ASK THE ENVOY: How Do I Make It as an English Major?

Welcome to Ask The Envoy!

Students Adriana Chavez and Destiny Garcia are here to give some perspective on students’ issues with school, work, family, relationships and anything else life may have in store.

Ask your questions here!

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Dear The Envoy,

I am an English Lit major at Hunter, and I love it. I’ve always loved books and writing, and now I feel like my courses are opening me up to a whole new way of looking at things. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather study. And yet, I’m worried — am I smart enough to make it as an English major? I don’t want to end up doing work that doesn’t involve my skills, or having to work multiple jobs, or doing work I don’t find meaningful like advertising. How do I make it as an English major?

Sincerely,

Scared

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Dear Scared,

As an English lit major, I must admit that my advice for you – which is, in short, to stay in the major you love – is biased. Your worry that you will end up doing work that you don’t value is completely valid. It is something many English majors have feared, myself included. It’s probable you’re considering academia so you never have to stop expanding your worldview. Or perhaps you’re thinking of going into publishing so you can continue to read, or of becoming a writer so you can continue to write. While no one is guaranteed success, you can take active steps to make success in your career as likely as possible. Devote yourself to your classes and most importantly, participate in them. Take courses with full-time professors and develop a closer professor/student relationship by going to office hours. Professors can be wonderful mentors, and you’ll need their help with recommendation letters if you apply to graduate school to pursue academia. I also recommend doing an independent study and taking an honors seminar to stand out in grad school applications.

You have no reason to feel you’re not smart enough for the major. Chances are, all the students in your classes are thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing, and everyone here is way more intelligent than I am!” I hope that you can go to your professors if you ever feel lost in the material, and that over time your confidence will improve. Outside of school, start seeking out relevant job experience as soon as possible. If you want to be a writer, work on building your byline by writing for The Envoy and The Olivetree Review. Submit your writing to small publications online too, then work your way up. Look into internships in fields you’re interested in, even if you’re a freshman or sophomore. Consider contacting a professional in your desired field through LinkedIn. See if they’d be willing to talk about how they got started in the industry and give you career advice. With a little luck, they may even be able to connect you to a great opportunity.

And if you still feel nervous about career prospects with an English degree, you can take a minor in a more practical field like economics, business or computer science, so you have other work opportunities in the future.

From your fellow English major, I know you can do it!

–  Adriana

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Dear Scared,

I’m sure it feels amazing to know that you are in a major that you adore. It’s hard to decide what to eat for lunch, let alone the major that you are going to spend four or more years to complete. So do not minimize the fact that the major makes you happy. As an English major myself, I struggle with this often, wondering if the excitement and stress is worth it. Sometimes the ‘classic literature’ feels complicated, and I worry that my experience brings nothing to the table. But people are not just born smart, they have to learn about the world. During that time, they learn about themselves. People are not perfect — they make mistakes, and they grow. In your case, your writing will grow and your perspective will change. The person or writer you will become is not the same person as you are now — they are even brighter and possess more knowledge of the craft. You are smart enough. Just because you worry about making a career out of it does not mean you have to re-think your major. This wonder and this fear of the future or the unknown is what “doing what you love” means. If things seem like a walk in the park, then your mind is never challenged, and you never grow.

As an English major, you can do so many things, as long as your mind is open. Start thinking of things that interest you and thinking about fields that you might enjoy working in. Contact successful people in those fields on LinkedIn and ask them for informational interviews. Sometimes we are our own worst critics, and we don’t recognize our own potentials. Have faith in yourself and turn these insecurities into possibilities. You never know what can happen! 

Peace and Serenity, 

Destiny

Adriana Chavez is a sophomore studying English and Italian. She writes long form journalism, literary criticism, short stories and poetry. You can contact her at adriana.chavez36@myhunter.cuny.edu and follow her work at muckrack.com/adriana-chavez.

Destiny Garcia is a junior English major with a concentration in creative writing. By day she stresses in her finance job, but by night she expresses herself through writing and enjoys what pleasures learning offers. Chances are you will not catch her posting pictures on Instagram, but instead trying to live in the moment of simply being. 

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