2015 Convention Stories

English Majors ARE Job Ready!

Sean PeblerSean Pebler
Alpha Tau Phi Chapter
University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

Sean's blog was selected 2nd Place in the 2015 Convention Story Contest.

As an English major, I am all-too familiar with facing skepticism about the practicality of my schooling. Because of this, I have searched for different ways to explain my academic interests, feeling the need to communicate the validity of my demanding course load. What I learned today, though, is that this hard work has already qualified me for more jobs than I thought possible. The “Job-Ready Seminar” was refreshing because it reassured us—as English majors—of what, subconsciously, we already knew: we have been developing emotional intelligence, analytical skills, and written communication capabilities throughout our undergraduate experience. According to Susan de la Vergne (pictured with me below), this gives us a competitive advantage in the job market, specifically in the business environment. In her words, this is the "Liberal Arts Advantage."

Sean Pebler (left) and Susan de la Vergne (right)While I had learned about emotional intelligence before, Vergne’s real-life examples were fascinating. She argues that, because we are familiar with literary characters, those skills translate to reading real people. We understand human behavior better than psychologists, she stresses, because we are accustomed to analyzing complex human interactions. Specifically, Vergne believes these assets prepare English majors particularly well for business management.

Another take-away from the session is the importance of developing the "Elevator Speech." This is essentially the ability to explain your career aspirations in 30 seconds or less. As English majors, Vergne stresses we must never lead this pitch with “I am an English major.” Because of the stigma surrounding the real-life applicability of our major, she explains, we must hook employers with our specific skillset. By instead starting our pitch with, “I have well-developed analytical and written and verbal communication skills,” and then closing with “which I crafted while earning an English degree,” we become much more attractive in the business environment.

Vergne, a fellow English major, has 30+ years of experience in the job market. Now, she assists young professionals in the art of communication and knowing how to sell yourself. On the most basic level, English majors already have a competitive advantage entering an interview because employers are always looking for “excellent verbal and written communication skills.” If we know how to sell our story to employers, we have even more of an advantage than we realize.