Tag Archives: job search

Communication to the rescue!


In my last post, I discussed some of the difficulty I had during my junior and senior year trying to prepare for life after graduation.  I also mentioned how it wasn’t until I turned to my communication professors that I received the help I needed.  My next series of posts are going to talk specifically about the advice and help they gave me, while also going over how I utilized their advice.  You can also turn to my 10 Things posts in order to see other advice about the job search and grad school.

The upcoming topics I am going to cover are:

1. Resume building

2. Networking

3. Portfolio building

4. Internships


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Hey, girl I don’t know~

When I finally started my first semester at South Alabama, I had enough credits to count as a junior.  Thus, I was finally at the point in my college career where I had to start making decisions about what I would be doing after college.  Would I start thinking about graduate school, or would I start preparing for the job search?  Really, you should already be thinking about both before now and getting ready through jobs, community service, and other organizations.  However, it probably isn’t until your junior or senior year that it really hits you that life is about to change for you soon and you need to be ready for it.

The first place I turned to for help was my college adviser.  I had decided based on research, that really getting a higher level degree in English would probably be a waste of time, unless I wanted to become a college professor.  Most jobs that I was interested in are based upon experience, so after graduation I wanted to get an entry level job and start building up from there.  However, I didn’t know what the process I needed to take to really get prepared for the job search; I had only had part-time/seasonal and tutoring jobs up to that point and didn’t know what I would need to do for a career.  Unfortunately for me, my adviser couldn’t really help since she had taken the graduate school route.  I soon found my other English professors I turned to for help also couldn’t help for a similar reason; they didn’t have much experience outside of academia.  All they could really do was act as a reference for me and give suggestions about graduate school (pretty much all of my professors, English or otherwise, pressured me into going that route.  Honestly, now that I’ve had some time out of college, I’m seriously reconsidering it).

But, at the time, I was burnt out from school and thought going for the job was the better option, so I really felt frustrated that I wasn’t finding help in the English department.  Since then, I’ve learned that a great place to turn to for help is the career center; the career center for your school has advisers that can give you specific job seeking help and will have conferences and workshops that provide resume help and networking opportunities.  The place I turned to, however, wound up being the communication department, and that will be the topic of my next post.

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Oh she’s back, she’s back, she’s back, she’s back oh~

When I started my sophomore year of college it was a very exciting first semester.  I had a lot of friends, I was more settled with my major and college path, and I kept myself busy with extracurricular activities.  I even had all four years of college planned out with what classes I would be taking which semester (yes, I really plan ahead).  The summer before I had a minor hiccup when I couldn’t reapply for a private student loan because Mississippi changed the minimum age to 21, but due to some help from my grandparents I was ready to go.

Then by the end of Christmas break it all came crashing down.  Due to the student loan problem, I couldn’t afford Spring Hill College’s high tuition, even with the scholarship I had and the help from my grandparents.  While my parents tried to help me find out a solution, some of my professors tried to speak up for me to the school to find a way to get me to stay in.  However, since my family wasn’t low income enough (even though only my dad was working at the time and we were still paying for repairs to our house from Hurricane Katrina), the school decided nothing could be done.  It didn’t matter that I was a 4.0 student that did well in all of their classes; money matters a lot, especially when the school doesn’t have a lot left in savings from donations.

Therefore, I found myself leaving Spring Hill College.  On the day that I was supposed to move in, I instead came to campus and packed my bags before going through the process of formally withdrawing.  It was a really emotional day for me – getting my degree was my greatest goal at the time and being in college was very important to me.  When people tried to tell me to treat it as an opportunity or a break, I lashed out and didn’t want to hear it.  In my mind they didn’t understand just how devastating this development in my life was.

The same day I left SHC, I enrolled at the MGCCC Jefferson Davis campus and signed up for a few night classes.  I also began looking for a job to keep myself occupied while out of formal school and to start earning money to put toward the student loans I already had and transferring to another 4 year school.  My next post will cover what it was like working while taking classes at the same time.

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The Real World: Part II

Tip #4: Build Your Portfolio

The reason why I actually got my internship (which has led to my full time job) is at my job interview I brought my portfolio to show my boss.  My portfolio contained examples of projects in my InDesign and advertising classes, pieces I had written for the communication department’s newsletter, and memos I had written for classes among other things.  You could include papers to give an example of your writing and editing skill or you could bring in a literary magazine/school newspaper with the article or piece you wrote for it.  If you want a job more related to art or design you could bring in examples of your work.  If you’re a business minor and you had a big end of the year project you can bring in the portfolio for that.  Any time you bring an example of the skills or work you have done it gives your possible future employer an example of the type of work you can do and it may give you that extra edge to get the job.

Tip #5: Prep for Interviews

The more experience you have doing interviews, the more comfortable and prepared you will be for them.  You can practice interviewing by having your friend practice with you, talking in front of a mirror, or going to job fairs.  Job fairs are also a great place to get resume tips and to network with possible future employers.

In fact, one reason why you should join different organizations is they sometimes have events where you can network with people.  For instance, I went to some PR conferences while in college and am involved in Sigma Tau Delta (the English International Honor Society) which has a yearly conference.  Conferences are great places to network, have people critique your resume, and practice talking to people/interviewing.  The more you throw yourself out there and gain contacts, the more likely chance you have to land yourself a job.

Here are some interview tips from the PowerPoint:

  1. Dress in a suit or conservative dress attire. No visible piercings or gaudy jewelry. Minimal is more
  2. Bring a pen and writing pad – if possible, get a professional portfolio for them.
  3. Practice potential interview questions before the big moment, on a friend or in front of the mirror.
  4. Have questions of your own to ask your interviewers, either about the company or your position. This shows engagement and interest.  This means researching the company you are interviewing for.

Tip #6: Never Give Up!

If your job interview didn’t go well or you didn’t get the job then don’t let it get you down.  By simply going to the interview you have gained valuable job interview experience.  The more job interviews you go to, the more you get exposed to different types of questions and interview styles so in the future you can prepare for them better.  After an interview you should assess what you did well and maybe some questions you could have answered a little better.  If you didn’t have enough job experience, go out there and build up your resume more.  Use the interview as a learning tool so the next time you go in for an interview you do it better and increase your chances of beating out the competition.

If you missed the first part of this post, you can find it here.

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The Real World: How to begin preparing for a career Out There while you’re still In Here

This post is dedicated to those like me that may not want to go to grad school right after graduation.  Maybe you want to work first to pay off your student loans.  Maybe you don’t want to teach and you’ve realized that if you go to grad school for English you’re pretty much going to get your Ph.D and become an English professor.  Whatever the reason, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for the job search while still working on your undergraduate degree.  I’m going to use tips from the PowerPoint and based on my own experience to hopefully help you get prepared for that job after graduation.

Tip # 1: Strategy

Try to figure out now what types of careers you are interested in.  You can use this post to get some ideas of possible job choices for English majors, but don’t limit yourself here.  There are lots of different ways you can use your English degree.

Tip #2: Experience

You should start gaining experience for your resume; experience is very important and can be just as useful (if not more so) than a degree.  Experience helps you gain skills to market yourself and also helps you gain contacts that can land you your job.

Ways that you can gain experience include writing or editing for your school’s literary magazine or newspaper.  I did both in high school and college since I knew I wanted a job related to writing and/or publishing.  You can also start a blog or send in articles to online or local newspapers or magazines.  If you’re interested in secretarial or office work then get position as a student worker for a departmental office.  See if the English department is hiring student workers to do desk work for them.  If you’re interested in law then try to get an internship at a law office.  There are lots of different avenues you can go to find ways to spruce up your resume.

Tip #3: Build your Resume

Make sure you get involved in different activities so you can gain skills that you can use to market yourself.  If you want to prove you have leadership capability, get a position as an officer in a club or run for a position in the SGA.  I was always involved in different clubs in college and usually wound up working as an officer since it meant I was more involved.  Learning a foreign language can be very important depending on the field you want to go into; Spanish can be useful if you live in an area with a large Hispanic population and French is used a lot in business.  If you want to do something related to foreign relations or study then you should definitely learn the language of the country you are interested in working in/with.

You can also learn special skills related to the field you are interested in.  For example, I learned how to use design programs such as Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator because I wanted to work in fields such as advertising and public relations where you have to design and create publications.  Knowing how to use Microsoft Office products such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are also useful if you want a job in business.  Another important area you can focus on is community service.  Community service work for different organizations and non-profits is not only spiritually rewarding it can also lead to important contacts and experience for future jobs.

Now, the other important part of building your resume is good design.  If your resume is visually pleasing that can be the difference between your future boss actually looking at the document or throwing it in the discard pile.  You also want to make sure that there are no spelling or grammar errors on your resume; many times if a potential employer spots an error, that resume is going to be thrown away and forgotten.  Try to have as many eyes see your resume before sending it in – I had some of my professors help me build and proof mine because I wanted it to be the best it can be.  And remember, your resume is a living document – you will be constantly adding on to it and revising it as time progresses.  You want to make sure you tailor your resume for the job you are applying for.  I am going to provide an example of the resume I used to get my internship – I made sure I put information relevant to the job first and picked the clubs and activities I had been involved in at college that were relevant to the job on there.

Example Resume

If you want to read more job search tips, continue on to Part II.

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Career Opportunities for English Majors Part II

School Teacher

Although public schools require state teaching certification, some private schools will hire English grads with only a Bachelor’s under their belts. Various factors impact salary: teaching experience, the number of years employed at the current school, merit and performance, teaching load, and degrees and credits.

Wages in each industry:

  • Elementary and secondary schools: $53,190 – $55,210 (annual mean )
  • Public school teacher: $27,300 – $74,550 (2007 )
  • Private school: $32,935 – $68,933
  • High school teacher: $43,496 (annual mean )
  • Elementary school teacher: $40,437 (annual mean )
  • Middle school teacher: $42,308 (annual mean )

College Instructor

Universities and community colleges hire adjunct instructors to teach composition and developmental studies reading and writing.

  • You will need a Master’s Degree in English.
  • Wages range from $1500 to $2000 per class, per semester. That comes out to $500 a month (at best!) per class.
  • Most colleges are only interested in hiring part-timers, which means you can only teach two or three classes at a time at each college.

In 2-year colleges, master’s degree holders fill most full-time teaching positions, but these positions usually require extensive teaching experience.

Online Tutor

Online tutoring companies like SmartThinking and Tutor.com hire graduates with BAs and MAs to head their online sessions with a wide range of students, from high schoolers to adults. The application process and all work is online. Work is paid hourly. Some companies require you work part-time only. Wages usually start at $10 per hour.

Online Rater

Companies like the Educational Testing Services and Pearson hire English graduates to grade the essay portions of standardized tests like the GRE and TOEFL.

Raters with only a BA typically earn around $10 an hour. If you have an MA and plenty of experience, you can make $20 to $30 an hour. Work is online and work hours are flexible, as you decide what shifts you want to work.

Companies are increasingly relying on computer software to score essays. Human raters are less in demand these days, which means there is no guarantee you’ll have a reliable source of income.


Marketing is actually what I am currently doing for my job. I am doing marketing for a private school and have to work on designing publications, writing feature stories, sending press releases, etc. In marketing I get to use both writing and creative skills which I really enjoy. If you also feel a strong connection with your product or company it really helps and makes you feel like you’re doing a great thing.


Just think about how much research you’ve completed as you pursue your degree! Academic researchers need a Ph.D. to work for universities. There are businesses that hire researchers, like certain oil and leasing companies.

Honestly, there are a lot of different jobs that require research. My aunt is a research librarian for a university. In advertising and PR jobs there are a lot of research jobs especially for creating surveys, researching the market before a campaign, and researching how well a campaign did. Also, pretty much every industry needs to do research for something or other so you can find a job researching something you enjoy.


At some point most businesses (especially non-profits) need to hold fundraisers in order to raise money. You need someone who writes well and inspires people to donate to work on a fundraising campaign. Jobs that require fundraising ability could be through marketing and PR or some other communication based job.

Click here to be linked back to Part I.

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Career Opportunities for English Majors: There are more than you think Part I

This section of the presentation covers some of the different career opportunities for English majors.  These are only a few of the possible jobs you can apply for with a degree in English; do not limit yourself to only these possibilities.

According to the PowerPoint, “Many of the following slides were drawn from Esther Lombardi’s essay, “A Note to An English Major Contemplating a Career,” published online at About.com Guide, as well as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, which can be found online at http://www.bls.gov/oco/.d.”


A writer can be anything from novelists, to screenwriters, to editors, etc.  You can write for print, broadcast, or online writing.  If you plan on writing online, having Web or multimedia experience is a plus.  If you are writing about a particular topic (say for a magazine) you will want to have formal training and/or experience related to that topic.

Annual wages for salaried writers and authors: May 2008:

  • Lowest 10%: less than $28,020
  • Middle 50%: between $38,150 and $75,060
  • Highest 10%: more than $106,630

Tip from the PowerPoint: “Accrue experience now. Begin writing for The Oracle (school literary magazine), The Vanguard (school newspaper), online magazines and blogs, etc.”

Technical Writer

A technical writer basically takes technical information for a business or industry and translates it into easily understandable language for documents. Most jobs in this occupation require a college degree. Job prospects for this career are pretty good, especially if you have web and/or multimedia experience. Traits desired for this field are excellent communication skills and attention to detail.

Median annual wages in the industries employing the largest number of technical writers:

  • Software publishers: $71,640
  • Computer systems design and related services: $64,380
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: $62,920
  • Employment services: $61,810
  • Architectural, engineering, and related services: $60,140

Tip from the PowerPoint: “Take professional writing classes!”

Grant/Proposal Writer

A grant writer helps non-profits, individuals, and businesses find funding opportunities.  They research funding sources and write proposals to request funds.  You need at least a bachelor’s degree in a related area and experience is usually required.

Median expected salary for different businesses:

  • General: $56,772
  • Private Corporation: $30,000 to $60,000
  • Non-profit: $23,000 to $35,000

Tip from the PowerPoint: “USA offers a Special Courses class on grant writing, called Grant Writing: The Step-by-Step Process, also available online.”


The requirements to be a lawyer are a 4-year college degree, 3 years of law school, and a written bar examination; some requirements may vary by State.  Prospective lawyers should develop proficiency in writing and speaking, reading, researching, analyzing, and thinking logically.

Median expected salary for different levels of law:

  • All graduates: $68,500
  • Private practice: $108,500
  • Business: $69,100
  • Government: $50,000
  • Academic/judicial clerkships: $48,000

Tip from the PowerPoint: “Students interested in a particular aspect of law may find related courses helpful. For example, prospective patent lawyers need a strong background in engineering or science, and future tax lawyers must have extensive knowledge of accounting.”


A paralegal helps lawyers prepare for closings, hearings, trials, and corporate meetings, investigate the facts of cases, identify appropriate laws, prepare written reports on findings, etc.  In order to become a paralegal, an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, or a bachelor’s degree in another field and a certificate in paralegal studies is required.

Median expected salary for different businesses:

  • Federal executive branch: $58,540
  • Insurance carriers: $52,200
  • Legal services: $44,480

Click here to be linked to Part II.

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