When I first went to college at Bryn Mawr — two years before I transferred to William & Mary — I didn’t want to be an English major.
English had always been my favorite subject. If you’re a reader and writer, you already know the beginning of this story: the young child with their head in the clouds, spinning tales and sketching characters, seldom seen without a book in hand, leaving the library with precarious stacks of paperbacks.
I still remember how works would strike my mind and stick there like acorns in the crook of a tree: The Giver, Brave New World, Jane Eyre.
So, naturally, I didn’t want to major in English. It was too obvious. Moreover, I was deeply scared of not finding employment. The concept of college was novel (heh) enough without throwing in the big unknown world of adulthood.
I tried out every liberal arts major that wasn’t English. History, art history, political science, international studies. I took Chinese for a year and wasn’t bad at it. I loved International Politics, and would have majored in it if I had stayed in Pennsylvania.
As the story goes, I didn’t stay. Bryn Mawr didn’t suit me, and I found a new home and family at William & Mary — and, after a semester of agonizing, settled on an English degree.
It wasn’t an easy decision. Some people said that major didn’t matter to your career in the long run; some said it did. Some pointed out that grad school was always an option, while others reminded you that crippling student debt was also a thing.
In the end, I realized it came down to one simple question: what did I want to spend the majority of my time, hours and hours every day, reading and learning about? The answer, then, was easy.
I majored in English. I studied with amazing professors, enjoyed immensely books and poems I never would have read on my own, and received high honors for a 50-plus page thesis on The Last Man by Mary Shelley. I graduated with all smiles and tears and zero regrets and had a full-time, paid internship by July.
So my undergraduate story ended, and the next story began. I found Kiddar Capital, the private equity firm founded by real estate and construction industry veteran Todd Hitt, through a posting on Tribe Careers. I had my phone interview upstairs in an empty room of my godmother’s house on a sweltering Myrtle Beach afternoon, and nailed it. My English degree had given me a nuanced ability of how to work with ideas and perspectives. Extracurriculars I was naturally drawn to had given me some fledgling experience in marketing. Writing a thesis taught me how to research the heck out of something and manage a large project. (I highly recommend writing a thesis, by the way. It’s challenging, but so worth it.)
There are a lot of jokes about English majors. Even if you’ve never seen the opening song of Avenue Q, you know what I’m talking about. The reality is simpler, and kinder: people want to hire people who can think.
Being an English major isn’t easy, especially since in some ways you have a lot of career options. You’ll have to put a lot of thought into what you want to do, and you’ll probably end up somewhere very different than where you started. I’m currently in marketing, but I’m learning every day about the worlds of venture capital and real estate and may go into one of those fields. With English, you can do anything!
Well, not anything. It may be difficult to transition from literature to, say, being an astronaut or a chemical engineer.
But that’s about it. Seriously: don’t ditch your English major. You never know where the story will take you.