For Hire: English Major and Creative Writing Minor, Knows What ‘Ontological’ Means


Hi there, future employer. Your search for the perfect new hire is over. No more slogging through résumés with depressingly similar statistics, no more dialing references who squint their voices and say “Rebecca who?”, no more cringing at power verbs and people who “disseminate” ideas. Everything your other applicants lack, I have, and everything your other applicants have—well, I have that, too. You see, I graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in creative writing from the top public university in the nation.

Your eyebrow rises. I understand. Humanities majors are notoriously unemployable due to having little-to-no marketable “skills.” You’re probably also humming that song from Avenue Q to yourself. But most people overlook the relevance of a humanities degree in the present economy.

Take, for example, how crucial it is for any venture to launch a social media campaign—it makes the company seem more personable, fun, hip. You’ll need someone to manage a Facebook and Twitter account, someone to update the blog. Keeping a blog is an art only the freshly graduated English student can master.

I had a lot of time in my undergraduate career, time unfettered by commitments to a “lab” or “problem sets.” It was time that I funneled directly into research on the relevant age group. It takes someone culturally literate to embed references to the Nyan Cat video (and, Inception-like, the Nyan Cat scarf on Etsy, and the photo of an actual cat dressed up to be Nyan, etc.) to gain a readership’s trust. It takes someone who is hypothetically articulate about the time she took 2C-B for a Yeasayer concert and saw blue sound waves snaking from the drum set and had trouble differentiating between doorways and mirrors to understand a generation. These are the details that will captivate your audience and make people really relate, you know?

An English degree comes with a lot of teaching experience. My job at the Student Learning Center entailed working with student writing in individual and group settings. I prodded students towards an argumentative thesis. I brought in Lil Wayne lyrics for them to close read. With students who spoke English as a second language, I drew a chart mapping when to use “the” and when to use “a(n).” Being an English tutor affords one with some degree of humility, too. When the paper you are helping revise is about altering the genetic makeup of E. coli to produce biofuel, or to fight malaria, you realize your degree’s contribution is to make sure the write-up is properly punctuated. Legibility, you tell yourself, will save the world one apostrophe at a time.

I hope also to bring my rhetorical powers to the team, having honed my argumentative prowess in four years of combat with my Overbearing Asian Parents. My mother and father immigrated from Shanghai with $50 in hand and clawed their way to the top via computer science, so to have a daughter who liked to read more than reciting the times tables at age six was a disappointment (I’m not making this up—running errands at Ralphs with my mother meant reciting “Six times six is thirty-six” in the frozen food aisle). When I entered college, I learned to manipulate my way into my field of study by reminding them that I was “happy,” that I “could always go to graduate school and become a professor at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton if I wanted to.” To this day, I endure anecdotes about my mother’s friends’ sons who land paid computer programming internships and daughters who turn down offers at Google because the stock options at Smith Barney are better.

What are my shortcomings? I’ll be honest. Sometimes I’m too perfect. No, but really—in my studies, I spent countless hours on English papers, trying to articulate my thoughts on spatial-temporal echolocation in Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close or “psychedelic mothering” in a poem by David Dabydeen. Sometimes I spent four hours on a single page. It was not because my line of questioning had become too convoluted or because I was inventing the terms I was using. Not only because of that. I demanded perfection. I would never use the word “esoteric” when I really meant “recondite.” I went into spasms over the keyboard deciding whether a semicolon or a colon would be more appropriate. If there’s anything I learned, it’s that there’s an em dash up my butt.

So, future employer, now that you see what a valuable asset I am, how versatile my education has made me—give me a call. I can start on Monday.

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image – Leesa