Today, dear readers, I want to talk to you about something amazing that happened in my life within the past 24 months. I have a bachelor’s degree in English – Creative Writing and a Master’s degree in English – Literature. These are perhaps not the most practical degrees in the world, but I studied what I loved and what I was interested in as opposed to considering more lucrative avenues.
On top of all that, I was a heavy victim of the recession. My story in this respect is likely very similar to everyone else who graduated around the time that the recession hit. I completed my MA in May of 2008 (a horrific time to finish school) and spent the next 3 years job hunting while working as a bartender/server/manager at a restaurant and in a part-time Marketing Assistant gig all while living with my parents. Don’t get me wrong, I was grateful to my parents. There was no way I could have afforded to live on my own given what I was doing at that time.
Throughout my schooling, people would ask me: “So, what are you going to do? Teach?” Once, I even ran into a former high school English teacher of mine who asked what I was studying in college. When I told him English, he outright laughed at me! While teaching is a profession I admire, it was not the direction I wanted to go with my career in no small part due to the fact that the people around me could think of nothing else for me to do with my English degrees other than teach. I found them to be unimaginative. And I’d done the school thing. I wanted to get out into the “business world” and see if I could hack it. I didn’t realize the formative mountain I had set before myself.
I know all you English majors out there know exactly what I’m talking about. And virtually anyone with a degree in any liberal arts field of study. People poke and prod your program of study every day. Some people call us a dying breed, along with the rest of the humanities. And yeah, I get it. This world is becoming more technologically driven every day and those sorts of jobs are important and high-paying. Businesses don’t appreciate or realize the importance of having employees who can actually communicate effectively. (What a concept!) But I chose to study what I loved: writing and literature. I couldn’t imagine what else I would have wanted to study and I still can’t imagine what else I’d rather be doing with my life other than writing and/or editing. Technology is important. But so are the humanities. They are what make us human, after all.
Anyway, what I wish to share with you today is so amazing that because of the day on which it occurred, I almost thought it was fake! I was contacted by a CORPORATE RECRUITER who thought my skills and experiences would match well with a job he was seeking to fill!
I have to say that I have never in my life been contacted by a recruiter and, in all honesty, I did not think that people with English degrees were EVER contacted by recruiters. I thought that sort of thing was reserved for high-level business people or technologically trained workers who have very specific skill sets. But no, dear reader, they are looking for us too!
I wanted to tell you about this experience for a few reasons. First, because it IS possible to make it in the business world as a writer/editor. It’s tough as shit, but it’s possible. Second, to make it in the business world as a writer, I’ve learned that you really have to be your own advocate. Most business people don’t realize how important writing skills are, despite the fact that written communication is a vital part of most any business. Plus, fewer and fewer people every day learn to be decent writers and communicators. Third, I want you to know that it is possible to be a writer and be successful. Sure, it’s a hard road. But if I can do it, so can you!
The recession ran me through the ringer. I lost faith in myself as a writer. I stopped writing for a good long time. I did not believe that there was a place for me in the world. I became depressed. I cried a lot. I no longer believed that I was good at this thing that I have been doing for my entire life. I applied to hundreds of jobs and rarely even got an automated rejection email, let alone a phone call. I was treated like dirt by a number of potential employers. I guess that’s just the ugly face of a recession. But it’s not an excuse.
Talking to the corporate recruiter was an interesting experience. He was trying to sell ME on the position and the company. He wanted to know what it would take for me to leave a job that I love for their organization. All of these things are incomprehensible just on their own.
I decided to tell the recruiter that I wasn’t interested in the position. At the time I was contacted, I was already in a great job that I loved, supporting myself and getting published regularly via the publications I write for at my organization and being recognized for the writing I am doing by readers. I’m happy where I am. On occasion, I still wake up regularly in amazement. I am amazed that I am writing because I was often told that making it as a writer in the real world is next to impossible. I am amazed that my writing is valued. I am amazed that I can support myself and live in a nice place and that I can afford to do the things I want.
My boyfriend does not understand my amazement at my own daily functionality. He teases me about it. It’s all good-hearted of course. The fact of the matter is, he’s had a very different work experience than I have. He’s been recruited by various companies regularly since about 2005, so it’s old hat to him. Sure he’s had his own bouts of frustration and layoffs in his very specialized and technical industry. But to him, it’s just life. To me, I guess, it’s a life I didn’t think I would ever have.
The point is, if you’re out there and you’re studying English or even Philosophy or History and the teacher route isn’t necessarily for you, don’t let the rest of the world tell you what you’re doing wrong. Find your voice and you’ll find your path.
And just for kicks: