Struggles All English Majors Face Post Graduation


old-booksIf you’re an English major, you’ve probaby fielded a dozen or so annoying questions, comments and unsolicited critiques in your lifetime. From your parents telling you to pick literally anything else, to guidance counselors advising you to do a business minor (at the very least), to your friends who cannot understand your love of literature, being an English major (who doesn’t want to enter law or teaching) can be a veritable minefield of judgment.

This doesn’t change after graduation. After graduation, you’ll probably be met with an entire world of people with more marketable skills than you’ve got. With a little luck, a lot of internships, determination and hard work, you’ll build a career. But it will definitely be a struggle.

At the end of the day, it’s all worth it, you tell yourself as you cradle Anna Karenina in the dark of night.

People ask you the worst questions

And they don’t understand that their judgment is palpable. These questions are including, but not limited to:

“So you’re going to be a teacher?”

“What are you going to do with that major?”

“Oh, so are you going to grad school?”

“But like, what kind of job do you want?”

And in my case, as a waitress, “Is this all you’re doing right now?”

People just do not understand why anyone would choose to study English just for the sake of it. For two years, I answered these questions with varying levels of b*tch face, never truly caring to conceal my irritation. What is most galling is that you know you’re probably smarter, more clever, and more educated than these people across the board. Let’s discuss Kafka, shall we? No?

Finding a job is going to be really hard

Despite the plethora of websites and magazines going online these days, finding a full-time job will be rough. The sooner you realize that, the better. Your godsends will be making connections, working for free, working for a pittance, and being very clear about your goals. If your goal is publishing, it may not be possible to start at Random House right away: try volunteering at small indie presses. It’s rough, I know.

You’ll probably have to take an unpaid internship

Sure, unpaid internships were fine when you were getting college credit and free transportation courtesy of your university. After college? It’s not so exciting. If you’re writing, getting an unpaid internship lets you build a clips portfolio and build connections, but it will also bleed your bank account dry. Proceed with caution.

Moving home is possible, if not probable

Hey, no shame.

You’ll consider law school, MFA programs, English grad school, and publishing a novel

You’ll lose heart about a year in, if you haven’t found a decent job, and look for a way out. You will consider everything just to have some semblance of a path, because at that point, classes sound so good to you, better than chronic unemployment and being constantly reminded that being an English major is a waste of your degree. It isn’t: you just need some perspective.

Waiting tables will be a blessing and a curse

Again, no shame. Taking a part-time job (even a full-time job) can sometimes be a luxury. It’ll teach you the value of hard work, of making sacrifices for your passion, and it will give you hella cash. There are some downsides, like having to work weekends while your friends with jobs are YOLOing, but hey — we already established that being an English major comes with its struggles.

Freelance work will be a blessing and a curse

Take it from me: do not write for free. For very long. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are people willing to pay you for good work.

You’ll become a master interviewer

There are only so many times someone can ask you about your “biggest weakness” before you begin to polish the ol’ script. It helps that you’re a clever wordsmith.

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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