Humanities Majors, Consider Writing Careers of the Future
Among certain circles, humanities majors carry a stigma. Some would have you believe the area of study is less serious than a STEM major. But that’s far from the truth. Personally, I’ve turned the skills from my English major into a serious career, and so can you!
Most people know the humanities degree is a great first step towards a career in law, for example. Humanities majors often aspire to be teachers and work in education. A third route is communications, which is how I leveraged my skills to launch a promising career in online publishing, marketing and technical writing. I’ve also worked in video production and will include some content from my YouTube channel below.
It’s not easy to manage a busy school schedule while launching a writing career and working a part-time job! As a senior transfer student, both my years at UC Davis have been jam-packed with full class schedules and multiple part time jobs both on and off-campus. At times, I’d get home from an eight-hour day on campus but still have hours of blogging ahead of me, leading to late nights and early mornings to meet deadlines.
Below, I’ve outlined five steps for redefining what it means to major in the humanities. You don’t have to be an out-of-work poet desperately pushing a manuscript. And you don’t necessarily need a degree of any kind to pursue a career in professional writing or editing. With the internet and social media, any person with talent and commitment behind their writing can publish engaging content that connects with audiences. Here’s how.
1. If you want to be a writer... be a writer.
As an English major, I’ve met plenty of aspiring writers. But not every writer I’ve met is willing or industrious enough to consistently publish their work on the internet. Though writing lyrical verses might bring you fulfillment, you probably won’t make a living off those poems and short stories hiding in your diary. And vaguely muttering something about your unfinished manuscript to employers wouldn’t be as impressive as actually having published work online. Trust me, I’ve tried. Instead, try building a portfolio of online written content from scratch.
But how to get published if you’re still working on a degree or lack experience? Is that even possible? Great question, I’ve spent much of my life thinking about this, so I’ve got some advice.
2. Recognize your language skills are in high demand, especially on the Internet.
If you want to be a professional writer, there’s never been a better time. Without written content, the internet wouldn’t be as fun or interesting. Industry people might say demand for content is steadily shifting away from written towards video, and it’s difficult to predict. But there will always be a place for good writers online, especially for bloggers, journalists and marketers who are skilled at copywriting.
I’ve been lucky to be paid as a professional writer and editor for four years now. Recently, I worked remotely for a company in NYC called The Social Edge and published dozens of blogs, and some that had upwards of 100,000 views. But when I first started out, I blogged and wrote articles on a variety of subjects for free. I’ve also made YouTube videos and podcasts that don’t even have 50 views. At some point you just have to do it regardless of your initial audience.
If you care enough about your passion for writing, it might be necessary to pay your dues and prove it to the world until you can command a higher rate. Now, I wouldn’t recommend working 40 hours work for free. No way. But if you can spare 5-10 hours a week to blog on a topic of personal interest (baseball, gardening, Taylor Swift, fashion —
literally anything), you can build up a portfolio of published work to share with future employers.
3. Be persistent, crafty, and let your passion lead the way.
You don’t need to wait for the perfect job listing that matches your developing skills. If you like a website and want to write for them, don’t hesitate to send an email to a website editor asking to contribute to their blog. What’s the worst that could happen, they say no or completely ignore your email? You’re interviewed, take a writing or editing test and fail it?
That’s fine. All of the above has happened to me multiple times, but I’m still working. Rejection and failure are integral to becoming a professional writer, so you need to have thick skin and also be creative about how you present yourself when contacting editors.
It’s tough to get paid when you have little experience, but some websites might let you write for them for free. These might be lesser-known publications, but that’s okay. If you want to be a sports journalist, your first job isn’t going to be at ESPN. But there are so many great sports platforms, including a couple of websites I wrote for called FanSided and RantSports, that recruit amateur writers. You might not get paid much or anything at all, but these bylines and exposure can jump-start your professional blogging and writing career, and the same applies to any other area of interest like cooking, science, tech — the list of interests people blog about is endless.
Find your absolute favorite subject and be persistent about blogging about it. If nobody responds when you offer to write for free, then take matters into your own hands. Register for an account with a website like Medium or Quora and begin self publishing your own stories. Figure out what makes compelling ‘clickbait’ — that is, intriguing combinations of headlines and main images that compel readers to click on your article. Build up a dozen or so articles, and you’ll have a portfolio to present to future employers or editors.
Even if you have no experience or connections, an industrious person with an internet connection can build a writing career from scratch. Having an undergraduate or graduate degree will make you more credible to employers, but anyone can self-publish engaging content on Medium without a degree, platform or built-in audience. Why not start today?
4. Become a triple threat who masters content, marketing and social media.
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance you know tons about social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. You know what’s funny, interesting and cool. When applied correctly, that knowledge is valuable to employers. Almost every company, university and service on earth is invested in using social media outlets and creating content as a means of marketing and communication with their customers, students, peers and competitors. Humanities majors might not think of themselves as marketers, but when you boil it down, marketing uses emotions, psychology, words and images to convince people to buy a product or pay for a service.
In that sense, all marketing is an act of communication. Industrious humanities majors might try to find work where their language skills are applied to marketing. I think the term marketing alienates some because it sounds related to business and strategy, but modern-day marketing often includes basic tactics like blogs and social media content. That means your experience and understanding of what makes good social media content will be attractive to employers and their social media operation.
The takeaway? If you want to be a paid writer, start thinking beyond conventional forms of writing. Marketing copy and technical writing pay the bills. You could create content marketing, social media strategies, marketing research, microcopy, content strategies, technical documentation, case studies, white papers, and more.
5. UC Davis has opportunities for industrious writers and marketers.
Since I arrived at UC Davis in Fall 2018, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the amount of opportunities here for someone with my skills. I couldn’t recommend UC Davis Handshake enough, and suggest anyone interested in writing positions on campus use this blog and keywords like marketing, content, copywriting and social media to search Handshake.
Using resources at the UC Davis Internship & Career Center, I learned how to make the best of Aggie Job Link and now Handshake. During my junior year, I worked for UC Davis Global Affairs and helped create marketing content for study abroad programs. For my senior year, I’m currently working at the UC Davis Innovation Institute for Food and Health publishing content about the latest innovations in agriculture, tech and nutrition science. I get to interview entomologists and other scientists at their labs on campus and write about their findings.
The bottom line? There are countless organizations at UC Davis who are actively hiring students with language skills to assist with their content and marketing operations. I’m running out of room to write, but I hope you found this useful!
If you’d like to talk more, please reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out my portfolio here if you’d like to work together.