My job in Human Services has absolutely nothing to do with my Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature. In order to get hired in a setting which utilizes my degree, I would probably have to move to an urban location, displacing myself from my beloved hometown.
So, what were all those countless hours of research, writing, reading, and analysis really for if they didn’t even help me earn a steady income? After some soul searching, I came up with a few reasons why getting a BA in Literature was a valuable experience:
1) I have a book recommendation for everyone
Being an English major helped me score a job at a local independent bookstore while in college. This job not only supported me as I went to school, but worked in conjunction with my degree to turn me into a pretty knowledgeable book reader. In addition to everything I was exposed to in school, this provided me with customer feedback and recommendations that I stored in my arsenal of knowledge. Now, whenever a friend or family member asks me what they should read, I have an instant suggestion for everyone!
2) I’m more empathetic than I used to be
According to this article by The Guardian, studies suggest that those who read literary fiction were more capable of understanding human emotions than others. It made a difference that the writing was “literary” in nature, rather than in the genre of romance or thriller. This makes perfect sense to me. In well-written literary texts, the writers ask the reader to do serious philosophical thinking on her own, forcing her to carefully analyze characters confronted in the text. This also helps the reader to be more understanding and empathetic in real life contexts.
3) I’m an analytical thinker
Thanks to years of scouring texts, looking for important symbols or for turns of phrase that suggest deeper shades of meaning, I can now extend this ability to every other facet in my life. I am now a more careful listener in general, since I know that even a slight difference in word choice can be indicative of another person’s meaning. When I go to a film or watch a new TV show, I tend to analyze the content on a deeper level, forcing myself to see the connections that the directors and cinematographers allude to through their craft. In general, it has forced me to be a more thoughtful critic not only of all forms of art, but of aspects of society like media, advertising, and pop culture trends.
4) I’m a very fast reader
My friends will often hand me articles or papers if they wish to get the information quickly and efficiently. Years of reading six books at once on a tight schedule has trained me to absorb content at a very quick rate. Now, when I read for pleasure, since I don’t have any deadlines, I can read at a more leisurely, relaxed pace. But if there is an article or pamphlet that needs to be read quickly and picked apart for keywords and content, I can do that too!
5) I’m a good candidate for graduate school
Because I was a dedicated and hardworking student, I managed to maintain a pretty impressive GPA while an undergrad. In addition, I have several writing samples from my English classes that would help me apply for graduate level programs. A degree in English Literature is a fine preparation for any further study in teaching, library science, or creative writing. A Bachelor’s Degree, in many cases, is just the first step in the pursuit of a more specialized study.
I often wish that there were more job opportunities geared towards those with Bachelor’s Degrees in English Literature. However,given what I’ve learned and achieved, I don’t regret one second of the path I’ve taken!