My college career

Melissa Fassbender is the editor of Product Design & Development. She graduated from the University of St. Thomas where she studied English and German Literature and received a B.A. in Literary Studies, with a minor in Communications and Journalism.

My Junior year of college I found myself struggling to declare my major. While I had always known I wanted to be an English major, I had begun questioning the practicality of this choice, and worrying about how I would get a job after graduation.

So late one night, I called up my Dad (something you will begin doing more as you get older) and I asked him what I should do. Should I switch my minor in Communications and Journalism to my major? Or could I keep pursuing my dream and graduate with an English major?

The answer he gave me was not what I was expecting: My father told me that I should never sacrifice my passion for practicality – bold advice coming from an electrical engineering major who also went to law school.

The next day I declared my major in English and German literature, and my minor in Communication and Journalism. But the question still loomed, “How do you get a job with an English major?” (I got asked this more times than I care to remember).

The naive and hopeful part of me said that if I followed my passion good things would come. Yet, I knew that if I were to follow my passion, I would need to take practical steps to support it.

After having time to reflect on my college career, and my actual career (which lets me write for a living) I have boiled down my success to these three practical steps:

Get involved early – Find organizations on campus that will help build your skills outside of the classroom.
Look for internships – Work with your school’s career department to find an internship before you graduate.
Never underestimate the power of the elevator pitch – Figure out your strengths and know how to “sell yourself.”

I will admit that getting involved early was the one step that I may have skipped in my own education, but it also one of the only things I regret when looking back at college career. As for an internship, I worked with my school’s career department (a resource you should take advantage of) to get placed in a writing position at a marketing firm my senior year. Without an actual major in marketing, I had to sell my skills, not my major.

How do you do this? The ever elusive elevator pitch.

What it came down to for me was, “I am not just my major, I am what my major has taught me.” This is going to be different for every major and for every student. But most importantly, as a student, regardless of your major, you will be able to say that you have been taught to learn well, to think critically, and to work hard. You should also practice this speech as much as you can – jobs fairs are an awesome opportunity for this.

Most importantly, no matter what your major, don’t sell yourself short, find balance between passion and practicality, and remember that calling home to your parents is always a good idea.

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