The Ultimate Guide To Finding a Job as an English Major

Last Updated on September 14, 2023 by Robert Porter

Discover how to transform your English degree into a valuable skill set to help you select the best jobs as English major in our exclusive interview with Michael Edmondson.

"As a child, I aspired to be a professor. However, life unfolded, and with family commitments, I realized I needed new dreams to chase; the professor path wasn't what I truly desired."

Michael Edmondson, co-author of "How Liberal Arts Majors Can Succeed in Today’s Economy: A Workbook," provides invaluable insights for liberal arts graduates. This workbook is crafted to guide liberal arts students towards fruitful careers in business sectors. After earning his PhD in History, Michael transitioned from academia to the corporate realm, embarking on a journey as a market researcher. Today, he stands as the Director of Marketing and Recruitment at the Philadelphia Centre.

1. Why Liberal Arts Majors Don’t Get Jobs

Wondering how to pivot from a liberal arts background to the business realm? Michael Edmondson demystifies this transition, advocating for the emphasis on skill sets over content.

Common Misconceptions about Liberal Arts Majors

Liberal arts graduates often fall into the trap of believing their career avenues are limited to their academic majors. "Just because I studied English doesn't mean I'm confined to roles in art or teaching." Remember, the world isn't segmented by academic subjects but by skills. Instead of fixating on your major, identify the versatile skills you've cultivated. For instance, history majors are adept at analyzing patterns from data, a talent directly transferable to roles like market research.

Making the Leap from Academia to the Business World

After completing his PhD in History, Michael was intrigued by a friend's transition to the corporate sector. Soon after, he joined a firm which predominantly hired PhDs from social science backgrounds. This shift was an eye-opener for him, underscoring the diverse applicability of a liberal arts degree.

Translating Academic Skills to the Corporate Landscape

The crux isn't the content of your degree but the adaptable skills you've garnered. Michael's academic journey in History equipped him with the dexterity to understand market trends and consumer behaviors. "It's baffling that colleges don't offer courses to help students bridge their academic expertise to real-world applications," he reflects.

The Value Proposition of a Liberal Arts Degree

Michael firmly believes that students should chase their passions rather than perceived job guarantees. A liberal arts education, be it in English, Philosophy, or History, is invaluable, offering skills that are in demand across various sectors. However, the real issue is the insufficient marketing of these degrees. Universities often miss out on showcasing the extensive potential and versatility of a liberal arts background.

The Call for Universities to Evolve

It's alarming to see students incurring colossal debts without adequate guidance about potential career paths. Michael emphasizes that if institutions demand high tuition fees, they should ensure graduates are well-prepared for diverse career opportunities.

Echoing Daniel Pink's sentiment, Michael believes educational institutions should continually evolve to prepare students for their futures, rather than reminiscing about the past.

Seeking Career Guidance from Professors

Should students turn to their professors for career insights? Michael's perspective is clear: Unless professors have substantial experience outside academia, their guidance might be limited. "Professors excel at publishing, which might uplift an institution's reputation but doesn't necessarily benefit students." The primary focus of higher education should be student-centric, ensuring they are well-equipped for the real world.

In conclusion, remember to accentuate your skills, not just your degree content. Embrace the wide horizon of opportunities that your liberal arts degree offers.

2. Thinking Beyond Academic Pedigree

Thinking about graduate school or banking on a prestigious degree? Here's what you should know.

Is Graduate School Worth It?

While many align with Bill Pannapacker's sentiment, it's essential to weigh the financial implications before pursuing a PhD. Ideally, embark on this journey only if you can pay upfront. Otherwise, jumpstart your career by entering the workforce. Don't fall into the misconception that an MBA is the sole gateway to business success. Matthew Stewart's journey, from a PhD in German philosophy to a successful business consultant, is a testament to this.

Remember, it's not always about the degree's content; it's the skills you hone that count. Often, it's more pragmatic to start working, gain experience, and then consider whether an advanced degree aligns with your career trajectory. And if it does, perhaps your employer might foot the bill.

Does Academic Prestige Guarantee Success?

Do Ivy League degrees unlock doors? And does the reputation of your alma mater sway hiring decisions?

Contrary to popular belief, the source of your degree is less significant than you might think. Sure, a Harvard certificate is noteworthy. But then, what's next? What have you accomplished beyond that?

Employers aren't swayed by the mere prestige of a degree. Over numerous interviews and hires, it's evident that your school's reputation rarely tops the checklist. It boils down to your demeanor, your drive, and the value you bring to the table.

Moreover, Ivy League graduates sometimes face challenges, with some coming off as entitled due to their academic background. The real message? Don't lean on your degree as your sole value proposition. In the job market, your ability to present yourself, your skills, and your experience will always outshine your diploma.

3. How to Actually Find a Job With Your Liberal Arts Degree

For many with liberal arts degrees or even a PhD, the question lingers: "How do I launch a successful career, especially if I have limited work experience or face student loans?" Here's a roadmap to guide you through it.

1. Identify Core Competencies

Before anything else, know your strengths. This is the foundation of our book, guiding liberal arts students to identify and market their unique ABCs (skills). Instead of hopping from one job to another, adopt a focused approach. Ask yourself, "What unique value can I bring?"

2. Resume Structuring

Design your resume based on competencies. Tragically, liberal arts curricula often omit this crucial skill. When illustrating competencies, like "critical thinking," provide tangible examples. If you lack job experience, discuss university projects. The key? Frame your skills in a way that's enticing to potential employers, moving away from academic jargon.

3. Avoid Common Mistakes

Your resume isn't just about where you studied; it's about what you can deliver. Don't lead with your academic achievements. Instead, showcase your aptitude in data analysis, compelling writing, or research capabilities. Have you consistently showcased dedication? Highlight such attributes. Your degree is a testament to your commitment, but your skills prove your value.

4. Understand the Market's View on Academia

The prevailing notion suggests that academia, especially in liberal arts, is resistant to change. It's often likened to an oil tanker—slow to pivot and often leaking potential. The gravest mistake? Not aiding PhDs in transitioning to the professional world. While many resources claim to help, few genuinely bridge the gap between liberal arts capabilities and real-world needs.

5. Look Beyond Traditional Career Services

While universities may boast career services, few genuinely help in translating liberal arts skills to job-worthy competencies. Integrating marketing and business courses can make a significant difference. Most humanities graduates find themselves in these domains anyway.

6. Redefining Dreams

Dreams evolve. While the aspiration to be a professor might have been strong, the reality of salaries and other responsibilities can steer you in a different direction. And that's okay. The essence of dreams isn't static. As you grow, so should your aspirations. Don't be shackled by old dreams; create new ones. Remember, the skills you've garnered during your academic journey are invaluable; it's all about how you apply them.

To conclude, a special thanks to Michael for shedding light on this topic. For those inspired to rekindle or redefine their dreams, know that your journey is just beginning. Embrace it.

4. A Practical Career Guide For the Next Month

Gleaned from an insightful conversation with Michael and his indispensable workbook How Liberal Arts Majors Can Succeed In Today’s Economy, here are actionable career strategies tailored for liberal arts graduates:

  1. Prioritize Your Resume Over Your Degree: Your marketability lies in your skills and experiences, not just in your educational credentials. It’s unnecessary to pile on advanced degrees in the hopes of boosting employability. A single degree, combined with a compelling resume filled with relevant experiences, is the real key.
  2. Embrace Your Unique Skills: Trust that the business realm can benefit from your liberal arts background. After all, understanding intricate concepts in art, culture, and the evolution of thought gives you an edge over business majors. While they primarily acquire business terms, you’re equipped with years of analytical and communication training.
  3. Highlight Your Skills: When reaching out to potential employers, focus on your tangible skills rather than your degree. Are you a captivating writer? An adept researcher? Pinpoint your strongest competencies and communicate them effectively.
  4. Place Education at the Resume’s End: Let your experience and skills lead your resume. Remember, potential employers prioritize how you can benefit them over your educational background.
  5. Gain Practical Experience: If you’re starting from scratch, consider internships or volunteering at non-profits. This not only gives you a peek into the professional world but also adds value to your resume.
  6. Dedicate Time to Career Building: Even if you’re occupied with a temporary job, allocate some hours weekly to advance your career. Offer your skills, volunteer, or intern to gain industry insights and experience.
  7. Goal Setting is Crucial: Michael swears by the power of jotting down goals. Maintain a diary of your yearly objectives and break them down into achievable monthly targets. This structured approach ensures steady progress towards your ultimate ambition.
  8. Dream Big but Act Incrementally: Chart out a plan, set benchmarks, and embark on step-by-step actions leading to your overarching aim.

Additional Resources for Liberal Arts Graduates

  • Dive into Michael’s plethora of resources tailored for liberal arts enthusiasts, from videos to worksheets, all available at The modest investment in this knowledge will reap immense benefits in marketing yourself.
  • Feel out of depth with business terminologies? Josh Kaufman’s The Personal MBA is an excellent read, encapsulating the essence of top-tier business schools.
  • Struggling with translating your plans into action? The Pledge offers actionable strategies for realizing personal and professional milestones.

Charting a career path post academia might seem daunting, but with the right guidance and perseverance, success is just around the corner.