Career Discovery Process

Follow these steps to help you discover and move forward through a career path.

  1. Self-Discovery
  2. Research
  3. Action Plan


Identify interests, preferences, current/future skills, personality traits, needs, and goals.

A good place for English majors to start is with FOCUS, the Career Center's career planning system. This tool contains personal assessments and career profiles to help students determine potential career paths.

This step should not be overlooked.  Students may feel that they generally know what they like or dislike, but focused assessment tests can rank preferences and assess readiness to enter certain industries.


Investigate career paths.

Once the series of questionnaires is completed, the assessment tool will align students with potential career paths. Students can then begin to research and compare occupations on the FOCUS system, taking note of a job's duties, educational prerequisites, experience requirements, skills, employment prospects, advancement outlook, salary, and working conditions.

Other resources for browsing English career profiles:

  • DeGalan, Julie, and Stephen Lambert. Great Jobs for English Majors. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.
  • Lemire, Tim. I'm an English Major Now What? Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 2006.
  • Noronha, Shonan. Careers in Communications. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.
  • Taylor, Allan, and James Robert Parish. Career Opportunities in Writing. New York: Checkmark Books, 2006.
  • English Professional Pathways - information on general career fields chosen by UMD English alums including ways to get experience, resources for further information, and alumni profiles.
  • Dear English Major - website for current and graduated alumni to gain knowledge about career directions through stories of people who are pursuing writing and editing careers.
  • For English Majors - blog illustrating ways English majors are uniquely positioned for careers in business, where their genuine leadership potential can offer considerably more than a narrow specialization.

Some general career resources:

  • U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook - a compilation of career information about hundreds of occupations, with information on work summary, education and training requirements, pay, job outlook, and links to further resources.
  • O*Net Online - the Occupational Information Network is a database with detailed descriptions of occupations, requirements and worker skills. It is a resource managed by the Department of Labor
  • CareerOneStop - has information on careers, salary and benefits, education and training, resources on building resumes, taking interviews, and links to other agencies/sites including a service locator
  • Career Profiles - a career and job search site with information about occupations and career articles


Create a plan to reach career goals.

Students should find out what experience they can obtain, both in and out of the classroom, before graduation. In addition to utilizing the resources listed above, students may wish to browse actual job listings to determine what educational and experiential qualifications each one requires. Identifying underdeveloped skills and making an action plan to improve in those areas will facilitate a student's movement into the workforce.

Inside coursework:

  • Make every effort to excel in English classes. If a student's major GPA is much stronger than his/her overall GPA, it should be listed on the resume.
  • Strengthen credentials by taking a rich selection of courses and increasing knowledge in areas outside of English. An enriched course of study--visible on a transcript and summarized on a resume--will allow students to present themselves as creative, hard-working individuals who prefer a lifestyle with a higher level of intensity and responsibility than many other applicants.
  • Consider creating an area of focus both within the English major and also outside of the English degree. Enroll in a section of professional writing that makes sense according to your career goals (science writing, legal writing, business writing, writing for health professionals, etc.). Take science, math, history, foreign language, and other courses seriously and consider completing courses in these areas beyond the minimum requirements-strengths in these areas might put a student ahead of other applicants and will prepare one for a number of professional opportunities.
  • Study Abroad.

Outside of coursework:

  • Because the English degree is not the most specialized degree, it's wise to do extra work. A student's skill set should not be limited to that which is acquired in the classroom.
  • Internships are the perfect opportunity for students to take their classroom skills into the workforce. Every single student should carve some time out of his/her junior or senior year to do an internship. Besides looking great on a resume, internships equip students with real-world training and provide an insider's view into a particular career field.
  • In addition to an internship, it's also possible for students to score part-time jobs at places that will help them reach their future career goals. For instance, if a student is interested in working in book publishing as an editor, he/she could find a part-time administrative assistant position with a publisher to become acquainted with the industry.
  • Students can also rethink volunteering or other extra-curricular activities as opportunities to develop transferable skills. Though unpaid and often less regimented than part-time jobs and internships, these opportunities still have a place on students' resumes. They may even fill certain gaps in experience. For example, a student without any work experience in a leadership role might've been put in charge of projects as a volunteer, or even other people as a group leader.
  • By reading any trade publications, industry journals, or newsletters affiliated with the student's desired career, he/she can keep abreast of news and events within the field.
  • Increasing computer proficiency, either through courses or by other means, is essential. Employers seek this in applicants more and more. With the advent of new technology, companies need people who can communicate about that new technology with awareness and precision. Develop a confidence in using computers and their various programs.

Talk to others about your career goals.

In addition to getting experience, a major part of career success is getting to know people in the field and developing a professional reputation both in-person and on-line. Networking and presenting yourself as a budding professional in your area of interest is important to achieving your goals. Often what you know only becomes important after who you know connects you to an opportunity.  Students should engage in informational interviews, network at career and professional events, build their social and online presence within their field, and connect with professionals of interest.

  • Build your LinkedIn presence, this is the #1 professional networking site where students can connect with others in their field. The best resource for current and former students are groups that connect you to UMD alumni, so join the official UMD Alumni group, the ARHU group, and the English Group to connect with current and former students.
  • Meet with the UMD Career Center advisors to talk about career options and find out resources available on-campus. Attend Career Center events to connect with alumni and learn important skills. Attending these events are an important networking opportunity not only with presenters, but also with students who have similar interests.
    • The Career Center hosts a large Career Fair each semester where students (whether or not they are looking for a job) can meet with recruiters and make connections, learning about companies and positions.
    • Apply for the Intern for a Day program and get shadowing experience with an alumni, then turn that shadowing experience into a connection by staying in touch and cultivating the relationship.
  • Request informational interviews from people in a career you're interested. Use LinkedIn to ask alumni within your field/major how they got where they are, what skills are most important in their position, and suggestions for what you should be doing as an undergraduate.
  • Talk to professors, friends, supervisors etc. about your career goals and what you would like to do professionally so they can send you opportunities that match your interest, provide advice on what skills you should be developing, or help you develop your career plan.