Engaging English Majors
Updated: Nov 16, 2020
Hello, little loves. Welcome back to the English Experience. Today's post is about English majors and career information, tips, trick and tidbits that I've learned from a variety of people at my university. Without further ado, lets dive into one of my experiences as a WSU undergrad.
Personal branding is something that every single student, recent graduate, or self-employed person should look into. I learned about this through an honor webinar that I attended, and let me tell you: I didn't realize how important it was until I heard the lecture.
Personal branding is the concise, compelling way of communicating who you are and what you have to offer, both online, in writing, and in person.
That sounds like a lot of pressure, but I promise that it's not. Let's break it down a little.
The first thing you can do is become self-aware. Do some self-reflection on your experiences. Acknowledge your skills and strengths; recall your most important projects. Learn about your personality through quizzes like the Enneagram. Know your values, your morals, and your interests like the back of your hand.
Then you're going to want to promote your brand. This isn't necessarily through business cards, though it could be. You want your brand to be consistent throughout your interviews, your resume, cover letters and networking, whether that is online through social media, or in person. This won't be a problem if you are genuine and want to sell the best version of yourself.
Try Googling yourself to see what comes up. How should you tweak your online presence to fit your brand? Do you want to post less selfies, and more worldly things? Less political things? More opinionated things? Remember that companies can always get ahold of your private social media data... so even if you think you're safe, you may not be. You can, if you want to get creative, have a "first name" and a "first and last name" account that you manage, but that is completely up to you. It's simply a way to separate things if you would like to still post political/opinionated/random things.
I know that sounds scary and overwhelming, but I promise you, they're very simple steps you can take. I just want to raise awareness so that you know what future employers are looking at. In my opinion, it's better that you hear it now than later down the road.
Keywords & Searching Careers
That brings me to career searching overall. When I was looking for jobs before graduating, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. (Let's be real - I still don't.) However, I got some really good advice that I want to pass on to you when you're searching for your future dream job.
Synonym every possible word associated with your degree. Mine is in English, so I went for editing, publishing, social media, marketing, teacher, tutor; you name it, I tried it. It gives you a different search each time, and you may find something you're qualified for you never would have found otherwise.
Ask friends, family, professors, peers, anyone who will listen to you; ask them to give you a different perspective. Most of the time, you wouldn't have even thought of it, and it could bring up something completely different you never realized you wanted to pursue.
The other piece of advice I have is to subscribe to emails from publishers, presses, or literary journals where you may want to pursue something down the road. If you like their content, their values and what they stand for, make sure you stay updated on the newest possibilities. This doesn't just go for English majors; you could do this for any job, like social media, or blogs about various topics that may include some of your interests. It's just a way to keep your options open!
Cover Letters & Résumés
Once you've decided on a couple of job positions you want to apply for, you need a cover letter and resume. Cover letters can be extremely intimidating. There are so many uncertain things - do I include a name when I address the letter? Where should I address the letter? How do I sign electronically? (Yes, I had this worry as well.) With these tips, I hope that writing and keeping a copy of your cover letter will ease those fears.
Your name, in this order, goes in the top left: Full name, local address: 12345 Drive, (line break, or /), City, State, Zip Code.
The address, in this order, goes in the top left: Manager name (if you know it), Company name, address. Please make sure to separate the information with a line break.
If you're concerned about who you should address it to, a safe bet is always: Dear [Company], or "To Whom It May Concern." Never use this as a first resort, however. Always look for a name to make it more personable!
The first paragraph of the cover letter should include a statement to confirm that is the position you are applying for, and some brief "honorable" skill mentions: "I am writing to express my interest in the [position] available at [company]. Evident in my attached resume, I am qualified for this position given..." and list some of your skills.
The second paragraph of the letter should include a more detailed paragraph of your skills: "I have learned valuable skills that can be matched to the position available, such as..." Make sure to list here the skills that the company is looking for to increase your chances of receiving a call.
The third paragraph of the letter should include why they should consider you; what makes you stand out: "I have an interest in..." (that is relevant to the goals/skills/experiences you will gain from that position). "Because of ____, I believe that I would make a great fit at your establishment."
The fourth paragraph of the letter should include the closing remarks that ooze confidence and your contact information: "I look forward to discussing how I can be a beneficial asset to your organization. If there are any questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to reach me at [phone number]."
Conclude with your full name, a "sincerely," and an electronic signature. It shows you put more effort in.
As I mentioned in the list: If there are specific skills that are mentioned in the job description, use them in your cover letter.
Now, onto resumes.
When I was a little itty bitty freshman, I thought I had a grasp on what real-world jobs would want to see on my resume. I didn't understand that I could tailor my experiences and skills to each position I applied for. I want to make sure that you know better than I did going into my first big-girl jobs. So, here are some small tricks for you.
Use words and phrases that the company you're applying for uses. I know this is the third time I've mentioned it, but it's my best tip. It will show you've read the description, and make them more inclined to look at your resume/application again after seeing these key words.
Always use your relevant experiences. Even if you don't think that they're relevant, they probably are. Were you a receptionist? You have technological and communicative skills. Were you a pizza maker? You have multitasking down to a tee, and are excellent at creating a project quickly and efficiently while still making it look pretty. Get creative with your phrasing! Just don't lie.
When writing about each experience, always have one sentence with three main points: What did you do, how did you do it, and why did you do it, or what were the results/outcomes? If you can fit all of that information into one sentence using the special skills you came up with, you're going to make life a lot easier for employers.
When creating a resume, always have a "plain-Jane" version and a "spicy" version. What I mean is this: Have one that is all words, no graphics or color or designs, and have one that suits your personality, but gets the message across. If you Google examples, there are some pretty cute and smart ones out there. Do your research first.
On the "spicy" resume, use a skill meter. It's like a little bar chart that shows your most marketable skills: communication, professionalism, etc. It will break up the text and give your potential new boss something that helps them understand you visually.
This is only the "pretty on paper" stage. Now, you need to get the interview.
The Actual Interview
When you're going in for the real deal, there are three very important things you need to know.
Always dress for yourself. If you want to wear a dress, or a skirt and blouse, or collared shirt and pants, do it! Please, please, please just make sure they are neutral colors: patterns could be seen as too casual, or too bold, and give the wrong impression. As long as you feel comfortable, don't stand out too badly, and look professional, you should be good to go.
Always make sure to have a few questions prepped ahead of time for the employer. Write them on a notepad you bring with you. It can be about the job, the company itself, your schedule; whatever you feel the tiniest bit concerned about, bring it to the table. Employers will be impressed, and feel the pressure to impress you to get you on their team. Win-win.
Be prepared for the age-old question: "Tell us a little bit about yourself." Do not say things like, "I'm bubbly, organized, personable," because they don't want that. They're looking for your skillset and how you fit into the company. Remember the establishment's values; do some research ahead of time. If you know what they want, you will be more marketable and immediately more appealing.
These are some of my best tips and tricks for getting the job, and I hope that they are as successful for you as they have been for me in the past. If you have any questions, or concerns, you can always reach out to me, and I can point you in the direction of some amazing resources. If you feel like you've got it but want to share how the process was/how it's going, I'm always all ears for that as well.
I wish you the grandest success in your searches. Good luck, little loves!
Until next time.