By studying English now, you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of benefits.
When we think of tech company jobs, we usually think of engineers or software developers. Is there room for English majors at companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, and others?
As Facebook Content Strategist Andy Welfe wrote for Medium, yes! There’s not only opportunities for English majors at the world’s top tech companies, they’ll need more of us soon.
“We Need English Majors”
Content strategists blend editing, writing, design, and even a little software development. I’m a content strategist, and it’s been a great way for me to put my English major passions to use while earning a lucrative income.
I’m not alone. Andy Welfe is a content strategist at Facebook. To help promote the Content Strategy Fellowship, he wrote an article showing why English major skills are invaluable in the workplace:
It’s true — English majors learn a discipline, not a craft. Here are just a few things we learn, perhaps better than anyone:
- We can easily assimilate complicated ideas through writing, and learn the nuances of presenting an argument in a structured, logical way.
- We learn how to receive abstract criticism or feedback and adapt our framing to just as abstractly convey a different meaning.
- We learn the subtleties of writing for a certain audience.
- Perhaps most importantly, we learn to respect and harness the power of words.
My wife (who was herself an English major) said, “Some people don’t go to college to get a job; they go to college to become an interesting person.”
(Read Andy’s entire piece over on Medium.)
Why Choosing a Discipline Instead of a Craft Delivers Lifelong Advantages
Let’s take a moment and look at something Andy said:
“English majors learn a discipline, not a craft.”
Without getting too caught up in semantics, let’s use the following definitions:
A discipline is something we do that defines who we are
A craft as something we’ve learned how to do.
A discipline must be earned. It’s a reflection of who we are at our cores – something we’d be even if we weren’t getting paid. For many of us, writing is a discipline. Working to understand humanity is a discipline. Trying to capture some essence of the human experience is a discipline. We think about it, work on it, day in and day out, even if we’re jobless.
In a way, disciplines are a cycle. As we pursue disciplines, our disciplines change who we are. This gives us more discipline to systematically continue pursuing our passions.
A craft, on the other hand, may not affect us as deeply. Crafts are skills we’ve learned or tasks we’ve learn how to complete.
Here’s an example showing the difference (at least for the sake of this article) between a craft and a discipline.
The craft of writing: learning the rules of grammar, when to use a semicolon, how to write for different audiences, and other technical aspects of writing.
The discipline of writing: writing every day, studying the writing of the masters so we can improve our own abilities, pushing ourselves past what’s comfortable so our writing can capture some element of the human experience.
Learning AP style didn’t change my life. But learning how to use creative nonfiction writing to get to the heart of an issue – that changed me. In fact, every essay I’ve poured my heart and energy into changed me.
In the corporate world (and especially in Silicon Valley), the focus is on craft – what skills you know. Skills and craft are easier to measure.
Can you write HTML?
Can you write a press release?
Do you know WordPress?
Are you familiar with AP style?
Discipline, however, gives us an intangible quality. Our inherent curiosity about the world pushes us to learn more about a subject, to find a deeper meaning.
You can always learn a new craft. But you can only realistically dedicate four years to a discipline one time in your life.
Silicon Valley companies (and companies all over the world) recognize this. They already have plenty of engineers and software developers with crafts; now they need English majors with discipline and heart.
Learn More About Becoming a Content Strategist
I’ve loved my work as a content strategist. Not only do content strategist jobs pay well, they provide a creatively fulfilling career.
You can start developing content strategist skills right now – even before graduation.
Here are a few resources to introduce you to content strategy.
- Content Marketing Institute – Getting Started
- Hubspot – The Inbound Methodology
- Seth Godin – Permission Marketing
- UX Booth – The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Content Strategy
And, of course, I’m happy to talk to you in more detail about content strategy. Simply send me an email, and we’ll set up a time.