Saturday, November 23, 2013

English majors: hot new hires?

So says an article by Bruna Martinuzzi in She likes to hire people with humanities degrees and believes that more hiring managers are doing the same. More savvy leaders are realizing the value of excellent writing and communication skills in this era of texting and Twitter. The ability to write simply, elegantly, and without jargon is truly going downhill.

As Martinuzzi writes, English majors have the coveted communication skills that employers crave. We have excellent writing skills, a trait that 97 percent of executives rate as very important. We know how to conduct research and think critically. Martinuzzi also relates the value of empathy in the workplace and cites a University of Toronto study that shows that those who read a lot of fiction have higher levels of empathy. Working with engineers and other scientific sorts, I have found that many of them can be introverted and inwardly focused and not necessarily empathetic!

Ultimately, Martinuzzi recommends combining a technical or other type of major with an English major (or another liberal arts subject). That seems like good advice. I was lucky that I fell into technical writing and editing the way I did, as when I was hiring people, I tended to shy away from hiring people with no job experience. I found that I was most drawn to hiring people who had both writing and graphic skills, in fact.

It's nice to see that English (or other liberal arts) majors are more in demand, because it seems I'm also seeing articles advising young people NOT to major in English. And in some ways I'm glad that other people do not have strong writing skills, because it's job security for me!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Studying English makes you wildly successful

Yes, I do believe that. It's now been 27 years since I graduated from Pacific Lutheran University with my B.A. in English (holy Beowulf!!), and my English degree has definitely helped me in life. Strong writing skills are highly sought in many fields, and people who do not have a good grasp of the English language can appear less professional and educated (even if this is not true).

Studying English helps you in the following ways:

  • Strengthens your writing skills, which are needed in many professional careers--I had to write essays for each of my English exams in college, teaching me how to write spontaneously and quickly
  • Makes you look at the forest as well as the trees, as you critically assess poetry, fiction, and nonfiction and try to determine its meaning--I think I'm out of practice with this now!
  • Helps you organize your thoughts and consequently, those organization skills spill into the rest of your life (too bad it doesn't help with cleaning, too!)
  • Makes you a more well-rounded, literate person (I'm smarter after having read Shakespeare, Melville, Austen, Eliot, Vonnegut, Barth, Bronte sisters, Angelou, etc.)
Dr. Harold Varmus
Check out these 16 people who majored in English and became WILDLY SUCCESSFUL. Some of these are not terribly surprising...many people major in English before entering the arts, law, or business fields. But I especially love that Nobel laureate Harold Varmus, who went on to earn his medical degree and become director of the National Cancer Institute, received both a bachelor's and a master's in English (from Amherst and Harvard). Talk about well rounded!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why the world needs English majors

I love Buzzfeed. Read these "things you should avoid" and learn why everyone needs an editor!

For example, this:

Whatever is happening here.

Working as an editor/writer in an environmental consulting firm, I've seen my share of "pubic" and "cunty" errors!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Copy Editors Killed In Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence

Leave it to the ONION to point out the ridiculous nature of editorial squabbles

I wonder whether it all depends on which style guide you used in your first job? Chicago for me...I just have to add serial (Oxford) commas wherever I can!