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how your English degree paid off

Should’ve gone to trade school.

If you’ve had that thought before, or worse, if you’ve ever endured the overcooked joke that is the phrase “would you like fries with that”, then let me take a wild chance at guessing what your educational background is.

You’re an English major, too.

And have you, too developed a customary response when you’re asked about your education? A wry shrug – maybe a wink – and definitely a sigh: ah well. Live and learn.

Uncomfortable, jokey body language. To make sure the person asking gets that I’m self-aware enough to understand what they’re thinking when I say “English Literature".

What an unfortunate life decision.

After all, what can you do with an English degree?

Since I decided to switch up careers this summer, I’ve had to think about this subject quite a bit. I wrote a fake cover letter for an Instagram caption about my English degree and my fantastically eclectic interests, and had a couple acquaintances message me to say they felt similarly.

And now I’m done with the self-deprecation. I’m your girl with a university degree and I know exactly what I bring to the conversation.

You too, my beautiful, smart, reflective, imaginative, profound, English majors. Listen…

You’re Not Locked Down Into a Specific Career

But, not being instantly qualified for a particular career can be wonderfully freeing, if you’re up for it. Otherwise, it's scary. And that’s why we’ve started seeing these art degrees in a negative light.

We like things to be settled.

We like things to be determined.

We’re missing how exciting and vastly world opening not being locked down can be.

If you go to school to be something - let's use the aforesaid electrician as an example (aforesaid is such a throwback essay word, it's making me smile) - you're probably not going to search for any jobs but electrician.

Graduating with an English degree means the world is your damn oyster. You can literally search through thousands of job listings.

Since I graduated, I’ve been:

- A front desk agent, then promoted to the front desk manager at a resort that's been featured in a reality show on the golf channel.

- A teller, then promoted to an account manager at Canada's largest financial institution.

- A leasing agent for a property management company in a small northern city.

All of those jobs could have turned into lifelong, successful careers with regular promotions, if I had wanted to continue. I didn’t. An insatiable imagination for experiencing dissimilar things means I haven’t settled down, but keep moving along, every few years.

And maybe I won’t.

But maybe you will.

Success is different, for different people.

You Have Transferable Skills

Your new best friend is the phrase “or equivalent experience”.

Job listings often have a specific education requirement, but just as often, they’ll say “or equivalent experience”. Enter – your degree. Those four years of hard work weren’t for nothing.

Looking at job postings online, here are a few real live requirements, pulled from listings as varied as labourer, insurance advisor, merchandizer, and sales market manager, etc.:

- Superior multi-tasking skills in a deadline driven environment, aka time management.

- Proven history of professional communication skills, both written and verbal.

- Computer skills.

- Problem analysis & problem solving.

- Highly organized, detail oriented, and able to work independently as well as with a team.

- Highly motivated with a positive personal attitude.

They’re called transferable skills.

Your English degree provides you with the basic qualifications for every job on the planet.

You Can Communicate Those Skills

Don't wait to be asked if you're qualified. Use your resume and cover letter to your advantage. After all, you've spent the last few years of your life up to your eyeballs in persuasive essays.

Own your skills.

Know your subject.

Show – don’t tell.

And where do you think you learned that?




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