…Especially if you’re an English Major. Parents have and always will exert pressure on their children to undertake what are widely considered to be the more practical degrees–business, technology, engineering, science, etc–so that they can attain jobs and possibly even segue into law and medical studies. No doubt these degrees are commendable and no small feats of achievement, but the reasons for hiring humanities majors are growing at a compelling rate. The skill sets that these students acquire throughout their studies are varied and far-reaching, and as a result, can be utilized across innumerable professions. The ability to write, and write well, is a fundamental asset that any hiring manager should be on the lookout for as it indicates that you are able to communicate clearly, effectively, and that those listening can relate. “Former English majors turn up almost anywhere, in almost any career,” writes Verlyn Klinkenborg in the NY Times, ”and they nearly always bring with them a rich sense of the possibilities of language, literary and otherwise.”
In Why English Majors are the Hot New Hires, Bruna Martinuzzi highlights the importance of critical thinking and research skills–skills that humanities majors have in abundance. The ability to synthesize disparate information into a coherent thesis is indispensable. “English majors are taught to deconstruct and analyze a problem, and package their conclusion so others can understand their line of thought. These are highly transferable skills that are vital for the success of a business.”
Empathy is another benefit in the workplace. “There are numerous studies that correlate empathy with increased sales, with the best performing managers of product development teams and with greater efficiency in an increasingly diverse workforce. Empathy is indeed the oil that keeps relationships running smoothly,” Martinuzzi finds. Moreover, “A University of Toronto study on the effects of literature on empathy shows that those who read fiction frequently have higher levels of cognitive empathy; i.e., the ability to understand how another person feels… This improves interpersonal understanding and enhances relationships with customers and business associates. When you hire an English major, you’re likely hiring someone who brings cognitive empathy to the table.”
English Majors, you can breathe a little easier now. Fuel your love of literature with the knowledge that you can bring that passion with you and apply it towards any vocation. And for those who aren’t in the humanities, it wouldn’t hurt to take a few of those courses as electives.
“Writing well used to be a fundamental principle of the humanities, as essential as the knowledge of mathematics and statistics in the sciences,” says Klinkenborg. ”But writing well isn’t merely a utilitarian skill. It is about developing a rational grace and energy in your conversation with the world around you.”
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