How to Prepare for a Career

So now that we’ve got the Big Lie about the English major out of the way, let’s consider some practical ways you can prepare yourself for the world of work.

First and foremost, employers want a work history. Yes, I know you think it’s a drag trying to work and go to university at the same time. But your parents are right: it’s good for you. And it’s also good for your employment history. Your employer will want proof--not just good grades and promises that you’ll work hard and stick with your new career. Real-life experience can be every bit as important as your classes. So get a job--now!

Second, you’ve got to make good grades. If you choose the noble profession of law, you’ll need to be in the top 5% of your class. Study! Just about the stupidest thing I know is the student who pays a great deal of money in tuition but doesn’t study and graduates with the minimum grade point average. “What did you come here for?” I want to ask. “Is that all you expect of yourself?”

Third, enjoy yourself! College ought to be one of the greatest times of your life. You’ll learn a lot here. You’ll make friends for life here. You’ll fall in love here. Maybe you will even meet your future spouse here. My experience is that students who enjoy college make the best grades in it. Enjoy what you’re studying. Consider that math course next term a challenge to overcome! Think of the new authors you’re going to meet, the new ideas that will challenge your growing, fertile brain. This is also a great time to explore other fields that you’ve always wanted to know about. If you’ve ever wondered at the stars, take an astronomy course. Learn to swim. Learn to speak French. You have a lifetime of experience before you, and it begins here at university. Now I ask you: did you ever think how lucky you are to be here?

And speaking of your social life, join some clubs and societies, especially our English national honorary, Sigma Tau Delta. We have a flourishing chapter here.

Fourth, consider what your minor field should be. Neither the department nor the college require you to take an academic minor, but smart students generally do so. Your minor can broaden your career opportunities. Minor in business, or foreign languages, or mathematics (I know: yuk), or communication. You can also double-major, that is, take two complete major fields. English and marketing, for example, make a pretty spicy combination.

Fifth, take your career opportunities seriously. Begin early by going to the University Career Services; take part in the annual Career Fairs. Learn to market yourself. Talk to prospective employers. Ask them about internships and summer employment. If you’re considering a career in newspaper journalism, in the summer of your junior year ask to be hired in a news office, no matter how menial the starting position may be. Take the course UNV 310 “Introduction to Job Seeking.” Ask your professors to challenge you in mock interviews. (Many of your profs have had “other lives” in the business world.) In other words, take control of your future. Only you know what it will be. Only you can get yourself there.

The bottom line is this simple statement. So take careful note (there will be a quiz):

College major does not equal career choice.

Now repeat that to yourself five times. It’s a fundamental tenet of university education. Your major should teach you essential lifetime skills, not “train” you for a job. That’s what trade schools are for. You chose to attend a major state university, not just to learn a skill. Your fundamental education as an English major equips you for a lifetime of satisfying work in a career of your choice.

Okay. Let’s deal with the “t-word” before we’re through.

 

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