that you belong. Your English degree may seem unrelated next to degrees in management and accounting and finance (oh my), but you can make an impression as well as anyone else.
Alison Woodworth of the Boston College Career Center advises liberal arts majors to research the types of positions they want. The career center has resources for those who know exactly the positions they want, and for those who have no clue. If you want to take action and just don’t know which action to take, look to your university’s career center to direct your employable energy.
The needs of corporations are diverse, and your liberal arts degree and the fact that you are (hopefully) a good person, will be of value to any employer. “Recruiters want a diverse candidate pool – this includes diversity in an area of study. The perspective an English major brings to an organization will differ from the perspective a finance major brings. Successful organizations need both,” said Woodworth. Successful organizations need diverse backgrounds.
Regard employers as John F. Kennedy regarded America: ask not what your employers can do for you; ask what you can do for your employers. How does your experience best fill their position? “No, my English major didn’t connect me to any obvious career path. But it did give me the ability to think creatively and critically about what I want to do with my life, what to make of the people and situations around me and what kind of person I truly want to be,” said Meg Delory, a recent graduate of Boston College. Delory saw her confidence in speaking and writing translate to success in her post-grad life as an Admissions Assistant in the Graduate Admissions office at Tufts University.
So fear not, fellow English majors. We’re not unhirable.
If you’re afraid of the career fair–like I was when I began writing this article–the best step you can take is to ask for help. Go to the career center at your school and tell them every fear that’s holding you back.
Woodworth advises students everywhere, of all academic backgrounds, to use their resources. “I know that walking into a career center can seem scary at first, but it is our job and goal to help students learn about themselves, set goals and then make plans to reach those goals. Students don’t have to navigate this process on their own,” Woolworth said.
Columbus didn’t sail across the ocean blue alone. He had an entire team of sailors and Spanish gold at his back. So go; be Columbus, but also don’t. (He was a terrible person.)