If you're an English major, you may have experienced one of the following after revealing your choice of study:
"So you want to be a teacher?" - Stranger
"I hate reading and writing." - Peer at a Social Event
"Writing is just a hobby." - My Mom
"But really, what else can you do besides teach?" - The Same Stranger
Isn't it encouraging that our career prospects appear so limited to everyone? A few weeks ago, I snuck into an event hosted by Johns Hopkins University to see comedian and former Saturday Night Live writer John Mulaney. During his act he brought up his experience as an English major entering the workforce. "No one is knocking on our doors searching for someone to analyze some Chaucer. They're not looking for us," he said. I laughed and cried because if I'm not going to be hired based on the strength of my Chaucer paper, why should I even bother? But, dear English major, fear not! There are plenty of us who have gone on to succeed and have shown us that there are more than teaching jobs that come along with this degree.
1. John Krasinksi: Krasinski, who starred as the lovable Jim Halpert in The Office, studied English at Brown University and intended to become a teacher. He graduated as a playwright with honors.
2. B.J. Novak: Another The Office star who studied English, Novak double-majored in English and Spanish Literature at Harvard University. As an undergraduate he wrote for The Harvard Lampoon and occasionally performed on The B.J. Show. He then went on to write, star, and serve as the executive producer for the remake of the British series, The Office.
3. Steven Spielberg: Before his career as a director took off, Spielberg studied English at California State University, Long Beach. While in college, Spielberg was an unpaid intern in the editing department of Universal Studios, where he also had the opportunity to make a film. The film so impressed the studio that they offered him a long-term contract, making him the youngest director to sign with a major studio. He subsequently dropped out of college.
4. Conan O'Brien: O'Brien was a double-major in English and History at Harvard. He wrote his senior thesis on the use of children as symbols in the works of William Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor.
5. John Mulaney: Mulaney studied English Literature at Georgetown University. Although his name may not sound familiar, he is the co-creator of the beloved Saturday Night Live Stefon, played by Bill Hader. "New York's hottest club is..." whatever John Mulaney says it is!
6. Christopher Nolan: If you've been to a movie theater within the past few years, you probably recognize this name. Nolan studied English Literature at University College London. He has received twenty-six Academy Award nominations and has taken home seven Oscars, with nine of his films grossing over $4.2 billion.
7. Reese Witherspoon: Before Elle Woods studied Law at Harvard, there was Witherspoon studying English Literature at Stanford University. She dropped out after one year, however, to pursue acting.
8. Barbara Walters: Walters was an English major at Sarah Lawrence College and went on to become the first female co-anchor of an evening news program.
So if you do not want to pursue teaching with your English degree, you can always sell your soul to the entertainment industry!
Grub Street Poetry Editor
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.