college

Why English Majors Should Pursue Business Careers

As a full-time English major who freelance writes for businesses, I often forget that I am an anomaly. Businesses everywhere are looking for writers and clear communicators; I’m surprised, however, that all my classmates have no idea how desperately they’re needed.

Last week, I was sitting in my creative writing class, killing time before the professor showed, and I overheard a conversation between a few students. They were discussing the frightening realization that college will soon be over, and that their academic security blankets will soon be ripped away, like a determined mother fed up with a binky, et cetera, et cetera.

They talked of the real world:

“What will you do?”

“I have no idea.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t even know where to begin.”

“What will you do?”

“Me?” I paused, searching. “I’ll be looking in marketing, probably Seattle, San Francisco. Pull from my copy editing, blogging, freelance work. I’d love to find something in digital media, though I would settle for pure technical writing. Ideal, for me,” I continued, in the zone now, “a project manager or business development position within a small to mid-range company.”

I stopped because I sensed the whole room was now listening.

“Wow,” some girl said. “Aren’t you an English major?”

This is a problem.

Private academia can often coddle its college students. English majors, especially, are trapped in this bubble: canons, anthologies, theses. We read the world’s greatest literature spanning from Beowulf to Blood Meridian; we explicate and extrapolate; we read between the lines and find messages that the average reader misses; we communicate clearly, or edit and elucidate incoherent documents into well examined ideas with organization and structure.

English majors have no idea how well their skills translate into business.

I’m an English major and a business major, so I have love for both studies. That said, if I had to pick between hiring two different candidates—all things considered—I would choose the English major. Hands down. Every time.

Let’s make some sweeping statements. 

Here’s what I’ve observed about business majors: (more…)

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Beowulf and the Ever Growing Resume Hoard

I’ve been reading Beowulf. Correction: I am taking a class on Beowulf. That’s right. One whole semester on an English story written about a Swede who goes to Denmark to fight a monster.

We’ve bounced in and out of various translations: Liuzza, Heaney, Tolkien.

There’s this part where, when Beowulf is first introduced, he goes to speak for the first time, and the author says that Beowulf opens his “word-hoard.”

The eldest one answered him,

leader of the troop, unlocked his word-hoard (Liuzza, 258-59).

Old English is a fascinating study. It forces the reader to consider where words come from and what exactly they mean, and how these words have evolved through translation overtime.

Apparently, word-hoard is the forerunner to “vocabulary.”

Tolkien, in his Beowulf translation, says “store of words.” The idea is the same.

Old English was very object-oriented. People didn’t just have a vocabulary, because to them that wouldn’t make sense. They would need a physical place, or structure, to store the words. It’s interesting because, now, we don’t even consider what we mean when we say “vocabulary.” We just know that somewhere in our brains we’ve hidden all the words we know.

Personally, I’m going to say “word-hoard” from now on.

Segue Hoard

This is probably the worst segue of all time, but I checked my resume folder in Google Drive the other day, and I found about twenty resumes, all made within the last three months.

“Resume-hoard,” I said in an Old English accent.

The accent was more Scottish, but I do a terrible Scottish accent, so let’s just call it Hackney.

The point is this: I’m graduating in May. Since the start of the year, I’ve already applied to over thirty jobs. I feel like I should have some serious leads but I don’t. My wife and I are hoping for either Seattle or San Francisco. Only God knows. It could be Lithuania, really. (more…)

Internship, New York—The First Month

Internships are like the awkward preteen years of your career. You’re underdeveloped (in skills), you’re new to the office, you’re not making any money. Nobody understands you.

I’m in the first two weeks of a new internship, and I’m struck, again, by how uncomfortable the whole situation is. I have three months—like a year condensed—then it’s all over.

For most, three months is what it takes to acclimate to a new job. It’s that magical time: anything is possible and coworkers are friendly; supervisors are forgivable and amiable. But when three months pass, the boss says, “Charlie, hurry up already with those projections, huh? Time is burning. And what’s with that tie?” For me, time has already burnt. There were expectations when I walked through the door. I am to make the most of my time, to launch, refine or develop new or current projects. No dilly dallying, procrastinating. No strolling in late with a latte.

But I’ve been here before. This is my third internship, hopefully my last, and I know the drill.

I need to be on the ball. I need to be completely aware of my surroundings. I need to impress and smile and network and work hard. Truth be told, I thrive in this environment. I love the high stakes nature of it all. I love finding an unmet niche in an overworked department and solving problems they didn’t know could be solved. Still, if my tone reads as exhausted, it’s because I am. I’m ready for something permanent, a place where my accomplishments can truly disrupt the system and change it for the better. I’m tired of joining a team, and leaving still. (more…)

Job Interview Horror Stories: AT&T Ret(hell)

“I’m a customer,” she says. “Approach me.”

I hate role playing.

“I just walked in,” she says. “I’m looking at phones. Okay. Come over.”

If I had to choose between job interview role playing and polishing a trumpet while the trumpet player is trumpeting, I would choose the trumpet. Every time.

“Hi,” I smile, but oddly, like someone is holding a shiv to my side, “can I help you?”

“I’m looking for a phone,” she says. Her name is Sally. “Something new. Something really cool.”

“Do you like iPhones?”

“Okay. Stop right there. Ask what she currently has.” This is Sandra. She’s watching from the side, a few feet over at the table we were all just interviewing me at. “Meet them where they’re at.”

It’s always wise to learn from mistakes.

“What phone do you currently use?”

“The Dell Aero.”

“Oh.”

Some mistakes I’m happy to leave behind.

“But I don’t want the Dell Aero anymore.”

“Right,” I say. “Do you like iPhones?”

ikea-job-interview

My job hunting and interview history has left me with many regrets. Like, for instance, the time I applied to AT&T as a retail representative, somewhere in Washington state, circa 2010.

It didn’t start off very well either. (more…)

Final Semester Eve: A Terrified Toast to the Known Unknown

I remember finishing high school PE. That final time ever, you know? A 10th grader at Arroyo Grande High School, CA—sitting on a bench in a quiet locker room, closing my locker for the last time, holding my gross (unwashed) blue and gold garments in a bunch, thinking, Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever change back into my regular clothes after a PE course in high school.

Sentimental, I know.

But it was a big deal to me, back then. To be honest, I don’t even know why. I hated PE.

It was gross and awful.

In high school, once you learn the guitar, exercising becomes pointless.

Anyway, there I was. Just sitting there. Staring at my clothes. “Momentous,” I mouthed.

I did the same thing when the last episode of LOST arrived. Before the episode even aired, I became melancholic. Like, “Wow, this is the last time I’ll ever be disappointed by LOST.”

You get the idea.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I start my final undergraduate semester at the University of Rochester. It should be one of those momentous moments, you know. But I don’t think it will be.

Something’s different.

Maybe I’m just getting older and wiser. Or colder. I’m still terrified, certainly. Terrified about everything that’s coming. But ephemeral moments of sadness about things coming to an end. I don’t know. Just not my thing anymore.

Finishing college, for instance, it won’t grab me like other finishing moments have. That’s my prediction, at least. School, to me, is and has been nothing more than an incredible inconvenience. I’ve appreciated the experience, sure, but it’s time to move on. I’m 28, I’m working already, I’m proving myself to the (real) world every single day. (more…)

Dear Job Market, or, Ode to the Digital Reinvention Revolution

It doesn’t matter how cool you are. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done. When hunting for a job, you are a person in need of something that someone else has. That will never change. And until you get there you are a candidate on the sidelines, uncool and waiting. You hold your resume in your hand. You second guess every word, every bullet point, every comma.

The Internet comes along. It teaches us that nothing will ever be the same. For better, for worse.

The power shifts, just slightly.

Now: social media, infographic resumes, personal blogs, online portfolios, LinkedIN groups. A digital revolution to broadcast your personal brand, to make a splash, to recruit them to you!

The power shift! Good lord, I have so much power!

In the end, does any of it really matter? I wonder if anything has changed. Active networking and personal contacts, certainly, are as important as ever. And isn’t fate? A properly timed print-resume, or running into an old friend who works at a new company, or a chance encounter with a CEO in line while buying Dippin’ Dots.

Who knows, really, what it will all come down to. You certainly don’t. Either do I.

Hello, Dear Internet, Dear Job Market, and friend. 

My name is Kevin. If you’re new here, let me introduce myself:

I’m a lifestyle blogger, five years running now, and I’ve had some (albeit limited) success. During this time, I’ve also been pursuing college. The official term is “nontraditional student,” but really, that just means I’m old. 28, I know, isn’t ancient, but at a private university, when I’m first into a classroom, I’m often asked for the syllabus.

In May, I graduate. We, my wife and I, are hoping to move back to the West Coast. Currently, we’re in sunny Rochester, New York. You know, sunny as in Sonny. As in, the mob boss from A Bronx Tale. As in dead. It’s 5 degrees outside with a negative windchill of 15. (more…)