by Danielle Childs
This Monday, March 30th at 5:45 PM in Franz 025, is UP English Department’s Alumni Panel where current English majors can come and learn from actual real life human beings about some of the options available to them with a degree in English. In the flesh! I know we’ve all sat in class and listened to our teachers tell us how diverse the English degree is; that those before us have gone on to hold a variety of jobs in many different fields. Still, it’s hard not to feel a bit removed from those allusions to successful graduates. This event is designed to put a face and a name to that success our teachers assure us it is possible to find. If you’d like a more concrete idea of the professional opportunities your future holds, make sure to attend this panel.
As a sort of teaser for the panel, we have interviewed Bridget Flaherty who is the Assistant Director of International Students & Scholars at Lewis & Clark College.
Before you graduated, what did you do to prepare for a career after college?
Honestly, not much. I worked throughout college, on campus during the school year and at home in Montana each summer, but I didn’t do any internships or seek out jobs that might relate to a future career. I was unsure what I wanted to do after college, so I applied for the JET Program during my senior year. I was fortunate to be accepted, and could graduate with the knowledge that the next one to three years of my post-college life were planned. If I were to be in school today, rather than ten years ago, I’m sure that I would be doing more to prepare for a career. I did work with the career services staff on campus to learn how to put together my resume and prepare for interviews, which was helpful when applying for the JET Program.
What was one of the biggest difficulties you faced finding a job after college?
The biggest challenge I had was figuring out what I wanted to do. After spending a year teaching English in Japan, I spent eight months working in various temporary positions. These positions were valuable in helping me figure out what I definitely did not want to do, as well as giving me time to focus my interests.
How did you find out about/receive your current position?
After teaching in Japan and working in an administrative position at the Art Institute of Portland, I realized that a career in international education appealed to me. I did informational interviews with people who worked in study abroad and international student services at colleges and organizations in the Portland area, which eventually led me to graduate school. I earned a masters degree in Communication Studies with a focus on Intercultural Communication. Eventually, I ended up in my current position working with international students at Lewis & Clark College.
How has what you learned from studying English at U.P. helped to prepare you for your current position?
Studying English at UP taught me to look beyond initial thoughts and interpretations, and to see the variety of underlying viewpoints or explanations. While this related to novels and poems in school, it translates well to my work with students from around the world. On a practical level, I learned how to manage my time and balance multiple assignments and jobs, as well as how to set deadlines and have patience when working on a semester-long project like my thesis. Also, learning how to communicate clearly in writing and verbally is a skill that should not be underestimated.
What is the best advice you can give to a current English major anxious about job-hunting in the future?
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to find the “right” job after graduation, as your first job won’t define your future career. Be open to trying new fields or living in a new place if it means getting experience that will help your career. And remember that no job is a waste of time; learning what you don’t like to do is a valuable part of figuring out what you want to do.