On Monday, April 11, West Chester University hosted an English majors career panel titled “What Can You Do With an English Degree?” in Philips Autograph Library from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.
The career panel was hosted by Dr. Eleanor Shevlin, an English professor at WCU, and featured three guest speakers who graduated from WCU with English degrees. “You can do just about anything you want to do with English as a major,” said Dr. Shevlin.
Erica Nagurney, who works at transit advertising company Titan 360 as a sales coordinator/assistant, spoke first about both her experience at WCU as an English major/art history minor and her job hunt after graduating. “Being an English major puts you ahead of the game in writing [and] building a good resume even if you don’t have a lot of experience,” she said. She also cited LinkedIn, Career Builder, and Monster as social networking sites that helped her to acquire interviews.
Nagurney named the three most important skills she learned from WCU’s English program as research, communication, and team interaction. “Having an English background is beneficial,” she said, explaining that analyzing texts, researching, and communicating verbally are three abilities vital to her career. “Writing skills give you the first skill in the business world,” said Nagurney.
Carl Gersbach, managing director at CB Richard Ellis, Inc., encouraged career-seeking students and graduates to be persistent. “You have to be willing to network,” he said. Gersbach explained that his company, CBRE, does not look for a specific degree, but, like Nagurney, said that writing skills are “tremendously important” and that his job involves writing proposals, letters, e-mails, and brochures, among other texts. Gersbach cited positions in research and advertising as the best fit for English majors pursuing careers at CBRE.
Like many other college students, both Gersbach and the last speaker of the afternoon, Joan-Marie Stiglich, started out with different majors before settling on one. Gersbach switched from health sciences to English, and Stiglich, who graduated from WCU in 1994, decided to become an English major in the middle of an organic chemistry test. “I loved putting words in the right order, loved telling stories,” she said.
Stiglich, who wanted to use her English degree to get into journalism, works as the senior vice president for SLACK Inc, a healthcare publishing company. “Philadelphia is the main hub for medical publishing in the world,” she said. While at WCU, Stiglich worked for the Quad, and after graduating wrote for various newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Stiglich’s advice to aspiring journalists is to “write clean, write fast, and be very humble.” She also advised students to “clean up your social media. If you’re going to be online, write a blog.” She cited being able to provide examples of writing as important when pursuing a career in journalism.
The speakers named a multitude of WCU classes they deemed most beneficial to their careers. Among these classes are Power, Politics, and Propaganda, various ENG400 classes, and journalism classes. Dr. Shevlin mentioned ENG296, saying that reading literary theorists in that class enables students to see theories and motives in texts.
When asked about what employers look for on a resume, Gersbach said that the most important areas are leadership skills, GPA, and the academic fields the applicant has studied. He also cited showing competiveness, such as playing a sport, as an important aspect of a resume.
Before the presentation ended, the speakers advised to always “do your homework on the company you are pursuing.” Dr. Shevlin noted the importance of follow-up e-mails after a job interview.
The career panel concluded with speed networking, where students got the chance to speak with each of the WCU graduate speakers for two minutes.
Julia Zakrzewski is a fourth-year student majoring in English. She can be reached at JZ727170@wcupa.edu.