Author Topic: 21 year old seeking career advice.  (Read 7037 times)

Lestamal

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21 year old seeking career advice.
« on: August 04, 2013, 02:36:26 AM »
Hey. I'm about to begin my senior year of college as an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, and well...I've never thought about how to apply my major to a career. Frankly, I don't know the first thing about what I want to do. I choose this major because I very much enjoy reading and writing, and I figured effective communication would fit into a job somehow. I have no internships or networking to speak of, but I did sign up to help edit the school literary magazine this coming year.

I thankfully haven't gone into debt at all over this decision, and in fact I will be leaving college with about 71k in savings (I was gifted 100k by my grandparents for college with the expectation that I'd go to an ivy league school. I chose to stay in state instead and contributed a couple thousand through part time work) But it's very disturbing to look forward and not see the path before me.

I'm wondering how I narrow down what I want to do. How do I pick a job that will satisfy me and make money enough to live? Am I fucked because I don't have any "professional" experience already and no idea how to get my foot in a door?

Thank you for reading.

gooki

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2013, 03:05:30 AM »
Start getting published (self published is also fine), now. Not after your studies have finished.

plantingourpennies

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2013, 06:19:46 AM »
Hi,

I'm 30 now but when I graduated with a philosophy degree I had no network or professional skills to speak of. I had no idea what kind of work would lead me to FIRE, but I was determined to find it!

It took me a few years of searching, but it turns out there is a particular profession that places a very high value on communication skills, critical thinking, and hard work. Even better, the pay ranges from above average to very, very high, there are almost always entry level positions available, and it actually requires no degree at all.

My advice-get into sales!

Best,
Mr. PoP

totoro

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2013, 06:30:15 AM »
Hey. I'm about to begin my senior year of college as an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, and well...I've never thought about how to apply my major to a career. Frankly, I don't know the first thing about what I want to do. I choose this major because I very much enjoy reading and writing, and I figured effective communication would fit into a job somehow. I have no internships or networking to speak of, but I did sign up to help edit the school literary magazine this coming year.

I thankfully haven't gone into debt at all over this decision, and in fact I will be leaving college with about 71k in savings (I was gifted 100k by my grandparents for college with the expectation that I'd go to an ivy league school. I chose to stay in state instead and contributed a couple thousand through part time work) But it's very disturbing to look forward and not see the path before me.

I'm wondering how I narrow down what I want to do. How do I pick a job that will satisfy me and make money enough to live? Am I fucked because I don't have any "professional" experience already and no idea how to get my foot in a door?

Thank you for reading.

You have $71,000.  In your shoes I would have purchased a rental property in a good prospects market as step 1.  Something that is cash flow positive with 10% down.  You will have to worry far less about a job later if you start investing these funds wisely now.

footenote

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2013, 07:12:10 AM »
I, too, majored in English / Writing and had no idea what to do with myself upon graduation.

I hear Mr. PoP's advice on sales and if you're extroverted, it's an outstanding, lucrative path. If you are a quick learner, you can even apply yourself to technical sales in something like pharmaceuticals or medical devices. I have read that many major companies are again hiring people right out of college, and many hire liberal arts majors into sales training programs.

If you are introverted (as I am), you may want to apply your communications skills to work that's less people-intensive. After graduation, I worked part time and went to school part time in Computer Science (a topic that fascinated me). Three years later, I got my first full time job: technical writer.

In summary: explore both your temperament and your interests to find a career in which you will use your communications skills. Good luck and keep us updated!

PS Totoro's advice on using some of your capital to generate cash flow is a good idea, too.

Daleth

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2013, 07:36:38 AM »
Hey. I'm about to begin my senior year of college as an English major with an emphasis in creative writing, and well...I've never thought about how to apply my major to a career. Frankly, I don't know the first thing about what I want to do. I choose this major because I very much enjoy reading and writing, and I figured effective communication would fit into a job somehow. I have no internships or networking to speak of, but I did sign up to help edit the school literary magazine this coming year.

I thankfully haven't gone into debt at all over this decision, and in fact I will be leaving college with about 71k in savings (I was gifted 100k by my grandparents for college with the expectation that I'd go to an ivy league school. I chose to stay in state instead and contributed a couple thousand through part time work) But it's very disturbing to look forward and not see the path before me.

I'm wondering how I narrow down what I want to do. How do I pick a job that will satisfy me and make money enough to live? Am I fucked because I don't have any "professional" experience already and no idea how to get my foot in a door?

Thank you for reading.

I have a creative writing degree too, and I also got it without debt. That's a great start, and I agree that the $71k could get you started in real estate if you're interested in that. There's a lot of wisdom on these fora if you want to go that route.

What I think you should do now is read a few books on choosing careers, read up on what careers there are that would value the degree you have and also read about some people that have taken a more self-styled route.

A few books I've found useful on figuring out what you'd be happiest doing:

- Do What You Are (http://www.amazon.com/Do-What-You-Are-Personality/dp/0316167266)

- What Color is Your Parachute? (2013 edition is here but any recent edition will do: http://www.amazon.com/What-Color-Your-Parachute-2013)

- The Pathfinder (http://www.amazon.com/The-Pathfinder-Lifetime-Satisfaction-Touchstone/dp/1451608322)

- A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do (http://www.amazon.com/Life-Work-Discovering-What-Were/dp/0767922522)


A few ideas about careers particularly suited to English majors:

- Becoming a literary agent: http://mediacareers.about.com/od/mediajobprofiles/a/LiteraryAgent.htm

- Becoming a book editor: http://mediacareers.about.com/od/mediajobprofiles/a/BookEditor.htm

- Becoming an advertising copywriter: http://www.kuraoka.com/how-to-become-an-advertising-copywriter.html

- Becoming a grantwriter: read "Writing for a Good Cause" (http://www.amazon.com/Writing-Good-Cause-Persuasive-Nonprofits/dp/0684857405) and do some googling. On a related note (related to this and to advertising copywriting), google how to get into marketing.

- Becoming a teacher of English as a foreign language (this can be a fun way to travel the world; I've done it): http://esl.about.com/od/esleflteachertraining/bb/bydecidetefl.htm

- Becoming a librarian: http://www.ala.org/educationcareers/careers/paths/librarian (note: do not get the recommended master's in library science unless you've spent some time working in libraries and think you'd enjoy this--look at the link on that page about becoming a library assistant or technician; try working a job like that before you decide if you want to actually become a librarian).

One last note on careers for English majors: the market for college professors of English and/or writing is HORRIFICALLY BAD. If that's a job that nevertheless interests you, go to the forums at the Chronicle of Higher Education (chronicle.com) and ask for advice. Long story short, to have a chance of landing a job, you need to do a PhD in composition and rhetoric (NOT in English literature) and you need several publications before you're out of grad school. If you want to go the professor of creative writing route, you need to publish some novels and get either an MFA or a PhD in creative writing--but the essential thing is, you need to publish some novels and/or short story collections (I'm assuming you do fiction rather than poetry? If not, the "need to publish books" advice still stands). And I do not mean self-publish.


A few about people who made up their own careers:
- What Should I Do With My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question (http://www.amazon.com/What-Should-Do-My-Life/dp/0345485920/)

- Losing My Virginity (Richard Branson, who started out in magazine publishing, an obvious path for an English/writing major like you) (http://www.amazon.com/Losing-My-Virginity-Survived-Business/dp/0812932293)

- Famous people with English degrees--if you like the jobs any of them are doing now, read up on how they got there: http://finance.yahoo.com/news/16-wildly-successful-people-who-majored-in-english-134415857.html
More famous people: http://www.english.heacademy.ac.uk/explore/resources/careers/grads.php
More famous people: http://faculty.ircc.cc.fl.us/DEPT/English/Famous%20English%20Majors.htm
« Last Edit: August 04, 2013, 07:39:49 AM by Daleth »

plantingourpennies

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2013, 01:03:41 PM »
I, too, majored in English / Writing and had no idea what to do with myself upon graduation.

I hear Mr. PoP's advice on sales and if you're extroverted, it's an outstanding, lucrative path. If you are a quick learner, you can even apply yourself to technical sales in something like pharmaceuticals or medical devices. I have read that many major companies are again hiring people right out of college, and many hire liberal arts majors into sales training programs.

I'm actually fairly introverted; its a (frustrating) urban legend that you have to be an extrovert to do well in sales. Particularly enterprise B2B sales, which is where the money usually is.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2013/04/10/move-over-extroverts-here-come-the-ambiverts/

For what its worth, only about 15% of my day is spend with clients. The rest of the time I am researching, working on presentations/proposals, or creating marketing campaigns.

best,
Mr. PoP

footenote

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2013, 01:24:18 PM »
Great point, PoP. (Even *I* could have done B2B or inside sales, especially selling more technical goods or services.)

Lestamal

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2013, 04:05:46 PM »
I'd like to say thank you to everyone that responded, particularly Daleth for a very thorough rundown of good opportunities. (Seriously, I had no idea! Everyone in my family told me I was stupid and foolish to pick English...) I will be researching all of these in the coming weeks and narrowing down what fits and what doesn't. I'll post again about my career when I pick a path. In the meantime, I will be lurking, as is my wont. Thank you kindly!

(I'll also still be reading this topic if anyone else has other ideas as well.)

ch12

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2013, 04:18:06 PM »
+1 for technical writing

I'm not actually employed in it now, but it's more or less lucrative in the right spot. I have worked as a technical writer. I listened to my family who said that I couldn't do anything with an English major and majored in other things. Yay for you having the courage to do what you wanted!

Quote
In the other world, the digital world, the non-brick and mortar world, there is  negative unemployment. Thats right there are far more jobs than there are people to fill them.

From Mark Cuban: http://blogmaverick.com/2012/08/16/which-usa-do-you-work-in/

Start casting around to see if you can get any experience working (possibly for free) for a software company. Preferably for money. I made almost as much as an intern (and also the only technical writer in a company full of non-native English speakers) as I make now as a full-time employee. It can be lucrative and worthwhile. You get to spend time with smart people.

+.5 for sales. If you read The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg, you'd know that sales are the key to life, the universe, and everything. But I find myself not being ultra-salesy and thus am not even in a customer-facing role. :)

ichoosemyself

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2013, 08:10:02 PM »
Lestamal, You mentioned that you have "no experience" but also that you've done quite a bit of part-time work. It may be likely that you can frame that work as your experience when applying for jobs - in addition, it probably gave you some kind of network. Don't devalue your own experiences!

pbkmaine

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #11 on: August 05, 2013, 08:23:31 PM »
English Major here. Got my MBA and am now a VP in a pension consulting firm. Along the way I co-authored two books. Go to your alumni office and tell them you would like to talk to former English majors at your college who are in various lines of work. You will find that we are all over the place, doing everything. It's an advantage being literate.

When I was a child, I dreamed of being a translator. And in a way, I became exactly that. A client recently told me I have a "rare gift" for taking extremely technical concepts and explaining them simply.

What are your dreams?
« Last Edit: August 05, 2013, 08:29:51 PM by pbkmaine »

eman resu

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #12 on: August 05, 2013, 08:51:13 PM »
Hey Lestamal,

Fellow state-college English grad (no concentration, even) here.  You are so not f**ked... not even close.  I have worked my way up from entry-level to decent pay in two industries because I can write a clear audit report.  Don't forget that the critical reading and creative (not too creative, mind you) writing abilities you have been honing are widely marketable skills. 

I compare gov't rules to company practice in writing. Wasn't even on my radar at 21. Retail quality control or banking compliance might not particularly interest you, but there is a business in an industry that intrigues you that needs you to help it use its words.

From your summary, it sounds like you are in great financial shape compared to anyone I knew in my program at college.  I know you'll find your direction and never look back!

omegashop333

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2013, 04:04:15 AM »
Commissioned sales and/or real estate.

Or


Write a book...which you will still have to sell.

Read articles like these to stay motivated.
http://www.npr.org/2012/01/08/144804084/a-self-published-authors-2-million-cinderella-story

http://boostblogtraffic.com/stephen-king/

Good Luck

MakingSenseofCents

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2013, 08:17:25 AM »
That is very nice of your grandparents! I would definitely try and find some sort of job where you can use your schooling. Experience is very important.

onehappypanda

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #15 on: August 06, 2013, 09:10:21 AM »
I choose this major because I very much enjoy reading and writing, and I figured effective communication would fit into a job somehow. I have no internships or networking to speak of, but I did sign up to help edit the school literary magazine this coming year.

You are not screwed, but you could definitely put yourself into a better position over the next school year. Effective communication is a great skill but you need to try applying it to a workplace if you want it to mean much on your resume.

Find internships and/or jobs that let you apply your skills. I personally would look into things like marketing, communications, technical writing, etc.  These do two things: they look good on your resume and let you develop your workplace-relevant skills, AND they help you learn what you enjoy. Both are extremely valuable in today's job market and can set you apart from other candidates, so I'd get on it asap.

ch12

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #16 on: August 06, 2013, 01:05:17 PM »
I read this HBR article today that reminded me of this thread. I imagine that the demand for English majors might go up shortly: http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2013/07/want_to_raise_prices_tell_a_be.html

davisgang90

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Re: 21 year old seeking career advice.
« Reply #17 on: August 08, 2013, 04:13:07 AM »
I agree with other posters above.  The ability to write good well is a very sought after skill.  I would also recommend do whatever you can to get published.  Do you have a blog to showcase your thoughts and writing?  If not, I would recommend starting one now.  Do anything you can to get your skills documented.

Congrats on your frugal start!