English and Communications Degree: Careers, Grad School, and Finding Your Path

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Figuring out your career path when you have a degree that doesn’t lead to a specific job can be tough. People who study subjects like English, history, philosophy, or general maths and sciences like biology or chemistry are often assumed by others to have limited jobs available to them.

It’s certainly not as straightforward as studying engineering, nursing, education, medicine, law, social work, mental health, or accounting. Degrees that lead to a specific career path take out the guesswork of having to choose a career after graduation. Having a more broad degree still has it’s advantages, however, because you don’t have to feel stuck in one career path.

For creative types, this can be a good thing, because we can get restless, curious, and bored if we feel restricted to one path. I know, this all sounds fine and dandy until you’re left with an empty wallet, no sense of direction, a “useless” degree, and an overwhelming pile of debt. But the truth is, the old mantra they used to tell us in elementary school is true, knowledge really IS power.

All degrees open up doors to more careers and more opportunities. The challenge of carving out a career path when your degree doesn’t lead to a specific job is exactly that, a challenge. Are you up for it? I think you are! Even people who have degrees in accounting or engineering should know that their degree opens MANY doors, not just the one path. Anyone can want a career change in their life at any time, so the truth is, what you study, in many cases, doesn’t matter. Many people end up pursuing careers not related to what they studied.

If you have a degree in English, Communications, or any other liberal arts subject, don’t believe there are no careers out there for you. There are several. Does that mean it will be easy to get started? Not at all. You have to choose a path that’s right for you, and then you have to build your resume up with relevant experience if you don’t already have it. Volunteering for a local nonprofit is probably the best way to do it.

Internships can be good, too, but sometimes you need experience for those, too. Choosing a nonprofit and volunteering with them for at least a year is a great way to gain experience. Try to volunteer doing something related to the career you want. If you don’t know what you want to do, try out a few things within the organization. If you can do this before you graduate, even better.

Building a career is a marathon, not a sprint. Take your time, try things, fail, and fail again. It means you’re one step closer to success. If you’re still trying to figure out your career, your not alone. I’m in the same boat, but I know we can do it ūüôā Here are some careers to consider if you have a degree in English or Communications:

Journalist for newspapers, magazines, or blogs

Editorial Assistant

Publicity Assistant

Junior Copywriter

Senior Copywriter

Grant Writer

Fundraiser

Technical Writer

Accounting Clerk

Social Media Manager

Event Planner

Public Relations Specialist

Marketing Assistant

Marketing Manager

Account Executive

Assistant Manager

General Manager

Human Resources Assistant

Administrative Assistant

Medical Receptionist

Executive Assistant

English/Literacy Teacher

ESL/TESOL Instructor

Tour Guide

Art Gallery Associate

These are some of the careers you can consider if you have a degree in English or communications. For some, you may need to learn new skills or get a new certification, but if it’s something you really want to do, it’s more than worth it. You can also consider these subjects for grad school:

English

Creative Writing

Library Science

Media Studies

Education

Literacy and Language

Public Relations

Advertising

The truth is, you can study anything in grad school. Don’t have the prerequisites you need? Go back to community college and take them. That’s not to say that it’s easy, or that taking on more debt or spending more money is a casual decision. But it’s important to realize that you are not limited by your degree. There is nothing wrong with studying something you love. In my opinion, it’s what you should do every time. Follow your bliss.

Building a career is not easy. Having options is great, but you do need to choose a path and you do need to gain experience. The path to gaining experience, interning, or volunteering may seem long, but look at it this way. The time you spend volunteering and learning from experience, is not much different from the time someone else is spending in grad school, med school, or law school. Things take time, and that is okay.

Stay strong and believe in yourself. You have options, you have a future, and you have opportunities. Get out there and find them. I’ll be doing the same. ‚̧

 

 

Career Reflections

I think the myth of the overnight success leads a lot of people to feel depressed. There’s this idea that we should have our ideal jobs right after we graduate college, but that’s just not the reality for most people. And that sucks, doesn’t it? We work so hard in school, and somehow four years of studying, writing essays, taking exams, and having a meltdown (or twenty) gets deduced to one small piece of our resume. We get lost in a sea of people who have qualifications and skills that are similar to ours.

Humanities grads are often made to feel like they chose the wrong area of study, and that they’ll never get a good job. People will judge us and say we’ll never get a job outside of retail or food service. The thing is, lots of people start there careers working in a minimum wage job. Is it ideal, especially when you have student loans to pay off? Of course not, but just because a person starts small, it doesn’t mean that’s where they will be for the rest of their lives.

It’s like people think your first job after you graduate will be what you do forever. We know this isn’t true, but if your path isn’t neat and predictable, people think you have no path at all. I’m sure it’s hard for some people who study¬†accounting or¬†nursing to understand people who don’t have a degree that leads to a specific career, and if someone in a STEM field judges humanities majors, it’s probably more a reflection on them than it is on the people who studied English or History.

Choosing a major that leads to a specific job may work for some people, but I know people who studied accounting, computer science, or medicine, only to realize later that they didn’t enjoy the work. Not only that, but that the career wasn’t a good match for their personality to¬†the point that they were unhappy everyday, then quit. I know education grads who have spent months trying to find a proper teaching job.

None of these people are failures, even though others may see their paths as hopeless. Maybe they feel that way themselves. The problem is that the most important aspect of a career is never taught to us: these things take time.

For some people, having their ideal career means going to university for ten years. For others, it might mean being a bartender or a sales associate for a couple years while they gain experience interning or volunteering in what they really want. This path may not be cool or shiny and sparkly from the outside, but it sure as hell is realistic. Sometimes building a career requires a shit ton of grunt work.

Some of the most successful people I admire are those who spent up to seven years waiting tables, bartending, or working in banks before they were able to run their own businesses full time. Some people start small and work their way up in a company, then continue their education when they get a better feel for the work they want to do. I know some people who worked in retail for a long time, and then got promoted until they worked their way up to being a manager.

For some people, a specific degree is needed for a specific job. And that works for some people. But for me, education is about enrichment. Most jobs I apply for don’t really care what you studied. But they do care about your skills, and even more about your work experience. So, I’m doing what I can to gain experience. It’s not a shiny, sparkly overnight success. It will take time, and I’m okay with that.

 

 

Trying to find my way

Nothing much to say. Applying for jobs is a soul-sucking experience. It’s impossible to do it without feeling sad. I don’t understand why basic survival has to be placed so far out of reach, especially for recent college¬†grads. I feel like everything I want to do isn’t realistic. I don’t know where to start so that I can have my own life. I’m feeling pretty lost and hopeless and I don’t know when things will get better.

I know lots of people can relate to these feelings. Hopefully we can get through it all together.

 

Grad School, Careers, and Other Thoughts on Adulting

I graduated with my degree in English last Spring, and I have to say it feels good to have that accomplishment under my belt. I have a field and belong to a community of grads and writers, and it’s cool to connect with people who have the same interests as me. Attending events like BookCon has shown me how following my interests can lead me to meet great people and have lovely experiences.

In college, I had been able to do poetry readings and attend literary events. I realize that the fun of all this really comes from connecting with people and sharing my work.

I self-published some poetry after I graduated, fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was twelve. The support I’ve gotten from others has been heart-warming and inspiring. Because it is self-publishing (and because it’s poetry), I have not sold a large amount of books, but several people have bought them. It’s given me first-hand experience in creating, marketing and selling a product. And I think, at 22 years old, it’s pretty cool that I can have that experience.

I started taking driving lessons, which hasn’t been my favorite thing. I enjoy driving on side streets, but I don’t like driving in traffic. I know it’s important to be able to travel independently, so I’ll keep trying. It would be nice, though, to move to a city where I could get around without driving too much.

I’ve read a ton of books since graduating, mostly YA fiction. John Green, Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, JK Rowling… all my personal heroes. I would love to start reading more classics, like The Canterbury Tales, Wuthering Heights, and The Great Gatsby. It would probably help if I used the library to save money, but I do love buying my books. I’ve also listened to music: Selena Gomez’s Revival, Sara Bareilles’s Waitress, and Bleachers’s Strange Desire. Then of course, there’s the shows I’ve been binge-watching: The Fosters, Chasing Life, Switched at Birth, The Fosters, Friends, did I mention The Fosters?!?!

Embracing my sexuality has been important for me as well. I started coming out as bisexual. When Ingrid Nilson came out, she said her world got a whole lot bigger, and I can really relate to this. I have learned so much about sexuality and gender, and I’m so grateful for that. Living authentically makes life so much better. It makes you face your fears, and that makes you brave.

Ellen says you just have to live your truth, and I agree with this. It’s all about self love.

I thought about going to grad school. I wrestled with the idea for a while. If I went, it would be to get an MFA in creative writing or an MA in English. I was stressed out because the application deadlines for the fall were approaching, but I decided not to go. I know school will always be there. I want to live life outside of school and accomplish things and find my way in the world.

So, now I’m just figuring out my career and my life and everything that comes with it. It helps me to get organized, and to take small steps. Small accomplishments make a big difference. And at the end of the day, what matters most is that you¬†take care of¬†yourself and try your best. So, that’s what I’m doing.

 

 

What I Learned From Changing My Major In College

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When I first entered college as an undergrad, I chose to major in Theater. It wasn’t a hard choice. I had been taking acting classes for a few years and it was all I wanted to do. I loved theater. I loved learning my lines. I loved working with passionate, creative people. Being on stage gave¬†me a voice, and getting into character meant that I could take a break from being me. It meant that I could get a glimpse into what it might be like to be someone else. Nothing was more magical to me than acting.

My freshman year, I got to experience some really cool things. I got to learn about acting, arts management, sets, costumes, stage lighting, Stanislavski, musical theater, and much more. I got to see myself grow through my different scenes and assignments. I got to meet people who were all unique, but who were all united by their common love of the theater.

I also got to watch my peers act, sing and dance in several performances. Seeing people live their passion is one of my favorite things in the world, so being surrounded by creative people brought me a lot of joy.

While I experienced a lot of good things my freshman year, I wasn’t always happy. I spent a lot of time feeling sad, anxious and isolated. I broke down crying on more than one occasion. I knew I needed a change in my life, I just didn’t know what kind. My freshman year was followed by a terrible summer that only made my sadness and anxiety worse. I was in a really low place, and I knew that a hectic theater schedule wasn’t going to help me get out of it. I needed to find some peace and solitude.

I’ve never been the kind of person who only had one passion. I loved acting, but I also loved writing, so I decided to change my major to English. This wasn’t an easy decision, and no one I talked to thought I should do it. This isn’t surprising. People don’t like change, and even if the change you want to make is good for you, you’ll find that people won’t want to accept it. (You’ll understand what I mean by this if you’ve ever told your friends you’ve chosen to eat healthier. There will always be that one person who says, “Just have one cookie. It won’t hurt you!”)

Once I changed my major, things got better slowly, but not overnight. I missed acting and I was always worried about the future. Still, my friends said they noticed that I was less stressed than I was before. I was starting over, and starting over is never easy. Luckily for me, English majors are some of the loveliest humans you will ever encounter, so I got to meet some really kind people.

I began to focus more on writing. For so long, I had been used to putting a lot of my creative energy into acting. Now that I wasn’t taking acting classes anymore, there was this huge, ginormous void in my life. So, I filled it. In my need to create, I went from being a terrible fiction writer to a decent one. I wrote hundreds of poems. I wrote plays and scripts. I¬†learned how to write songs with my guitar. Occasionally I got to perform my songs, or read my poems and stories aloud at events. I found ways to continue to create and connect with others, all while maintaining the level of solitude I needed to find peace.

Experiencing two different majors really added to my college experience. I got to submerse myself in two different crafts. Writing and acting are very different, but they also have things in common. Both require you to use sense memory and to see things from another character’s perspective. I believe that acting helped me to be a better writer.

I learned a lot from all of this. I learned that there doesn’t have to be just one passion that will bring me happiness in life. It is important to choose something and commit to it, but it is also important to stay open to new things and new experiences. I thought that choosing a major meant doing one thing for the rest of my life. I realize now that this simply is not true. As C.S Lewis says, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I have a lot of different passions, especially when it comes to the arts. I realize now that this is not a bad thing. I got to see myself grow as an actress and as a writer. Making a change is not always easy. I made a change because I wanted to be my best, healthiest self. Sometimes you need a break, even from something you love to do. And that’s okay.

xo

-Ashley

#MyThoughts