Job Search Guide | St. Lawrence University English

Job Search Guide

How to search for a job

How English (or Humanities) Majors Find Jobs

If you look at the job search process for economics majors, it is very simple: lots of finance positions from boutique mortgage firms to gigantic Wall Street investment banks. These careers tend to want people comfortable with spreadsheets and crunching numbers. Thus, it is pretty easy to recruit these students as the work and skill sets are very similar across companies and positions. Their interests also tend to be focused on thinking about financial endeavors. English majors, however, don’t pursue just one career track: we don’t all become teachers, lawyers, non-profit leaders, or writers. In a graduating class of 30 students, there could be 30 different career tracks! We pride ourselves on being unique and marching to our own tunes. Because of this expansive variety—a variety of interests that we, your humanist professors, support—there isn’t one or even two ways of finding a job after graduation. As such the career center can’t bring a non-profit to campus to recruit 10 students like a big bank could. Instead, that non-profit might only have one job opening every three years. So, finding your first job tends to require more active and creative searching on your part. Luckily, English majors overflow with creativity.

In-Demand: English (and Humanities) Majors!

Bad myths circulate that majoring in English leads to unemployment or a Starbucks barista. This is hardly the case. SLU English majors are in high demand by employers. People want the skills English majors possess. For example, SLU English cannot place enough students in advertising. In the past few years firms had more demand than we could supply with graduates. Why might this be the case? Take a look at the top skills employers are looking for and how well English majors rock this list. This is from a survey by the World Economic Forum (Jan 2016); 350 executives from the largest 15 economies provided their input from across 9 industries on what skills they need and look for in applicants in the world of business.

Top Skills & Abilities

English Majors score A+

Written expression

We rock any email, report, or executive summary

Oral expression

We debate in all of our classes and know how to support our positions

Critical Thinking / Problem Solving

Thesis, topic sentence, evidence, and close reading sum up critical thinking

Teamwork / Collaboration

Group projects and presentations

Digital Technology

Remember all those PowerPoint presentations your professors asked you to create and deliver?

Intercultural/diversity fluency

We rock empathy and exploring new cultures (usually it involves some time travel to different centuries)

Creativity

Our heart and soul

Reading comprehension

A little too obvious

People Management / Social Skills

Our ability to understand multiple points of view make us rock stars when it comes to interacting with others

Judgment Making Skills

Who else can better plan three 15-page research paper for three classes or write that chapbook of poems?

Lifelong Learning

There’s always another book to read, another new culture to explore, another idea to follow…we can’t stop learning!

Source: World Economic Forum, http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Future_of_Jobs.pdf (accessed October 18, 2019)

English majors spend four years cultivating these skill, which have been the hottest in-demand skills for decades. Coding is a skill that can be learned in a bootcamp, but social skills and teamwork take years to nurture. Written expression, too, is something English majors love and excel at. In sum, employers love English majors.

Multi-tier Approach

The biggest hurdle for all college students is translating their academics and extra-curriculars into the language spoken by employers. You’ll need to follow a multi-tiered approach to the job search both to communicate your skills and find a position that aligns with your values.

Tier 1: Basic Preparation

  1. Resume polished (see the SLU English Alum Facebook page for examples)
  2. Totally prepared and rehearsed answers to standard interview questions
  3. All of your accomplishments in narrative format: very clear and concise (these are the bases for the interview question examples)
  4. Portfolio of work products (this could be a website or PDF files that can be sent to any employer)

Q: Why do you need work products and accomplishments?

A: Employers look for the demonstration of your skills and seriousness when hiring entry-level positions. You can’t simply state you have above average writing skills. A stellar essay or op-ed, for example, does this work. A recorded presentation, too, demonstrates your command of oral expression. Show, don’t just tell.

Except for specialty careers such as nursing, engineering, or finance that require a specific training, all other employers are looking for candidates who are responsible, focused, and complete work without much direction. All students who graduate show some ability to complete work, focus, and be responsible—but all of that happens with professors ushering you along the way and setting parameters for work products. What employers want to see is that you can do all of this with limited assistance. Can you show up to a 9 to 5 job for 3 months (summer) and be on-time? Can you complete a project or many projects from start to finish that contribute to the company? Can you be left in charge of a task without it going awry? Internships demonstrate your work ethic and your ability to make the leap from an unstructured college life to a work environment that lacks training wheels or coddling.  How do I get this so-called experience? This leads to Tier 2.

Tier 2: Gain Work Experience while in college. How?

  1. On-campus experience: journal editing, newspaper staff, work study in library, internships with communications office or athletics, working in the English department, career services intern, admissions intern

  2. NYC Program: the semester-long NYC Program offers each student a full-time  internship (Monday to Thursday). You can’t beat this program as it opens doors to the non-profit, advertising, PR, arts and culture institutes, and business careers.
  3. Summer Internships/Jobs: you have 3 summers!
  4. SLU Summer Fellowship to conduct research

Each of your positions will provide you with data points on whether you like or dislike a set of activities. You might like a career in admissions or fund-raising or discover you like being a librarian. Most of us learn about ourselves through doing—so go explore yourself and the world!

Tier 3: Soul Searching

  1. Research different fields and careers you might be interested in pursuing. Look at the careers English majors have pursued in the past as a starting point. You might share interests with other English majors. But remember that there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach to the English major.  
  2. Google or Youtube: “Day in the life of a _____________.” Want a quick summary of life as an advocate at a non-profit? Want to know what an elementary vs high school teacher is like? Want to know how what work is like in advertising?
  3. Take personality career tests: online (link) or at the career center (called FOCUS 2). These may or may not provide insight.
  4. The Vault Series of books are the most extensive histories of any career you can imagine. There will be Vault books on being a librarian, a teacher, a banker, a screenwriter, etc. Read the Vault Series books about different careers that peak your interest: available online via Career Center’s website.

Q: Why take personality assessments, read the Vault guides, or conduct informational interviews?

Answer: You need to know what you’ll be getting into before starting a career. Workplaces rarely allow for intellectual exploration like your English classes afford; you can’t easily take a new job each semester. College encourages you to explore big ideas widely throughout college. We don’t want you to narrow your intellect. Workplaces, however, demand a narrow set of projects. By conducting informational interviews and reading about life in a specific career tracks, you’ll be armed with the basics of each job path. It won’t contain everything, but it will prepare you to make a smart judgment.  

Tier 4: Building a Network

Now that you’ve narrowed down a few fields/careers from Tier 3, go conduct information interviews and begin letting people know about your interests. How?

  1. Join St. Lawrence English Alumni page
  2. Join SLU Handshake
  3. Join LinkedIn
  4. Send connection invites on SLU Handshake and LinkedIn to as many people as possible using a short note.
  5. Participate in SLU LINC Mentor Program
  6. Attend one or more of these events:
  • SLU Connect: Burlington, Washington, D.C., Albany, Mountain States, Boston, San Francisco, etc.
  • Alumni Panels on campus
  • Sophomore Bootcamp in January

Q: Who do I send connections to?

A: Everyone with a possible professional connection. Your parents, parents’ colleagues you’ve met or heard stories about, parents’ friends, your friends’ parents and siblings, all of your classmates ever including high school, SLU professors and staff, guest speakers at SLU, summer camp friends and their parents, parents of kids you babysat, any old employers and co-workers, your religious mentors (priests, rabbis, minsters, and other leaders), your dentist and doctors.

Here are some succinct message you can send on LinkedIn. Remember: everyone on LinkedIn is there to network so you aren’t bothering them and they know why you are contacting them.

Example Note:

Hi ____,

We met at ____________.  I enjoyed speaking with you about ____________. I would like to keep in touch as I move forward with my career.

Name ‘Class Year

Example Note (to old classmates):

Hi ___,

I am building my network with former classmates at SLU. I’d like to stay in touch after we graduate.

Name from Class

 

Example Note (if you wait until your senior year and know the specific job/career):

Hi ____,

It was great speaking at ______  (if you met them in person). I am a senior English major at SLU. I am interested in a career in ________. Would you be free to speak about your career path and the work you do? Thank you.

Name ‘Class Year

Q: Why so much emphasis on networking? I hate it!

Answer: First, it gets easier with time and in the digital era, it is even easier. Second: over half of all jobs are gotten through your network. At SLU, I would venture that number is closer to 80%. What does this mean exactly? Many jobs are posted online (see next Tier). This happens when a company knows they need a job or someone retired/quit and the firm needs a replacement. In the other 80%, you talk with people in your network and they discover a “need.” In the eight students English has placed in advertising no job was posted. Firms count on us to send them our best and brightest. The same happens within your network. A friend of a friend’s company has been thinking about hiring in marketing but haven’t gotten around to it. You let everyone in your network know you want a job in marketing within the music industry. Suddenly an opportunity is created. One of our English majors wanted just this: with some effort, she now works on advertising for a major streaming music company. You must tell your network what you want (Tier 3) and keep asking around. Luckily the SLU network is super strong.

Tier 5: Check multiple websites for job postings

Now that you’ve got your resume and interview questions prepared, time to start looking for actual jobs. Remember, announce to your network that you’re interested in a career in ____ once you figure that out. You are more likely to get a job from your network than from a posted job.

Top Websites:

  1. SLU Handshake (on-campus interviews curated by the career center!)
  2. Monster.com
  3. Indeed.com
  4. CareerBuilder.com
  5. Jobs.com
  6. LinkedIn.com (they also post jobs)
  7. USAJobs.com (federal jobs)
  8. SimplyHired.com
  9. MediaBistro (marketing focused)
  10. Idealist.org (non-profit jobs)
  11. Find career specific job boards such as MediaBistro or Idealist.Org
  12. AlumniCentral (after you graduate)
  13. Glassdoor.com has data about employers, pay, benefits, etc.
  14. YOUR NETWORK!!!

Tier 6: Fill-in the gaps

During the job search you might feel overwhelmed with all of this extra work just to find a job. You might also feel that you won’t ever get a job because you lack _____ skill. With a little extra work, you can remedy any gaps before you graduate—or right after. Here are some common situations to fill-in skill or experience gaps.

Problem: You discover you like Human Resources but have no experience or coursework.

Solution: Ask HR for a work study job; take an online class in HR

Problem: You discover you want to be a school teacher.

Solution: Declare an Ed minor or take classes in lesson planning and classroom management before you graduate. Sign-up with Carney Sandoe (or another head-hunting firm that places candidates at private schools). Didn’t know about Carney Sandoe? Make sure to visit the Career Center and your advisors for advice on how to make an action plan.

Problem: You discover you want to rock a business career.

Solution: Add BUSLA or take the Harvard CORE class online (the fundamentals of business and SLU students get a huge discount).

SOLUTION: visit the Career Center, ask your parents, ask your network, and ask your advisors for help.

Tier 7: Apply, Interview, Negotiate, Accept, Graduate

  1. Write a stellar and succinct cover letter (see SLU English Alum Facebook page for examples)
  2. More on this section soon.