Financial Coordinator, Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc.
Grad Year: 2005
Other areas of sudy/degree(s):
M.A. English Literature - University at Albany
Why did I choose to pursue an English major?
I guess, in a way, English chose me. I was born and raised in a Korean immigrant home, and I became aware early on that the language spoken at school was different from the language spoken at home. Likewise, the language I first learned to read was different from the one I first learned to speak. I often felt stuck between two worlds, and I developed an affinity for books, loving how I could live vicariously through characters in their worlds. As I grew older, I loved how great ideas were presented through stories, relished the impact of words arranged with such artistic deliberateness, and marveled at literature's power to change the reader. By the time I got to college, I knew English was my forte, but dabbled in other studies. I admit nothing affected me quite like literature, so I became an English major.
A winding path
I had plans to become an English professor. It seemed to be the only thing that made sense as an English major. So, I went to Korea and taught for a time as an English lecturer at an all women's university, then returned to the States to pursue my Masters in English Literature. It was there that I learned loving something doesn't have to mean you have to make a profession or career of it. While attending graduate school full time, I began working full time as a legal assistant in order finance my studies. The attorney I worked for handled financial issues, and I couldn't believe my interest in law and finance was growing. By the time I completed my Master’s Thesis, I made the decision to look for a job in the financial world. I'm now working as a financial coordinator for a REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) that deals with biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
The value of English
Much to my surprise, I found that my English degree was valued by others, even in the financial world. You know, the humanities are labeled as such because those disciplines study what it means to be human and reveal to us our virtues, our follies, and our vices. Through the study of literature, I believe my worldview and understanding of people is broader, and being able to transfer even a fraction of literary head knowledge to real life has been invaluable. I believe that literature and language studies have brought a new level of awareness in how I speak and write to different people and in different situations.
When I think of how English relates to my current career, I think of one word: communication. From longer proposals and reports to shorter emails, I prepare written work for C-level executives on a regular basis. Rhetorical tact and clarity in my writing has more than once won their respect and recognition, and I'm often amazed at how many of my co-workers struggle with something I do so confidently. English majors carry the stereotype of making language flowery, but I never saw that and clarity as being mutually exclusive. They're not, by the way. Co-workers and even supervisors ask me how to better write a certain sentence, or how I might interpret a particular clause in an investment agreement.
Advice for English concentrators
Dive into your studies with abandon. As an English concentrator, be exactly that. Direct your attention to your major and try to digest as much as you can. English is a discipline you can invest in and get involved in without being bound to a career in it. There's so much you can do with your degree, so don't fret about how the degree will serve you--just enjoy the process by which you're conferred it. I still can't believe how grossly unaware I was that the professors whom I spoke with so casually were some of the most respected and well-known scholars in the literary world. So, buy them a cup of coffee and pick apart their brains; get to know one or two classmates and take literature discussions beyond the classroom and lecture hall. Even if you do not stay in the world of English as a scholar, it will stay with you no matter what profession or career path you choose, because you really can't go wrong with a firm grasp on the power of language, an analytical mind, and a clearer sense of humanity.
Related Career FieldsFinancial Services, Teach/Work Abroad