Ways to make your English major more marketable to businesses
Style Isn't Just About Shoes
One of the chief complaints of businesses these days is that the college graduates they hire can't write. Ouch. The larger implication of that statement is that the college graduates can't think, because good writing skills come from clear-thinking individuals who can present ideas coherently, concisely, and -- yep, you guessed it -- correctly. Increasingly, the big business bosses are turning to students who have majored in the liberal arts, the humanities, because they are more likely to find young people who can communicate information effectively and who are well grounded in a variety of subjects. It turns out that students who major in English or history are becoming more and more attractive hires to corporations (a quick search online turned up this article top of the list, but there are many more http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/272709_englishmajors05.html). It's easy to feel that an English major is somehow removed from the construct of the work-world, but that's just not so. Everything you read, everything you write is training in the much-prized art of communication; it's as simple (and as complicated) as that.
English Plus Business Means Success
There are several recent books and studies on the increasing need for good English from college graduates; one survey by Peter Beidler showed that "of 150 graduates in English from Lehigh University. Results indicated 33 percent were employed in business and industry, 14 percent in communications, and 15 percent in teaching" ("What Can You Do With an English Major?" Journal of College Placement 45.6 (1985): 46-48) -- and that was in 1985. The percentage employed in business has gone up since then. The need for good writing skills, good grammar, punctuation, and spelling is real and applies across disciplines. Add to that the general knowledge base of the well-read, well-rounded English major, and you're a very attractive hire these days.
Read, read, read.
Read. Think. Write.
I started teaching college courses in 1984, and since then I have watched English skills decline slowly but steadily in incoming freshmen. This may well be partly due to the fact that we are becoming increasingly attuned to visual images rather than the written word -- and I've often wondered, recently, whether or not students would concentrate more on a book if there were buttons to press on it, and the advent of small, book-sized, computer readers (such as the much-hyped Amazon.com Kindle) might address this particular concern. But there is no avoiding the simple fact that the more you read, the more you are exposed to good writing, a universe of information, and examples of cogent argument. Enjoy being an English major. It opens more doors for your future than you may be aware of, and while some degree programs may offer business courses for the interested student, there's no denying the fact that literature promotes incisive thinking. And we could all use more of that right about now. . . .
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