I don't think anyone loves small talk, but it's something that I've especially grown to hate as an English major over the last three years. And, no, this isn't because I've been spoiled by the high level of discourse in my Fordham classes (although I have). My disdain for small talk comes from a repeated interaction that I've had with well-meaning people who want nothing more than to learn what I've been up to and what my plans for the future might be.
Whether I'm catching up with a family friend I've run into or trying my best to answer my dentist's persistent questions during a teeth cleaning, I often get the same response when I reveal that I'm majoring in English: "Ah. So you want to be an English teacher."
With all due respect to my brilliant Fordham professors, beloved high school English teachers, and future educators everywhere, I have never wanted to teach English. And yet, here I am, about to graduate with a B.A. in English (and American Studies). Despite the fact that many people would seem to think that I'm forgoing the one viable career option for an English major, I'll be graduating with confidence in the education I've received, several job offers, and a full-time position lined up.
So why have I, like so many other English majors, spent so much time and energy worrying about what I might do once my English degree has been conferred upon me?
The reason that the path from English major to dream career can be so hazy is because of the number and variety of options available. There are interests to hone in on, industries to explore, and opportunities to take advantage of. And while it's likely that what you're interested in doing doesn't seem to have that much to do with the theory class that you're trying to wrap your head around or the literature you're dissecting in other classes, the skills that you're honing there are highly valuable. If you spend your four years at Fordham taking classes that interest you and exploring other interests and passions through campus organizations, creative opportunities, jobs, internships, and volunteer opportunities, you can seriously ease or if not eliminate your lingering post-graduation uncertainty. You might even be excited to graduate when the time comes—although I can't make any promises.
As someone who has spent a lot of time looking through job postings over the last six months, I can confidently say that there are plenty of jobs in which English majors, with the right experiences and skills, can excel. Even more importantly, though, I know that English majors can find fulfilling, creative, and meaningful careers in a number of fields; publishing, advertising, copywriting, public relations, entertainment, journalism, non-profits and law are just a few areas where the superior writing, communication, and analytical skills you gain from majoring in English will give you a leg up.
So whether you have no idea what you might want to do with your English degree or you have a certain career or industry in mind, what stands between you and and an increased sense of confidence is your willingness to pursue opportunities that interest you. At the risk of sounding like your mother, I have to tell you that you'll never know what you want or are capable of unless you try it out.
Don't be afraid of not liking a job or internship before you try it and don't think of any opportunity as something you have to do; these opportunities exist for you to learn more about what it is that you want and figure out how it is that you can get there.
Rebecca Sinski has worked as Fordham's Creative Writing Program Assistant for the last two years. She will graduate on May 20, 2017 with a B.A. after double majoring in English and American Studies. She will begin as a paralegal at NYC law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel this summer and plans to attend law school in the near future.