Beating the Barista Myth: Career Preparation for Humanities Majors Course Profile

November 2, 2017

Contrary to popular belief, not all English majors end up working at Starbucks. In fact, English majors are three-times more likely to go into computer or math careers than they are to go into food service. Despite the decades-old persistence of the English major barista myth, Jenny Patton manages to dispel it with ease in the glorious first few minutes of her class, English 3150: Career Preparation for Humanities Majors. The students in Patton’s class this semester have career plans that include grant writing, advertising, event planning, marketing, technical writing, advocacy and beyond. 

Patton estimates that the appeal of English 3150 comes from the fact that it provides “the framework for students to do what they know they need to do.” In the midst of the semester when students are flooded with schoolwork, putting off job preparation is all too easy. Fortunately, English 3150 offers a formalized way for students to explore different fields, conduct informational interviews, find internships and get credit for doing so. Not having internship or post-graduation plans yet myself, I was excited to observe this class in hopes of gaining some tips on how to get my own life together. So, cappuccino in hand—probably not made by an English major—I arrived at Denney Hall, eager to hear what Patton had to share.
With career planning being such an individualized and malleable subject, Patton caters the course content to each student’s goals and interests. To this end, the first couple classes of the semester focus on understanding individuals’ strengths, personality and experiences as well as figuring out the stepping stones to get to a particular career.
English major Jake Cody, who is taking Patton’s course this semester, explains how the class has helped him set goals for internships: “I am interested in working in the music industry, either in music publishing or booking. This class has made it much clearer to me which steps I can take to reach that goal. Patton’s presentation on internships in Columbus included an internship at CD 102.5 that I'm applying to for next semester."
Because English majors find careers in all sorts of different fields, it makes sense that this class helps students from a wide variety of majors, too. Evolution and ecology major Maggie Woodworth affirms that Career Preparation for Humanities Majors has something for everyone: “I want to pursue a career in environmental advocacy. This class has helped me realize my strengths and how to use them best. I've learned how to sell myself and to better explain my past experiences in order to frame them to fit the needs of my future pursuits. I'd recommend this course because it covers a lot of topics in holistic ways."
Where the course structure particularly excels is how it breaks down the daunting project of job searching into manageable, strategic steps. For instance, students master the job search by knowing which databases offer job and internship postings, how to effectively use keywords and how to tailor a job search to their particular abilities and preferences. I was constantly amazed at all the simple yet powerful tips Patton gave, such as using the tone in which a job posting is written as insight into a company’s culture and vision for the position. 
This discussion-based course centers on both large- and small-group interactions. English 3150 is also a hands-on class where students learn by doing: creating resumes, writing cover letters, practicing interviews, etc. After a semester of perfecting how to market oneself to potential employers, the final project is an hour-long mock interview for a specific job position a student is interested in.
Without a doubt, English 3150: Career Preparation for Humanities Majors is a class like no other—a way to make life after school more accessible to college students. After just that one class period, I felt more prepared for finding an internship—a process Patton describes as “a way for [employers] to fall in love with you"—and confident that I wouldn’t fulfill the barista English major myth.
While this class will not be offered in spring 2018, students interested in Career Preparation for English Majors should consider the following English courses for next semester:
  • English-3304: Business and Professional Writing
  • English-3662: An Introduction to Literary Publishing
  • English-4150: Cultures of Professional Writing
Students looking to do an internship while in school should look into the Minor in Professional Writing or schedule an appointment with Undergraduate Program Manager Pablo Tanguay.