I started college believing I was going to end up in a specific field. I was on track to start my Master’s in Teaching right after graduation. When adults, coworkers, bosses, friends, and strangers asked what I was going to do with my English degree I could confidently answer “I am going to be a high school English teacher”. After three years of classes specializing in literacy and teaching, I decided I didn’t want to be a teacher anymore.
You’re probably thinking I found something else, something better that was calling me. Wrong. I dropped the program because I just knew teaching wasn’t my calling. I didn’t want to stay in education for the rest of my life. Eventually, I started thinking about other typical linear career paths for English majors. I thought about publishing. I like to write and edit and I’m fairly good at it, so why not help others achieve their publishing dreams? I decided I wanted to be an editor- until I realized I had no real editing experience and no desire to actually get editing experience. I decided that wasn’t right either.
So here I am, taking a class titled Liberal Arts at Work and I’m still grappling with career ideas. I’ve read lists of jobs and pages of stories about people like me, confused and off track from their original plans, and I still can’t make up my mind. In Great Jobs for Liberal Arts Majors by Blythe Camenson, the career possibilities are divided into six categories, making it seem as if those are the only options. When I first read through the lists, I found the job titles related to writing and editing to be interesting, forgetting my lack of experience with real editing. Many of the other categories were things I’d never consider- law, teaching (well, reconsider, I guess), and the helping professions. When I was assigned to read Smart Moves for Liberal Arts Grads by Sheila Curran and Suzanne Greenwald I didn’t care about the stories told by Chemistry or Math majors. Then I was assigned the final book for the class and my perspective suddenly switched, like something in me truly realized I could do whatever I wanted and that I could relate to any number of stories in Smart Moves. As I read I began finding inspiration in the stories about entrepreneurship, remembering old ideas I had about starting a french fry shop with some friends. I’m not sure what the exact moment was I started seriously considering opening a restaurant, but it’s invigorating to be this passionate about something.
I owe a lot of this inspiration to the book You Majored in What? by Katharine Brooks. I surprised myself when I started the book, by immediately emailing the owner of a local business to learn more about how she started it before ever reconsidering opening a restaurant. I also had several different tabs open for rental spaces around town. I was researching the difference between a gross and a net lease. I was too far in by the time I realized what I was doing. Why was I looking up rental space? Why was I interested in the inner workings of this local business? Surely my English classes hadn’t prepared me to manage a business- or maybe they had.
When You Majored in What? had me create my “Wise Wanderings” map I noticed that food and locality kept coming up as themes. I’ve always found eating and shopping local to be very important, almost passionately so. So when I noticed this, I discussed it with my friend. We were jumping out of our seats with ideas, remembering the time we came up with the idea to open an artisan french fry shop in Fayetteville.
“Isn’t it great that something’s coming up that will propel you forward in ways you haven’t even considered yet?” is one of the most comforting lines from You Majored in What? As a liberal arts major I’ve learned a lot about thinking critically and being flexible. The stories in Smart Moves in no way show linear career paths. Everyone that started a business started out somewhere like me- a little lost, a little scared, but willing to give it a go. Currently, I’m passionate about providing hungry people with artisan fries, and I’m hoping that passion sticks. I’m hoping that the “something” that’s coming up is here right now and I’m finally figuring this out. But I’m staying open. There are so many possibilities out there for someone graduating with a liberal arts degree. If being an English major has taught me anything, it’s that I’m able to try just about anything and come out just fine in the end.