Please Hire Me: English Major Edition

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When I was a bright-eyed senior in high school, ready to take on college and still terrified of what I would find there, I knew that I would major in English.

Well, why wouldn’t I? It had always been my best subject, not to mention the subject I loved the most. My dream was to write books for the rest of my life, so it seemed like the obvious choice.

But to everyone else….well, not so much.

Upon meeting your fellow freshman (and sometimes their parents) you will always–and I mean ALWAYS–be asked the same three questions:

  1. What’s your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. What are you majoring in?

“I’m Katie. I’m from Kansas City, Missouri,” I would say. “And I’m majoring in English.”

I learned very quickly that majoring in English was not exactly a ‘normal’ major. I met many other English majors, of course, but to those who chose a more–well–practical path, my choice made no sense.

So, more often than not, I was interrogated about my future. I came to dread the typical follow-up conversation, which always included one of the following questions (if not both):

  1. What do you do with an English major, anyway?
  2. Oh, so you want to teach?

 

I mean, they made an entire song about this in Avenue Q.  Literally everyone asks this.

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And yes, it is as exhausting as it sounds. If you are like me, and hate having personal conversations with strangers, you learn to provide a reasonable, well-rehearsed answer so everyone can move on with their lives and enjoy their dining hall meal in peace.

I told most people that I ‘wasn’t sure,’ but I was ‘interested in publishing and editing.’

I mean, that’s true. am interested in those things, but it’s not the only reason I became an English major. If I had been completely honest, I would have said something like, “I love reading and writing and  all I want to do is write books and learn more about literature and and OH MY GOD I love WORDS.”

But then I would have no friends, because I would have scared everyone.

It is also quite difficult to be honest about your dreams when you are constantly told that English majors are doomed to be unemployed.

But why should I care? I mean, I don’t want a normal job. I just want to write.

Here’s the thing: most writers don’t care about the amount of money they earn, but they know they need a steady job to support themselves until they can live off of their writing. Not all of us want to be teachers.

By my senior year of college, my anxiety about the future had taken its toll. My capstone class focused on job-hunting skills, and I had an internship with a literary magazine, but I still felt ill-equipped. I was scheduled to graduate a semester early, and I had nothing planned. Nothing at all. Well-meaning friends and family members asked what I wanted to do after college, and I broke down in tears.

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I cursed myself and my stupid decision to major in English. Why didn’t I choose journalism? Why didn’t I double major in communications, or media? Why was I such an idiot?  I convinced myself that I was going to be living on the streets (even though I have wonderful parents who would never let that happen).

Eventually, I decided to go on a three-month long mission trip (which is a story for another day). My fear of being eternally unemployed was put on hold…until I came back home.

The Great Job Search began.

It. Was. Awful.

I hate searching for jobs. Absolutely hate it. From cover letters to interviews, everything about applying for jobs exhausts me. Some people can handle this–for instance, my boyfriend once told me that he used to apply for ten jobs a day. TEN! I feel accomplished if I apply to four.

After weeks of searching and interviewing, something funny happened.

I was offered a job.

A job! Just for me!

The position was at a family clinic. I checked patients in and out for appointments and answered phones. It wasn’t related to what I wanted to do, but it was a job.

After a few months, this fact alone became slightly discouraging; would I always be stuck with jobs that were so far from my goals? Was it because I had decided on my college career as a 17-year-old?

My worries were founded on ideas that had been planted in my head from people who–although they meant well–had never experienced life as an English major.

I think I have learned a few things since then.

Take heart, English majors, because:

My first full-time job may not have been my dream job, but first jobs hardly ever are. I was not in a good place when I was hired (and by that I mean I was super depressed and crippled with anxiety), but as my heart healed, so did my perspective. I gained experience. I met wonderful people. I learned more about healthcare, and, as a result, have even more love and respect for any doctors and nurses out there. I desperately needed that job, and I am so thankful I was hired.

Majoring in English is not a hopeless endeavor. Do you know how many times someone has looked at my resume, scoffed, and told me that they couldn’t hire me because I studied English? Zero. That’s because English majors are actually awesome. The skills you learn as an English major are needed for every single job out there.  Excellent written and verbal communication skills? Umm, that’s kind of our jam.

You can go to any job board and search ‘writing.’ Seriously. Do it right now. The options are endless, from copy writing to editorial assistant positions. I honestly do not know how the entire ‘English majors don’t get jobs’ idea started, because you can search ‘English major’ and get very similar results. Sometimes job hunting takes some creativity–and it definitely takes a lot of hard work, but you’ll find something out there. I promise.

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To be honest, I feel a little hypocritical writing this; after all, I still have not found my dream job. I still find job hunting exhausting, and I’d love to just sit at home and get paid to watch Netflix (I mean, it’s 2016. Come on, America).

But I’m not as hopeless as I used to be. And if you are drowning adulthood anxiety, I am here to tell you that job hunting gets much easier. It’s a part of life, and it just takes practice–and maybe a lot of chocolate. Trust yourself and keep believing in happy endings. One day, you might not even need that nine-to-five. ❤

 

Further Reading/Listening: 

Jobs (& Hints) for Creative Souls

Careers After an English Major 

What Do You Do With a B.A In English/It Sucks To Be Me from Avenue Q (warning: explicit lyrics)

 

 

searching

It’s funny.

Funny how strangers can tell you exactly what you need to hear.

Funny how a single word can light a spark in your heart until your whole soul is on fire.

(I’m trying very hard not to edit this as I write, by the way. It’s not easy, because usually everything I write has to be JUST PERFECT–whatever that means–and sometimes honesty hurts a little). 

Lately, my life has been a bit of a whirlwind.

Months ago, I fell in love with someone; then, I moved so I could be with that someone, instead of depending on technology and weekend visits. I have been working two part-time jobs and struggling to figure out what to even do with my life. And in between, I have dealt with sudden loss and felt incredible joy and experienced the wonder that is life on earth. I have been trying to trust God with my life, and I have been learning how to let go.

(This is the part when my inner editor goes crazy, because I use too much repetition in an attempt to sound poetic and all I seem to write about is what most of you already know.) 

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again, because it’s as true now as it was then: I am not good at letting go. It’s been that way for as long as I can remember. My poor mother has tried very hard to remedy this. Like many suburban families, we would hold garage sales to get rid of things we no longer used or needed. If we hadn’t used it for a few months, we would sell it.

Unfortunately, this rule also applied to toys.  Before those dreaded garage sales, I would cling to stuffed animals that I hadn’t played with for YEARS, insisting that I still loved them.

“MOOOOOOOM. IT WAS A GIFT FROM THE GIRL SCOUT WHITE ELEPHANT EXCHANGE THREE YEARS AGO.”

“You can’t keep everything that’s a gift.”

“But throwing it away is mean!”

“When was the last time you played with it?”

“I don’t know, but I still DO.”

And on and on it went.

In my adult life, (I’m an adult?! What?!?!), this attitude has manifested itself in a multitude of ways. For instance: I tend I overcommit, even when I am miserable and exhausted. Because GOSHDARNIT I MADE A COMMITMENT AND I CAN’T QUIT DOING THIS. 

If I am not overcommitting to jobs/appointments/whatever, I am overcommitting myself to dreams or ideas that I had when I was a teenager. For a very long time, I wanted to live in New York City. I’m sure I’d still love to, but dreams change, and I would rather live in a city with people I love than in a city with an empty apartment.

Admitting that to myself was difficult. Stupidly difficult. I told Drew that I felt like I was letting my old self down. He asked me if I wanted to be the same person I was when I was sixteen.

Here’s the thing:  99% of the time, you should not want to be the person you were at sixteen. You should want to grow and learn and become a better person. I know this. I would tell any of my friends the same thing.

I said, “I don’t know. In some ways, yes.”

While that last part is true–I always want to be hopeful and passionate and excited about everything–the more honest answer is no. No, I don’t want to be sixteen forever. Because a) that’s dumb, and b) I know way more now than I did when I was in high school.

That was so hard for me to say. And I don’t know why.

I want to cling to what I know, but most of the time, it’s not even that familiar. It’s just there, taking up space in my closet or eating away at my soul because I set impossibly high standards for myself.

(I know this is very similar to my post about moving. I almost apologized, but I have nothing to be sorry for. If you are still here, thank you for sticking with me for this long). 

Last week, while I was at work, one of our customers mentioned her family was moving to another country. She told us that her attitude was very similar to owners of this blog, and how they say they are searching for what matters.

That really resonated with me. Just writing about it almost brings me to tears, because for most of my life, I have been chasing things that don’t last. I still am. My priorities have been what the world tells me they should be and not what makes my heart content.

What really matters to me? What am I searching for?

My relationship with God. The people I love. My health and well-being. Going on adventures and discovering the world around me.

But that’s not how I have been living. That’s what needs to change.

Disclaimer: I am not moving to another country. I’m keeping my retail job, because even though money doesn’t control my happiness, I kind of need it to live. I’m really not doing anything drastic.

I am simply asking myself what I want to keep.