The Writing Internship Program hosted its 11th annual presentation and discussion, titled “Careers for English Majors: Strategies, Options and Ideas.” The presentation was co-sponsored by the Aetna Endowed Chair of Writing and the English Department Speakers Committee to create an open forum for current English majors to discuss job opportunities and career paths with other recent UConn alumni using their English degrees in the working world. The panel served to reassure students that there are plenty of options open to English majors despite the uncertainty of the job market and the stigma typically associated with pursuing English.
Speaking on the panel were Carla Calandra (‘16), who currently works as Publisher Support and an editorial assistant at Oxford University Press in New York City, Mary Malley (‘16), an assistant editor at Rowman and Littlefield Publishers in NYC, Myles Udland (‘12) business news reporter for Yahoo Finance in NYC and Eric Vo (‘13), health news reporter and editor at Aetna, located in Hartford, CT. The panel was moderated by Ruth Fairbanks of the Writing Internship Program.
The discussion opened with redefining the careers available for English majors and negating some of the misconceptions and misinformation surrounding the field of study. Each panelist went through their respective stories about how they chose English as a major and some of the job experiences they had, both as interns and recent college graduates. Calandra and Malley both had internships at Globe Pequot Press in Guilford, Connecticut, as well as multiple other institutions. Udland and Vo each interned at the UConn School of Pharmacy, among a few other placements, too. About their decisions to become English majors, none of them came into UConn with the intention too, and all either started as undecided or switched from other majors, but all of them eventually gravitated to their passions.
Udland thought he would either go to grad school after graduation (something he speaks strongly against now) or become a teacher. He currently covers stock and economic topics at Yahoo Finance but previously wrote about politics and business at Business Insider. Udland stresses the importance of making connections and building a network post-graduation.
“Once you get your foot in the door, those credentials start to fall away,” Udland said to anyone that fears their English degrees may limit them. “No one cares about your major or college or GPA.”
Malley’s publishing house works mostly with academic texts, including professional titles, textbooks and supplementary texts. She spoke about her plan to move up in the profession and the next steps after assistant editor.
“I missed writing and I missed the creativity of writing and bringing your own viewpoint to something,” Malley said of her transition from journalism to English. She explained how her job in publishing allows for a direct application of the analytical and creative skills she learned in her English courses here at UConn.
“I got to see everything from start to finish…I see a lot of value in that,” Calandra said about her time spent in internships and entry level publishing jobs.
Vo spoke in depth about his position as the primary writer and manager of content for the Aetna external news site, which is transitioning into more of a resource for outside journalists. He also explained how he came into college expecting to go into medicine but then really enjoyed one of his English courses. He took a chance with a job in journalism and has worked as a reporter or closely with reporters ever since.
They then all moved to conversations about the interview process and some more specific details about finding jobs with an English degree. Each shared some of the transferable, resumé-building skills learned as an English major, such as communication, synthesizing the key points from a lot of material and learning new skills quickly, that can all be applied to variety of jobs, from business and marketing to journalism and publishing.
“The ability to communicate effectively is so nonexistent among many people,” Udland said. “As an English major, you have the ability to read and write and communicate, which is a huge differentiator in the job market.”
After sharing some final tips and resources, the panel opened up the floor to questions from the audience. All of them stressed the importance of internships and building personal connections in whatever field or job you end up in.
“I just had an interview today, so this was a nice follow-up. It helped show me that, despite how hard it is to be graduating and putting myself in the job market, it is doable and you can be happy,” eighth-semester English major Rachel Craine aid.
“It was beneficial hearing what the panel had to say. I was feeling a little lost as an English major, so this really calmed me down,” Kemara Thompson, a second-semester English major, said.
“It’s a good thing that the major is so broad. Every English major is going to be a well-rounded candidate for jobs. They have skills in communicating, thinking outside the box, thinking analytically and critically and in self-expression,” Vo said.
“English isn’t always a direct path, but that’s not a bad thing. You can take advantage of many different types of jobs,” Malley said.
Julia Mancini is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at Julia.firstname.lastname@example.org.