The English Major in the Business Class

This semester, I decided to take a small stroll outside my comfort zone and enrolled in a couple of business classes. Nothing serious though, just a marketing class and an entrepreneurship course. I’ve only had one day of classes, but at the end of that first day I was ready to bid adieu to my English classes and buckle down for some real classes.

Four days later, my initial enthusiasm has dampened and I’ve started to remember why I’m an English major in the first place. I’m starting to realize that what appealed to me in those business classes was not the subject matter, but rather the complete novelty of being surrounded by people who seem to be working towards something specific. That and the relief at reading a textbook and not being expected to analyze every line for meaning. It also didn’t hurt that the professors were talking about stuff that I could use that day and not words written by men who are long dead. I was using a part of my brain I hadn’t used in a while. Also, trying out something different got me thinking about what an English major such as myself could learn from these College of Business students that I am suddenly surrounded by.

The problem with taking nothing but English and French classes for three semesters is that you spend a year and a half surrounded by people who think like you, people who much prefer words to anything else, people who love to talk about books and people who obviously are not that motivated by money, otherwise they would be doing something more lucrative. But now I’m surrounded by quite a few people who are pursuing business degrees because they want to make a lot of money. Then there are those who are doing it because they love the idea of being head of a big company. Then there are my entrepreneurs who just want to be their own boss. These are people I hadn’t met in a while and it’s good I’m meeting them now. I needed the reminder that not everyone in the world is a bookworm.

Another strange experience for me was just how comfortable everyone was about discussing their future plans and vocalizing their ambitions. I talked to quite a few of my classmates and they were all talking about being CEOs, starting a cupcake business, working for Apple and things like that. No one hesitated when I asked them what they planned to do with their degree. Compare this to most English majors.

The question English majors hate the most is “What are you going to do with your degree?” Why? Because most of us don’t know. Or rather, we want to be writers but don’t know what job we want to get to pay the bills. You ask us what we plan on doing after graduation, we’ll give you a vague answer and change the topic. There is no such vagueness amongst business majors. I’m not saying that they have it all figured out, or that they all have incredible focus. I’m saying once they do decide what they want to do, they make a plan. Granted that it’s easier to make a plan for how to become a CPA than how to become the next J.K. Rowling, I still found it amazing just how different conversations about careers are between English majors and College of Business students.

Whilst business students specialise in specifics, English majors tend to be vague and use a lot of maybes. Business students tend to be matter of fact. Us English majors almost apologetically say what we want to do. Why though? Why should we be ashamed of our seemingly unrealistic goals? Isn’t this what we’re supposed to do in our twenties, before we’re weighed down by responsibilities? Isn’t now the time to be exploring. I think it is. Now is the time for dreaming. But I wonder if our dreams might benefit from adopting a mindset like those business majors. Maybe my dreams would have a better shot if I wasn’t so afraid to vocalize them, if instead of just wishing, I actually made a plan for how to achieve them .

Maybe that’s the problem with how I’ve been going about this whole writing thing. Just expressing a desire to be something and dabbling in it isn’t going to lead you to success. There has to be a plan and actually sticking to it. I think writers could benefit from routine and creating real goals. Not just “I’m going to write and start a blog and maybe try get an MFA”, but actual plans with specifics and deadlines. What if an English major adopted a business student mindset. Then it would no longer just be “I want to write the next great American novel,” but there would be an accompanying plan of execution. No more vague writing plans, no blogging endlessly with no particular goal in mind. Just a clear plan on how exactly you’re going to finish that novel you’ve been talking about so long.

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