Caption: Caccavano, Brown, Hecht, and Good gave professional advice to English students.
As an English major, one might hone skills that seem applicable to a wide variety of occupations, such as reading, writing, and communicating effectively. However, because this area of study doesn’t necessarily point students in the direction of any one job in particular, the thought of seeking out the right one can be somewhat daunting.
In order to combat some of this uncertainty, the English department at the University of Portland holds an annual panel event where UP English alumni come to speak with students about their current careers and the paths they took to get there.
“These panelists are living proof of the different paths that an English major can take you on,” said Molly Hiro, Chair of the English Department.
This year’s panel, held on February 10, featured four UP graduates of the last ten years: Dan Caccavano, Developer at RightSignature and Class of 2005; Kelly Brown, Finance and Marketing Administrator at Tears of Joy Theatre and Class of ‘08; Rachel Good, Proposal Specialist at Ecova and Class of ‘08; and Morgan Hecht, Domestic Violence Advocate at the Raphael House and Class of ‘11.
These panelists are currently doing everything from software development to grant writing, but all cited their English background as instrumental in attaining their current careers.
“The ability to structure and organize thoughts is an invaluable skill,” Good said. “A lot of people without English degrees seem to struggle with those things.”
Caccavano agreed. “I think a lot of us take for granted our ability to express ourselves coherently,” he said.
One connection that several of the panelists had was having done volunteer work as a step on their paths to their current careers. Caccavano taught abroad for a year after graduation, and Good and Hecht both volunteered in their field of work before eventually getting a job.
“Take opportunities even if they’re not exactly what you envisioned for yourself because they lead to other things,” Brown said.
On a related note, the panelists discussed the importance of making and maintaining connections when looking for jobs as an English major. Several of them cited doing informational interviews as a useful way of getting one’s foot in the door at a company or organization.
“Talk to people in the positions you want about what they do. Who you know is the most important thing,” Good said.
Hiro concurred with this conclusion and was able to discuss its effectiveness from a different standpoint.
“I can speak to the flattery that informational interviews involve,” Hiro said. “Most people like the idea of other people wanting to follow in their footsteps.”
Overall, the panelists had only positive things to say about their experiences in UP’s English program and beyond.
“If you’re really interested in something, it’s always valuable to pursue it,” Good said.
Story by Clare Duffy