English Majors: You’re 1 Good Idea, 1 Skill, and 9 Websites Away from a Higher-Paying Job

In Career by Chris Meyer

picture of a college

“Oh… you’re an English Major.”

Those words and a grin followed me through my first couple job interviews out of college.

I was applying for finance jobs. I had a degree in that too. But whenever I mentioned that I also studied English, people got distracted.

And not in a good way.

Soon, I just stopped mentioning it. Which seemed to work. Before long, I had a job.

That could’ve been a coincidence, and I know there are employers who would see an English and Finance degree combo as a good thing.

But there are those who don’t… and they reinforce the perception that getting a degree in English is a romantic pursuit.

That’s unfortunate because many English undergrads buy into that bullshit. And many of them think all they can do with their degree is teach… or starve.

But there is another way.

Of course, my path is not your path. And you don’t have to get into marketing to make money with an English degree.

But hopefully, it’s encouraging to know that your English degree puts you just one good idea, one skill, and nine websites away from a job that pays double the English major’s average entry-level salary of $36,000.

It just takes a little work.

The One Skill

Two and a half years after I landed my first real job, I quit.

In the last year of that job, I called and emailed more than 1000 people, booked a few dozen meetings, and helped manage a handful of relationships.

By the end of it, I had gotten fairly good at prospecting and decent at managing relationships.

When I quit, that’s what I had. That one skill.

“My” Good Idea

I pitched Fast Company an article about delivering criticism in the workplace.

I got the idea from a business writing course that I took in college. The professor had us do certain exercises to learn how to deliver criticism in a nicer, more constructive way.

I put a little spin on the concept of those exercises and pitched it as an article.

They picked it up. And just like that, I was nine websites away.

The Nine Websites

Hubspot Academy, Moz, Kissmetrics, Neil Patel, Codeacademy, Adword/Analytics Certification, WS3, REFM, and WordPress.

These were my professors, my textbooks, and the tools that would lead me to that higher-paying job.

Hubspot Academy gave me a foundational understanding of digital marketing.

Moz, Kissmetrics, and Neil Patel were my go-to resources for one-off learning about digital marketing, specifically SEO.

Codeacademy and W3 Schools taught me enough about HTML, CSS, and Javascript to be dangerous. And building a website on WordPress taught me all I’d ever really need to know about front-end design as a content writer.

Google’s certification resources taught me about Adwords and Analytics, which helps me add value in a way that’s often a pleasant surprise to my clients.

Finally, REFM taught me to become a well-above-average Excel user.

Over the Course of 6 Months…

I chased clients with varying levels of success, taking every opportunity to apply what I was learning.

A few of the brave souls who hired me in the beginning liked that I had Hubspot certifications and that I’d been published in Fast Company.

During that time I was also applying to a dozen or so “real” jobs every week. I was rejected over and over again.

One well-meaning employer, in his rejection letter, told me I ought to go to advertising school. Other than that, I received nothing but rejection for six months.

That is unless you count the medical proofreading job I applied to. For that, I did my interview and I think it went well, but as I got into my car following that interview, I looked back at the building.

I noticed that the roof was probably 50 yards from the freeway. And I thought, maybe, if I took that job, and got a running start, I’d have the strength to make it across.

Joking aside, it would have paid about $3000 per month. In the Bay Area, that’s not great, but it’s also not that bad when you’re making nothing and your skills don’t exactly stand out on paper.

I decided to keep sinking into those 9 websites. I worked a couple part-time jobs, chased clients, and kept applying.

Then, six months after starting that binge on marketing and writing and content and how all those things come together, I got a job. And it paid double (plus benefits) what I could’ve gotten at the beginning of those six months.

Long story short, I paid $0 for a 6-month postgraduate education that doubled my immediate earnings potential.

And I probably could have done it faster if I’d known about all those resources from the beginning.

If you’re an English major, you have options, provided that you have the time, savings, and inclination to take a small leap of faith.

It also helps to have a brother who’s gracious enough to give you discounted rent in exchange for 20 hours of free labor per month.

But even if you don’t have those advantages, you don’t necessarily have to spend another $30,000 on a postgraduate degree or advertising school. And you don’t have to jump at the first job that gets thrown your way.

Despite what you’ve been told, you do have value. You just need to learn a little bit, hustle a lot, and think about how you can add value to a company… in that order.

Could Your Inbox Use an Occasional Insightful Idea and/or Book Recommendation?