English majors excel in odd jobs

Kaitlyn Coppolo

As the fall semester quickly comes to an end, college seniors everywhere are beginning job searches for placement after graduation. Many are worried about the lives that lie ahead of them after graduation next May.

“I’m terrified of graduating,” senior Kristen D’Elia said. “I’m not sure where to begin looking for jobs, plus I’m not sure what I want to do. I just don’t feel qualified for anything.”

Why is D’Elia so frantic? She’s graduating with a degree in English.

While many seniors already have post-graduation jobs, and many others have interviews lined up every week, what happens to the English majors? Current senior English majors, like D’Elia, worry about how they’ll be received by the real world and breech the world of job hunting and interviews. But lately, English majors have found themselves in jobs they never thought of.

Take Michael O’Connell for example. A graduate from the class of ’06, O’Connell majored in English and now works for JP Morgan as an investment banker. Though majoring in English isn’t the traditional way to land an entry-level position in the business world, the degree has helped him. O’Connell learned the importance of research while at Villanova and used this as his selling point.

“Yes, I am an English major, but the communication skills, research skills and analytical skills that I developed as a result of that make me a good candidate in this position or in this field,” he said.

Like current English majors, O’Connell grew tired of hearing the famous question, “So are you going to become a teacher?” While teachers have an important job in educating the next generation, a major in English doesn’t necessarily lead to the classroom.

“I became an English major because I believed that I could gain a skill set that was valuable in many different careers, which wouldn’t limit my [future] opportunities,” O’Connell said.

One resource that helped him throughout his job search was Career Services.

Career Services offers help in choosing a major, finding a career to pursue and the interview and resume process. Jennifer Wickersham, a career counselor, noted that there is a common misconception that liberal arts students cannot benefit from Career Services and that it is primarily engineering and business students that benefit.

Wickersham points out that the skills learned in a liberal arts program, such as English, are abilities that people need no matter the career.

“The ability to communicate clearly, the ability to think critically, analyze, problem solve, interact with people are all important and attractive [skills],” Wickersham said. “Majoring in English doesn’t hinder the possibilities of jobs.”

Philip Feranda, class of ’89, majored in English. He currently owns two companies, J. Philip Real Estate, LLC and Home Trek Realty, and he also works at a mortgage bank.

His real estate brokerage uses written communication, so possessing the ability to write clearly and think critically is important to his success.

“My words are my product,” Feranda said.

Working first in the sales division of a publisher, Feranda considered his English degree a great asset.

“The position required an aptitude for learning, clear communication, economy of words for the short attention span of prospects and critical thinking, all of which were traits developed by my baccalaureate work,” he said.

Now Feranda’s writing is a main part of his business by developing all the advertisements and printed marketing.

“We live in an age where the town crier is the written word, so anyone who wields that skill has irreplaceable value in the marketplace,” he said. “You can be the world’s greatest widget maker but starve to death if you cannot effectively communicate your value to the buying public.”

Employers look for personable people who can properly present themselves. An important aspect of self-presentation is both verbal and written communication. English majors specialize in these two areas, which translate into gold mines for employers.

Elyse Pine, a third-year resident in pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital, uses her English degree when she communicates with patients and presents them to attending physicians.

“I learned to see the narrative of a patient’s illness much as I would read the plot of a story,” Pine said. “In a literature course, you spend time analyzing why characters behave the way they do, which is useful in thinking about patient behavior and also about analyzing symptoms to come to a diagnosis.”

Robert Stapleton, class of ’98, uses his English degree differently than the previous alumni. He works for the International Programs Unit of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., as a trial attorney. Stapleton said his English degree was “invaluable.”

While majoring in English has had a stigma for having poor job placement and poor beginning salaries, recent trends within the University have shown that the English major is no longer simply bound to teaching.