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Synchronicity! Yesterday we held our second annual English majors orientation, a time to gather them all together, introduce them to each other, and remind them that in addition to reading Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice, they need some practical skills. Not that reading isn’t practical!

Today, the New York Daily News points out that “A liberal arts degree is a good investment.”  As we told our majors, it’s partly a matter of emphasizing the abilities inherent in the liberal arts, and partly a matter of bolstering those skills with practical experience. From the NYDN article:

Connie Thanasoulis, a career coach and co-founder of the New Yorkconsultancy Six Figure Start, agrees that liberal arts graduates bring all sorts of strengths that employers desire: communication, problem solving, attention to detail and teamwork.”Look at the interpretation skills an English lit major has from interpreting literature,” she says. …One example is a research analyst, who studies and writes a complete story about a particular stock. It’s a good job that pays well, says Thanasoulis. The head of research at an investment firm once told her, “Stop sending me only finance majors; I was a Russian lit major. I want someone who thinks outside the box, who can tell me a story and who has good writing skills.

The article goes on to acknowledge that liberal arts majors may indeed start at lower salaries, but that doesn’t mean they won’t move up, or that they won’t find satisfaction in their jobs.

The practical advice for job-seeking English majors (and other liberal arts majors in the NYDN article is much the same as the advice we gave our Campbell U English majors yesterday:

Take courses in business, technology and marketing to bank some diverse experience and valuable contacts. Consider having a double major. And be sure to get some good job or volunteer experience while in school or in the summers between classes. …Even if you volunteer for a nonprofit, at least you can show a future employer that you’ve had exposure to the workings of an organization.

So if you’re an English major, or you know an English major, the next time someone asks, “What are you going to do with that?” remember the answer is, “You’ll be surprised.”

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