Category Archives: Unemployed English Majors

Red Herrings and Sweeping Generalizations

“Funny thing about weekends when you’re unemployed, they don’t mean quite so much. Except you get to see your workin’ friends” – Les Claypool

 

I feel like I see things differently than most people, and I blame this on my English Degree. When I see the new sign at the mall that reads “Wifi Now Available in Every Corner of the Mall,” I picture crowds of people congregating wherever two walls meet, trying to harness the new “corner wifi” signal. I’m incapable of reading a sign or an advertisement or a potato chip bag without dissecting and analyzing it (What does the author mean when he says: “Now with more flavor in every bite!” Did they originally try putting more flavor in only a few bites? How would that work? Also, did I just refer to the person who wrote the text for this potato chip bag as an author?). I’m pretty sure that this is a terminal condition, and that one day I’ll see a billboard like the one below and my belt will snap off its flywheel for good:

il·lit·er·ate  adj. 1. Unable to read and write.

il·lit·er·ate
adj.
1. Unable to read and write.

 

But, I suppose I have to take the good with the bad. Being an English Major also taught me a great deal about thinking critically, citing sources, and avoiding logical fallacies. Basically, I feel smarter, just not in a way that can immediately and obviously be linked to a source of potential employment. A lot of other college graduates have the advantage of getting an education in a field that has a career named after it, which in hindsight seems like a solid strategy. If anyone reading this is contemplating a major right now, forget all of this nonsense about “English” or “Cultural Studies” and go for something less abstract, like “architect” or “zip line tour guide.” The truth is that most of us English Majors have no idea what we want to do after college, we just know we like to read books and that we’re terrible at math. Psychology Majors are the same way; They don’t have a clear idea of what they want to do either, but they also have a nagging suspicion that they may be crazy, so psychology sounds like a good way to maybe tackle two issues at once. Us English Majors, by contrast, didn’t have to do any upper level coursework to find out if we were crazy or not – we knew the answer to that question a long time ago.

Yes: we’re crazy.

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Unemployment Rates by Major: Will Work for Food and Structured Student Loan Repayment Plan

I came across this website that lists “Unemployment rates by Major” and I was shocked that English Majors aren’t at the top of the list. In fact, it looks like “Industrial Design” and “Cultures/Civilization” top the list at 23.1%, while English Majors have only a 4.9% unemployment rate. The website is kind of a mess visually, has ads all over the place, and sites no sources other than alumni survey results from an unnamed institution, so I’m sure it’s an 100% accurate reflection of unemployment rates across the board.

I think that if these numbers show us anything, it’s that Industrial Design and Cultures/Civilization Majors think they are too good to work at call centers, while most English Majors don’t have this reservation. Either that, or English Majors love to lie when they take alumni surveys, while most Industrial Design and Cultures/Civilization Majors are brutally honest.

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Wanted: English Major. Must have read The Catcher in the Rye and written a lengthy essay about Nathaniel Hawthorne.

I’ve been looking online and in the paper for months and, unfortunately, I haven’t seen any classified ads that read similar to the title of this blog post. I know that there are people out there writing things, because I read things all the time. Cereal boxes, pamphlets, microwave instruction manuals, billboards… All of these things have writing on them; I’ve seen it.

Where do the people who write these things go to find work? (Kellogg’s talent scouts: if you’re reading this, you should know that I have some great story ideas about Snap, Crackle, and Pop that I think would be perfect for the back of a Rice Krispies box. Call me.) I’ve seen postings for writing-related positions, but they always want “experienced writers,” which begs another question: where do all of these experienced writers get all of this experience? Why isn’t writing about how delicious Pop Tarts are an entry level position? I have over thirty years of experience eating things, but I can’t find one person who wants to pay me to write about what these things taste like.

A lot of places also want writing samples, which I have plenty of, but I’m not sure that New Critical essays on The House of the Seven Gables  and Huckleberry Finn are what they are looking for. I assume they mean professional writing samples that I wrote while doing the mysterious work necessary to amass the five years of experience that I also need for the position. So that looks like another dead end.

Then there are job postings that want “blogging experience,” or “sample blog posts.” So I thought: “Hey, wait a minute! I could start a blog!” So I immediately sat down and created a blog about roleplaying games, a topic so eccentric and geeky that it clearly wouldn’t work in this capacity. Then the light bulb came on all the way, and I created this blog. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

(Note: The “Related Articles” below have not been peer reviewed. I have no idea what the content is like. It looks like they talk about The Catcher in the Rye and Nathaniel Hawthorne though, and I did a little too. So in that sense they are related.)

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