Gina, 28, graduated seven years ago and is one year into a two-year Masters in Speech and Language Therapy.
“My top tips for English graduates are to travel and teach – I realised what I wanted to do when I was living in Australia.”
Hannah, 26, graduated four years ago and is an online copywriter.
“I always knew I wanted to write but wasn’t sure in what capacity. I started thinking properly in my final year when I suddenly realised I’d have to find a job after university.
I considered magazine journalism and editorial positions and I’m currently an online copywriter. “My career path hasn’t been overly thought through and have found myself taking random positions, with the only constant being writing in my spare time to build up a solid portfolio.
“I’d advise English graduates not to panic and start questioning their degree choice. With hindsight, studying English can seem like a bad idea as it doesn’t really help direct you towards a specific career but that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Instead you come away with a host of ‘transferable skills’.”
Ben, 27, graduated six years ago, and is now a journalist.
“Everyone thinks when you get an English Literature degree, you’ll either become a journalist or a teacher. I did feel at a bit of a loss at what to do next when I graduated as it is a non-specific subject. But actually I realised, it’s just important to have a degree and you can do whatever you want. “I’m glad I did an English degree rather than a journalism degree as I can always do something different if I get bored of journalism.
I did a journalism short course after university and at that point I was really ready to knuckle down and learn about something I was interested in. “If you want to become a journalist, you need to be bold, take opportunities and have a natural flair for writing, but most importantly have a great sense of what people want to read and share.”
Isobel, 28, graduated six years ago, works as a bid manager and writer for a charity.
“I had no clue what I was going to do with it. I still don’t. I briefly considered being a teacher and I also considered going in to marketing, but marketing people scare me. “Graduating with an English degree in the middle of the recession did not immediately lead to glory and riches. I did some admin work, helped run an art gallery and then started work as a Personal Assistant in a big international company.
“Although this wasn’t what I had planned, it gave me a brilliant opportunity to learn about the business and was incredibly fast-paced and interesting. While I was there, I volunteered for every extra project going. This eventually led to me moving sideways into business development, and finding a job that combined the things I’d learned about project management with a chance to write.
“After a year or so I moved to a smaller organisation where I’d have a chance to take on more responsibility more quickly than at a large corporate firm. And I’m really passionate about what we do, so it makes it more fun when I have to work nights and weekends! It was scary to leave a big private company for a small charity, but I wanted to keep pushing myself.
Graduating with an English degree is harder than with something like a Law or medical degree, because there isn’t a logical next step to take. It can be terrifying, but it’s also liberating: I didn’t know my job existed until I started doing it. My top tips for English graduates is to not panic if you don’t know what you’re going to do next. And if you end up writing anything in a corporate setting, just accept that at some point you’re going to use the phrases ‘robust management information’ and ‘touch-base’ un-ironically.
Helen, 33, graduated 11 years ago, works for an international development charity
“Did I know what I was going to do with it? Not at all. I fell into my first career and joined the Civil Service graduate scheme (after applying to quite a few graduate schemes). I didn’t really consider a career before university it was all about getting a 2:1 in a reputable subject from an excellent university back in 2000! After seven years in the Civil Service I had a quarter-life crisis and left.
“Work takes up most of your working life – decide what kind of environment you flourish creatively in – is it a busy office meeting deadlines, or having time and space to write (e.g. flexible free-lancing?) “Someone told me when I was leaving college, that although we wouldn’t understand it until we were older, job satisfaction isn’t related to status or salary. And it took me seven years and a massive pay cut to see that that is true.”
Sam, 30, graduated from his BA in English Literature six years ago, but has since done a Masters in International Relations and an MSc in Environmental Science. He now works for the Rainforest Alliance.
“I’ll probably leap around forever – I don’t really see why life has to be some kind of linear vocational path. Learning should be broader I think, politics enhanced my readings of texts, cultural studies is in tension with my science degree etc. I like to be critical and engage these tensions, I don’t think life should be easy, a challenge is enjoyable and I love arguments.
“My message to English grads – don’t ever think you can’t get places. It’s is a perfect start to a rich intellectual life if you so desire it, and if you have a way with words you can talk yourself into places you never thought you’d go, believe me! Keep writing, keep reading, every day.”
Sarah, 28, graduated seven years ago, and is a newly qualified secondary school English teacher.
When I was 18 I had no idea if there was a career I really wanted to do. I loved reading and writing about literature and that was enough for me at that time! “The idea of teaching English as a career had always been at the back of my mind. Myself and my close friends had a really passionate inspirational English teacher for our A level and I think this really encouraged me to want to give young people a similar experience.
I did a short intensive TEFL course in 2011 and ended up teaching English as a foreign language at a language school in Canterbury for almost four years. I absolutely loved being in the classroom and working in such a dynamic and diverse environment, and I decided that teaching was the way forward.
“For me, the requirement to read so much during my undergraduate degree kind of dampened my enthusiasm for reading for pleasure and I really wish I had snapped myself out of that a long time ago. So I suppose my advice would be to keep reading!”