“Oh, you’re an English major?”

First published January 24, 2012 on Beyond the Elms, the Scripps College Career Planning & Resources Blog. 

There are two common responses when I say I’m an English major: “Do you want to be a teacher?” or “Ah, so you want to work at Starbucks.”

While I can respond definitively that no, I don’t want to work as a professional barista forever, teaching is a less black and white career choice for me. I’d love to teach, but I feel like I’ll need quite a few more years learning before I can take on that responsibility.

To that, there’s only one response: “So, what do you want to do?”

I’ve never understood why “What don’t I want to do?” isn’t an acceptable answer.

I want to be a writer. That much is clear. In terms of my day job, I’ve considered journalism, publishing, editing, really anything that will allow me to get my opinions out there in the medium I love – the written word.

A little less than a year ago, I was deciding between starting my new life at Scripps or at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. One of the (many) reasons I ultimately chose Scripps is that the field of journalism is changing rapidly. With new technology constantly shaking up the industries I’m interested in, how could I possibly be certain a position I want would still exist by the time I graduate?

For the most part, I’ve accepted that I can’t be sure about my future until the future of the fields I’m looking at starts to settle down a bit. And then I stumble across an article like “Not All College Majors are Created Equal” from the Washington Post. (An article that, by the way, I read after Facebook informed me a friend had read– further testimony to the adjustments newspapers are making to stay relevant.)

“I have this game I play when I meet college students,” columnist Michelle Singletary declares. Her game is, based on a student’s major, guessing if they will get a job upon graduating. “An English major with no internships or any plan of what she might do with the major to earn a living? No job.”

I would like to point out that any major “with no internships or any plan” will likely fail to get a job, but the fact remains that English majors are most doubted. And such public declarations of doubt, especially when made by someone working in a field I’m considering, don’t do much for my confidence in my dreams. Or, should I say, my confidence that I should give myself time to choose my dreams.

Nonetheless, for now I’m sticking to the appetizers in the metaphorical meal of my career. I did an internship at my local newspaper last summer; maybe a publishing house will be next. This way, when it comes time to order my main course, I’ll know what’s on the menu, and I’ll be ready to feast.


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