One of the questions often asked by English Department majors is “What can I do with a major in English once I leave UNH?” Students sometimes feel that they are at a disadvantage compared to friends who have chosen such majors as Business, Communication, Engineering, or the Sciences. While English is not a major field that offers vocational training, English majors are as valuable to the job market as students trained in other “practical” fields of study. The knowledge that we call “vocational training” is often of limited value, becoming obsolete within two to three years. Many companies report that the supposedly well-trained college graduate is as much in need of on-the-job training as anyone else because of the particular system or equipment used in that company. Many businesses require on-the-job training of new employees no matter what their field of undergraduate study. Furthermore, recent research indicates that most Americans change careers three to four times throughout their working lives. Learning job skills is an activity that continues throughout professional life, so that students whose abilities to learn and think have been highly developed while in college are most likely to succeed on the job. English majors are among those who are prepared in precisely that way. One of our retired faculty members, Donald Murray, once wrote in an editorial that the English major prepares students “for the lives they do not expect to lead.”
However, this does not mean that it is easy for the English major to locate the ideal job upon graduation. The burden rests, as in all disciplines, primarily on the student. Many students find the job-hunting process overwhelming and ask “What are the jobs I could apply for” “What do I do?” “When should I do it, whatever it is?” One strategy for tackling this process starts with compiling a list of your marketable skills.
It is helpful to recognize the marketable skills you have developed so that you are prepared to point them out to a prospective employer. See Resources and Ideas for a list containing many skills that you have likely developed or are in the process of developing as an English Department major, and you will undoubtedly be able to add to this list.