I was an English major in college. Reading and writing were about the only things I was good at.
But the question everyone asked English majors (and just about every other liberal arts major) back then was, “what are you going to do with it?” The most common answer was “go to law school,” just because it was about the only professional direction available to someone who couldn’t count, program or sell. My generation may have created more unhappy lawyers than any before or since.
I doubt anyone asks English majors that question any more.
In my professional experience, now is the absolute best time to be an English major.
Why? Because the content marketing revolution has created an enormous demand for good writers.
Content marketing is how businesses get found online—publishing web pages, blog posts, white papers, case studies and other types of articles based on the search terms people use to look for solutions to their problems. In most cases, more content is better—your search rankings go up and you get found by more customers, faster. If the content is good, visitors will stick around and will be more likely to become customers. Companies of every kind need content, which means they need writers. English majors, rejoice!
Think about it. What do you learn in English classes?
You learn how to read a text, discover something insightful about it, do some research to validate your ideas, and make your case for that insight in a paper.
What makes a good web page, blog post or white paper?
You need to describe a product, discuss a developing technology, review the latest developments in some area of life or business, and write something insightful about it. Right? An assignment, some reflection, some research, and viola: content!
My first blog was about industrial lasers. I was stumped.
What in the world could I say about industrial lasers that would be interesting? Well, a little research revealed that some industrial lasers are enabling some of the latest, greatest products that the world wants, from more efficient fuel injectors to life-saving implantable medical devices. It’s a fascinating field. Who knew? After a few months of blogging, our web traffic tripled and our contact database grew 6x.
Since then I’ve written blogs, web pages, white papers and case studies about medical devices, manufacturing equipment, boat rentals, financial services and executive education.
People ask me all the time how I can write about topics for which I have no formal training. “I’m an English major,” is my standard response. I can write about almost anything. I wasn’t an expert in Jane Austen, but I read Pride and Prejudice like every other freshman, did some research about the book and wrote a paper with some insights of my own.
You don’t have to be an expert in what you write about. You just have to research what the experts are saying and make the connection to your target audience.
I didn’t know what transcutaneous power transfer was (power delivered wirelessly from an external battery through the skin to charge an implantable medical device) before I got a blog assignment. I did some research and found it to be really interesting technology, and it wasn’t hard to write about all that it enables.
When I was in school, you had to go to the library to research just about anything, whether current events or scholarly studies. The Internet has brought a great deal of this to our fingertips. Yes, you have to take care with your sources. Yes, you have to be clear when you’re quoting others and when you’re offering your own insight. Still, it’s essay writing 101. And it’s in demand.
So, English majors, go for it! Content marketing has made you valuable to the business world.
Even better, content marketing rewards quality writing, so the better you are at writing, the more valuable you will be to a business.