Find a Job With No Experience–10 Utterly Practical Tips For English Majors


You have an English degree. No job experience. And little career direction. Here are 10 practical ways to find a job with no experience. 

I’m often prone to writing long articles at For those who simply want the bare bones of my career advice for English majors, here are 10 utterly practical ways to get a job with an English degree, without any experience, skills, or connections.

They aren’t very exciting secrets, but they do work.

#1 Make courageous decisions

“The reason why most people aren’t successful,” says management expert David C. Baker, “isn’t from lack of opportunity. It’s because they haven’t made courageous decisions along the way. You have to make the painful decision to say no to certain things.”

In other words, choose and commit to a career direction. If right now you absolutely don’t know what type of job you want to do or what industry will suit you, then your inability to commit to one career direction is really what is holding you back. The sooner you can commit to a single direction, the sooner you can begin to take the steps necessary to succeed in your chosen field. Choose!

#2 Forget the movies

Uneducated man, 39, forces his way past security into the board room of a high power company. He hears the president talking about a complex business problem. Although the uneducated man has no formal business training, he brilliantly deconstructs the problem, suggesting a solution. They give him a job, off the street, analyzing stock, a skill he picked up by reading the financial section of the paper while working as a janitor.

They make movies about this sort of PG-13 stuff because it is the classic American desire. Anything is possible. This is crap.

Don’t rely on random luck to win you a great career. And recognize there are limits to life. People get hired because of their skills. Not because of a speech they make while being hauled out of the boardroom by security. The universe doesn’t have a special destiny for you. You have to make things happen.

#3 Do a virtual internship

Have a favorite blog or author? Write an insanely intelligent letter to the author and offer your services as a virtual intern. You can help with promotion, editing, strategy, or anything he or she likes.

This type of thing works better with writing and editing jobs. But it also works with management and business–just offer your free services to someone important and well-connected.

#4 Volunteer at a big nonprofit

Not things like soup kitchens, but organizations that are run like companies. You would be surprised at the type of experience you can get at a non-profit. Limit yourself, though, to a certain field–say management, fundraising, or marketing. In other words, if you are working for free you want to get something back from it. So if they want you to sweep the floor and do telemarketing–skip it. If you are an English major, you can help edit brochures, websites, newsletters, and other marketing material.

#5 Work for peanuts and do a great job

Don’t worry at first if your hourly rate is embarrassing. All you should care about is getting a really good reference and work sample. For example, the first article I wrote online paid me $25 and I put in about 9-10 hours into it. It doesn’t matter. It gave me experience to put on my resume. Now, only a few years later, an article I co-wrote is about to be published in one of the world’s most popular internet marketing websites. Dream big. And work in small steps.

#6 Soft sell yourself

Call or email a company or government agency and ask to meet with the president or manager. Ask for 5 minutes of their time to just ask questions about how to get into that industry. Don’t pitch or ask for a job. Just explain your situation and ask questions.

After the interview, send a follow-up email and thank them. Tell them that if they are ever looking for an intern (paid or un-paid) to keep you in mind.

The key to this sort of approach is to actually do it. Don’t be afraid. People are nice and want to help–as long as you are honest about your intentions (in other words, don’t show up to the friendly interview in a tuxedo and power-point presentation about your revenue projections).

Now, this sort of thing might not turn into a job–but they will give you good advice and might be able to pass an opportunity along your way.

#7 Cast a small net

A small net doesn’t catch many fish. But you only need one job. Launch a targeted job search to three or four companies. Do this every month. Research the company online and then write an email, showing how much you know about the company and why you have something to offer. It is better to write three intelligent and targeted cover letters every month than to blast thousands out to companies you know nothing about.

Invest in yourself. Most people wait for a company to take the risk and train them. But if you have a field you want to get into (like say, public relations or technical writing), then train yourself now. Start reading books, do small assignments for free, start practicing your skills–even if it is just for pretend. This reverses the risk for employers. Now, when you apply for a job–you might not have any experience in an agency or firm–but you can demonstrate your skills.

#8 Get professional accreditation

Every industry has accreditation–whether it be a weekend course, conference, or online training. These can make a big difference on your job application–it shows, at least, basic competence and commitment to building your skills in the industry. Even a weekend course can help improve your credibility.

#9 Join a professional group

That is, a group that meets up. Be present in your local community. Talk to people. Put yourself out there. People give jobs to people they know. Tell everyone you know that you are now looking for work in your chosen field. Who knows? Your uncle might golf with a person who owns a firm. Or, you could get hired for a small freelance job that you can put on your resume. It works.

#10 Understand why people hire

Have you ever hired anyone? It’s actually much simpler than you think.

Employers have three questions: (1) Does this person have the skills required by the job? This is important. You need to show up on Monday morning, be given a job, and to be able to do it. You need to be an instant profit machine. (2) Are they insane or weird? Seriously, nobody likes to hire a weirdo. Nice, emotionally intelligent people get jobs. (3) Will they be here next week? Companies need stable workers. Are you suddenly going to go all Julia Roberts and take off to Europe to find you soul one week? Are you a team player? Will you be here to do your share of the work?

You should try to demonstrate that you meet all the criteria listed in #9. I’m well aware that the skill one is hard. But that’s why all the rest of my tips have been centered around picking an industry and then trying to build up your skills.

Your resume is the greatest investment you have in life. It gets you your house. Your car. And by resume, I’m not talking about your college degree. Your resume needs to have practical work experience on it.

So if you have nothing on your resume other than your English degree, then start investing in developing some skills. Invest in yourself.

Give me 126 Days. And I’ll show you how to break down big goal of finding a career into smaller, manageable daily actions.

best career book for english majors

This e-book  begins right where you are–broke, no idea of what you want to do, working a crappy job, and nothing more than a degree on your resume. It is written specifically for humanities majors (BAs, MAs, and PhDs).

Each week in the e-book contains:

1. A task–something practical that is working towards a larger goal.

2. A lesson and goal–practical mistakes to avoid, milestones to hit, and higher-level stuff to help you confidently turn your humanities degree into a career.

This is the guidebook for lost humanities majors. It is designed to accelerate your humanities career transition with a rock-solid strategy and step-by-step tactics.

Learn more 

 Related reading:

“The Ultimate Guide to Finding a Career as a English Major”

“PhD in English? What the F*%$K Have You Been Doing for the Past Ten Years?”

“PhD Job Hell: An Open Letter to Thomas H. Benton.”

“10 Essential NonAcademic Blogs”

“How Reading Books Can Paralyze You After Grad School.

“PhD in English Useless Destroyed My Life.”

“Do You Make This Mistake When Selling Your English Degree To Employers?”

For more career advice for English majors, follow me on Twitter.

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The Ultimate Guide To Finding a Job as an English Major

The Ultimate Guide To Finding a Job as an English Major