One of many reasons why studying English is great is that it provides an adaptable skill set that can be applicable to nearly any field. While some English majors may know they want to go into careers traditionally associated with the discipline, like editing or teaching, others may be drawn to the major for different reasons and may choose careers in business, technology, or the sciences. To learn about alternative career paths, I recently talked with Austin Millet, who graduated with a degree in English in 2010 and currently works as a Project Operations Coordinator at VelocityEHS in Chicago. Here’s what he had to say about his experiences after college:
VO: What did you do after graduating from U of I?
Austin: I worked a few jobs part-time: temporary manual labor, at a bar, and as a content/marketing writer at a small business in Chicago. After about a year, I went to teach English in the Republic of Georgia for a year.
VO: Interesting! Was that through a school or organization? What was that experience like? Continue reading
For the latest in my series of alumni career profiles, I talked with Katie O’Brian, who graduated from U of I in 2011 with a double major in English and Creative Writing and a minor in Spanish. Katie currently works as a children’s librarian at a public library in Colorado. Here’s what she had to say about life after graduation:
VO: What did you do after you graduated from U of I?
Katie: When I graduated, I was pretty sure I wanted to go into libraries. I had been volunteering at the Champaign Public Library and really liked it, so I decided to take some time off to try working in a library. You need a Master’s degree to be a librarian, so I wanted to be sure I really liked it before I committed to grad school. I took a year off from school and worked as a circulation clerk in a public library. It was a lot of fun.
VO: And after that you decided to go to grad school?
Katie: Yeah. I applied to the master’s program in Library and Information Science (GSLIS) at U of I the fall after I graduated from undergrad. So really only after 4 months of working in the library, but I had also been volunteering for maybe 6 months before that.
VO: Can you tell me a little about what you do now?
Katie: I’m a children’s librarian at a public library in Colorado. That means that I work the reference desk in the children’s department at my library. I do programs for children, including storytime and various other programs. Most recently, I organized a Star Wars Party for all ages (so basically 0-12), which was a lot of fun. We have a small staffing model, so I also do things that librarians wouldn’t necessarily do in a larger library system. For instance, I do a little bit of marketing in that I make posters for my department’s programs. I also am responsible for maintaining half the children’s collection (that’s books, CDs, movies, magazines, etc.).
VO: Wow! That sounds great. So does your day-to-day schedule tend to vary quite a bit? Continue reading
As part of my alumni profiles series, I recently talked with UIUC alumnus Dan Klen, who graduated in 2012 with majors in English and Creative Writing and a minor in Business. Dan shared information about his work as an Assistant Scientific Editor for the Illinois State Geological Survey at the University of Illinois and offered some advice to current students who may be interested in careers in editing or publishing.
VO: Can you tell me a little about what you do?
Dan: I’m an assistant scientific editor for the Illinois State Geological Survey at the University of Illinois. My job includes what is probably the obvious part to most people, which is editing. What most people think an editor does is read manuscripts and edit for style, form, and clarity. But there’s also a lot of other things that go with being an editor – a lot of managing and coordinating of authors to meet deadlines and to remind them of their goals. A lot of my time is actually spent just coordinating with people for particular projects. Usually in planning for a project, I’ll sit down with the principal investigator (PI) and figure out what our writing deliverables are—usually it’s reports if it’s a government-funded project. I’ll develop schedules with authors for turning in their individual contributions; then I’ll edit those contributions and put them all together into a final topical report or project report that the PI reviews. That’s just one example, but my point is that there’s editing and formatting that goes with my job, but also a lot of coordinating with contributing authors. As far as types of documents, we produce final project reports, academic papers, website content, monthly reports, and press releases. I’ve also done some work on public outreach materials, such as walking guides to parks in Chicago, so it’s a little bit all over the board.
The good news: you don’t need a business degree to run your own business successfully. In fact, as we learned yesterday, Tony Pomonis (English ’02), former owner and manager of the local chain of Merry-Ann’s Diners, failed out of the business school before reviving his college career with courses at Parkland and re-enrolling at UIUC. Not only is a business degree unnecessary for small-business success, argues Pomonis–a humanities degree equips you more directly with the skills that lead to success: curiosity, a willingness to take risks, the ability to interact with people and learn from them, first-rate communication and problem-solving skills.
The bad news: Pomonis used the phrase “I worked my a** off” with alarming regularity in the hour that he spoke about his experiences. He recounted months of trading 12-hour shifts with his business partner, years of working without a vacation day. Hard work for Pomonis hasn’t just meant flipping pancakes with as much speed and finesse as the line cooks he hires (though that is key!), it has also involved
- actively seeking out mentors and advice
- taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong (and living with the emotional toll)
- memorizing balance sheets so as to impress investors
- curtailing his personal life to the demands of the job.
The bottom line: You can do it.
But: You might not want to. Small-business success comes at the cost of family life. Pomonis frankly owned up to the trade-offs: he made a lot more money running Merry-Ann’s than he does in his current position with LAS advancement at the University of Illinois, but his new job gives him time and energy to be with family. In his view, there is no contest: “I am infinitely richer” he says, for being able to spend his evenings and weekends at home with his wife and children, without the constant stress of a 24-hour business requiring his attention.
Pomonis maintains a stake in the business, however, and continues to cook at one of his diners the three busiest weekends of the year–one of which is coming up. You’ll find him on Sunday, Nov. 15, at the Merry-Ann’s in downtown Champaign from 8 to 2.