I Am An English Major Looking For Work

I mentioned this past week that I was resuming the job search this month and wanted to share my process here on the blog. Before I get into the specifics of my search, I thought it might be a good idea to give you a bit of context about my past experience looking for full-time jobs post-graduation before I talk about what I’m doing now.

I don’t know if I’ll regret putting all this out there, but I want to because my fear is that there are a lot of people out there like me who are similar situations. I’ll be happy if anyone learns from my mistakes or becomes motivated to pursue any of their dreams that they may be putting off for whatever reason.

Let me just start by saying I’ve always been intimidated by the prospect of searching for jobs. I don’t find it particularly fun or exciting, especially after having a few times come really close to bagging the dream job only to find that there was someone out there that was better qualified (or as my inner critic spins it better liked).

Something I’ve had to learn is not to let rejections set me back. Hank Green recently made an extremely inspiring video called “My Worst Job Search Fail” on the vlogbrothers channel that put the job search into such a healthier perspective for me. I’ve embedded it below because I think it contains an important message for anyone who is looking for a job.

First A Little Context . . .

I attended Iowa State University from 2011–2015 and decided to major in English because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but felt like an English degree would prepare me for a wide array of careers that require strong communication and analytical skills. As a backup plan for the chance I would not immediately find a job post-graduation, I had applied to a Master’s program at UT Dallas, where I knew my brother would be soon studying.

At UT Dallas I studied Emerging Media & Communication from 2015–2017. I had been really attracted to the described coursework and hopeful that I might be able to make myself a really unique prospect for a social media job in book publishing. Instead, I discovered a hidden passion for the theory and research, graduating with the intent to apply for PhD programs after a year in the real world.

I still didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do or what would make me the most happy, but I was open for anything. I wanted to be snapped up by someone who saw my potential and wanted to make me their mentee.

As someone who was always a strong student, I didn’t spare a lot of thought thinking about what was a realistic career path for me. All I ever cared about while I was a student were my grades and impressing my instructors. A part of me knew that I ought to have been thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life while I was in college, but I was overly idealistic (hello). I felt like finding a job was entirely a matter of luck, presenting myself as a good worker and smart person would make it easier for the right job to fall into my lap.

Originally I would’ve loved to work in publishing; it’s why I started book blogging in 2015. But over the years I’ve come to my senses about the reality of publishing and decided it wasn’t for me. Nowadays I would love to see myself writing for a living, whether that be as an original content creator or some sort of digital publication. I could also see myself managing some business / company / organization‘s social media and other communication platforms with great pleasure and passion.

You really have to be a good sales person of yourself in order to get your foot in the door most places. If you are someone who takes great pride in work done well and are a fast learner but has trouble being aggressive in competitive environments where you have no contacts and no formal experience. It is exceptionally hard if you lack direction.

So I’ve been flailing.

How I Spent the First Half of 2018

I quit my retail job in January after a busy holiday season in which I worked so many grueling hours and gained extremely sore feet in the process. This job was very physically demanding, so much so that my feet were always in pain and my body always tired. It was also emotionally draining. All I wanted to do when I finished work was sleep, eat, and find comfort in the mind-numbing entertainment of Netflix and YouTube.

What is most devastating is that I was never supposed to be at that retail job for long. I always meant to continue looking for and applying for jobs that befitted a college graduate. But during my sporadic days off, it was hard to do anything that made me feel fulfilled or productive, never mind looking for jobs.

So in January I decided to take a gamble on myself. I felt I needed the pressure of having no money coming in to move me into finding a proper full-time job at long last. It wasn’t the best motivator, considering I was still unbelievably fortunate enough to have my parents’ financial support behind me. But the time has helped me come to terms with reality and the options I never seriously considered before.

It’s also allowed me to work on my own health. My feet are back to normal (can you believe they went down a shoe size?) and exercise has been a regular and enjoyable part of my daily routine. I’ve even been able to tackle my unhealthy relationship with food. I’m feeling more content and in control of my body and its destiny than I have in years.

What I’m Doing Now

So my dad works in the Department of Homeland Security. He never went to proper college. He worked his way up from border patrol and ICE all the way up to the highest level possible for a man of his age and his background. Most recently he received an overseas position in Israel where he’s done well. I’m really proud of him. But from an early age, I knew I never wanted to do what he does.

That’s part of the reason I never seriously considered looking into government jobs, especially as I continued in higher education and became more liberal-minded. The Peace Corps is the closet thing I ever imagined myself doing related to government work.

So imagine my surprise when I made an account for USA Jobs and found that there are actually some really amazing job opportunities that fall under the umbrella of the U.S. government. Jobs that take into account educational achievement alongside work experience. Jobs that are not even specifically to do with immigration.

I’ve bookmarked several positions that I’ve found using the job board database, taking into account the requirements, qualifications, and locations that best suit me. Every day I find something new based on preferences I can adjust on my profile. It’s not the most user-friendly database, in the sense that it’s not immediately clear to me if it’s possible to exclude positions for which I am not qualified (e.g. engineering, medical…), but it’s been easy to find a way to swiftly navigate all the open listings.

I also intend to look for jobs at U.S. embassies around the world, as apparently (according to my dad) those can be easier to get because they have less applicants. It’s still a dream of mine to visit Europe, Australia, and Asia one day. I can scarcely imagine a better way to get overseas than to be able to go specifically for a job. Even if it’s temporary position, I’d be willing to do it for the opportunity to travel.

I don’t know how long it will take for my applications to get noticed or receive enough interest to result in interviews, so in the meantime I’m also applying to some local part-time jobs for the city where I live. I already have an interview for a recreational center position. I’m also still investigating opportunities to teach overseas. I get a lot of satisfaction in helping others, so teaching people who want to learn (in any capacity) still feels like something I would love to do.

❧ ☙ END NOTE ☙ ❧

I’m aware I previously said I wanted to make my job search into a series of posts, but I’ve been inspired by the way Czarina @ The Blacksheep Reader integrated her job search updates into her Weekend Reads posts. I’ll try to keep you all updated each week with a short summary covering places I’ve applied and interviews as they come.

Do you have your dream job?

Do you have any tips for first-time job seekers?

Thank you for reading!
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15 thoughts on “I Am An English Major Looking For Work

  1. Rae

    You go, girl! Job hunting as a new grad is tough. I’m a fellow English major (at an Iowa university), and I ended up in manufacturing. You’ll find something amazing! ☺️

  2. czai

    First, I was surprised that I somehow inspired you :) Thanks for the shout-out! And Good Luck with your job search and your interview!

    “You really have to be a good sales person of yourself” — this is real talk. Also, this is something I don’t have. I really feel you on this post! And also because I used to work on retail (I actually worked for my local bookstore) but I quit because I’m also a college graduate and I needed to find a more appropriate job. But prior to quitting, I actually received my first rejection from my local bookstore when I tried and applied for a Social Media Associate position. I was thinking that my college credentials and good work record will help me get the position but I was wrong. I was overwhelmed and submitted my resignation right after that. I ended up jobless for three months… I went through a few interviews and many job application ignored until I got my current work..

    Well that ended up getting long… but anyway, Good Luck, Lori! I hope you find the job that fits your work preference and environment (I recently realized that work environment really matters)!! :D

    1. Lori @ Betwined Reads

      I love long comments, especially the meaningful ones. And you’re welcome! I love your blog, especially after I deep-dived into it after your sweet comment on my last post. <3

      I'm sorry to hear about that rejection. It stings. I had a really strong interview last year within the local public school district about a technology position. I was super confident walking out and devastated the next day to find out despite my educational background and experience with technology, they probably gave the job to someone they knew (something I only know because of clues a friend who works there pieced together).

      Thank you for sharing your experience. It's made me feel a lot less alone in this crazy competitive job-seeking environment to find not just a good job but one that validates us.

    1. Lori @ Betwined Reads

      Ahh I wish! I’ll still looking for a full-time job. But thank you ^_^

      What do you do for work, if you don’t mind me asking?

      1. Jacqueline @bluejaybooks

        Oh, I see, sorry for the confusion! I saw your announcement about your part-time job and got mixed-up. . .

        Well, as I said, I only got the job last week, so I’m not 100 percent sure what I do yet, LOL.

        I work for a software company doing marketing and technical writing. Right now, I do a lot of SEO copywriting, but they’re also planning to have me help with technical documentation and web development. Often, these tasks would be done by different people, but employees sometimes take on multiple roles.

      2. Lori @ Betwined Reads

        No worries, it’s easy to see how that can be confusing. It won’t pay my bills, but I was really excited because it’s better than nothing. Your job sounds amazing! Congrats!

      3. Jacqueline @bluejaybooks

        Oh, I see. Best of luck, then! Thanks, yes, I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, though no doubt some of my former classmates would wonder at my excitement to write about complicated technology . . . a lot of them were not so enthused about that when I stated my intentions :)

  3. Cailin @ Rose Petal Pages

    Wishing you all the luck in your job search <3 <3 and I think what you're pursuing is really cool. I'm curious though because I really hope to get a job in publishing when the time comes (I'm a junior in high school atm), what turned you off to the industry?

    1. Lori @ Betwined Reads

      Hi, Cailin! There were a few things that discouraged me that doesn’t have much to do with the industry itself. For one thing, I feel like choosing the right college that will help you get your foot in the door at publishing houses is integral. By right college, I mean location and connections. I went to college in Iowa/Texas, so there was not a lot of opportunities.

      Also, I feel like publishing is something that a lot of people would like to work in. It’s so competitive, you really know what you want to do within publishing and develop the skills related to those positions (e.g. editing or marketing). I didn’t focus on anything specific like that in college.

      Finally, I came disillusioned by my experiences in book blogging and my grad studies. I became more aware of the free labor exploitation of online reviewers. I also came to realize that the best books are not always the ones that get the resources behind them to promote the work, often times its the books that publishers think will cash in on popular trends.

      I’d still like to work in publishing, but I’m pretty certain it wouldn’t be in a traditional setting. In fact, I think I see myself starting my own publishing division and running it using my new media background and strategies. :D

      1. Cailin @ Rose Petal Pages

        Thanks so much for taking the time to explain all that to me! I think starting your own division would be such an incredible thing to do! I really want to be an editor, and I’m lucky because I don’t live too far from NYC and will probably wind up going to college around that area as well, and hopefully be open to some opportunities in the city. What do you mean by the exploitation of online reviewers though?

      2. Lori @ Betwined Reads

        I mean that book bloggers who dedicate so much of their time to reading and reviewing books are their blogs are doing something that they love but which also counts as labor. It’s a labor of love.

        It also helps to bypass traditional gatekeepers of literary taste that ordinary people used to rely on to discover new books. These gatekeepers (i.e. professional book critics) were actually paid for their services rendered.

        I think a lot of bloggers who make it “big” only get compensated in the form of free books, at best. But that’s not something that many could make a living from. It would require additional methods of monetizing their blogs, which is not something everyone can make a successful living doing.

        I don’t know how this problem could be fixed, but it’s one I find really troubling. Especially as bloggers face burn out and disappear, maybe even losing the passion that fueled their blog in the beginning.

        It’s not a problem exclusively seen in the bookish community, there’s academic literature that has tracked it in other online communities since the early 2000s.

      3. Cailin @ Rose Petal Pages

        I see what you’re saying—I agree that book blogging is a lot of work and bloggers often put a lot more into their blogs than they get back. But I don’t think not being able to make a successful living off a blog alone is necessarily a problem—at least I don’t see that as being a goal for a lot of book bloggers when they start their blogs.

      4. Lori @ Betwined Reads

        I don’t think it’s a goal for many bloggers to make a living off of their blog. But for the amount of work that some end up doing, it’s has the potential to become exploitative. Should these bloggers wish to make their blog their #1 priority it’d be really hard to find find a way to monetize it fairly.

        The problem is in the creative output (which a lot of people don’t realize is quite valuable because it is so hard to measure) and the idea that everyone is interchangeable. Some (not all) bloggers really go above and beyond.

        I’m not saying myself or many of the book bloggers/reviewers I follow, but I could name a few off the top of my head across platforms (not just WordPress or even blogs specifically) that I think have a lot of influence.

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