When current and prospective college students evaluate their career prospects, they usually think about jobs that are directly related to their college major. Engineering students look at engineering jobs, education students prepare for careers in the classroom, and so on. For this reason, students who don’t dream of becoming teachers or writers may shy away from majoring in a topic such as English.
The reality is that many people don’t end up pursuing a career in the exact field that was the focus of their undergraduate degree — in fact, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York found that just 27 percent of undergraduate degree holders worked in a field directly related to their major. Your future value as an employee is not only or even mostly about the specific, technical skills that you learned in college. It’s also about the style of thinking and approach to work that you bring to the table.
What do English majors bring to the table? The ability to understand problems, do research, think flexibly, communicate with stakeholders and ultimately, create solutions.
The “I’m Just Not Creative” Myth — Creative Thinking is a Skill
One of the most persistent and pernicious ideas out there is that creativity is purely an innate talent: you either are a creative thinker or you aren’t. In reality, creative thinking is a skill like any other. It can be taught, it can be practiced and it can be learned.
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Developing creative thinking skills starts with exposure to diverse perspectives and divergent thinking on a variety of topics. The more opportunities you have to closely read, follow and understand arguments from a wide array of thinkers, the better.
It requires active reading and listening, focused consideration and flexibility. Specific creative thinking techniques may vary according to the individual’s preference, but with time, practice and the right kind of instruction, anyone can learn how to do it.
In short, the skills you need to master creative thinking can be found in an English degree program, which includes engagement with literature, language, communication and theory. English majors learn how to effectively research: not merely absorbing new information, but also diving into the meaning behind the information, asking questions and creating new explanations. They also learn planning and organizational skills in order to write effectively, and those organizational skills are critical to realizing a creative vision.
Once you’ve developed these skills, the answer to “what can you do with an English major?” becomes “quite a lot.” English majors can excel in any career where careful and creative use of language is critical, such as marketing, human resources, public relations and politics. A degree in English is also great preparation for graduate study to pair the foundational creative skills with the “hard” technical skills required for a specific field.
Creative Thinkers Excel at Problem Solving
There are few jobs that don’t involve some element of solving problems. In order to be a valuable contributor to any organization, you need some ability to problem-solve, and creative thinking skills contribute to problem-solving in almost any setting.
Graduates who are equipped with broad, global perspectives know how to look at all facets of a problem, which is the first step toward seeing a solution others might miss. Those who have developed critical thinking skills know how to see past the obvious and evaluate their options objectively in order to solve a problem. Moreover, implementing a solution that requires teamwork and buy-in from stakeholders means communicating it well. This is an area where people with a creative background excel.
Being able to problem-solve doesn’t just mean you can be counted on in a crisis situation. It also means you’re a more effective worker day-in and day-out. Every job brings with it a series of daily challenges, and finding more efficient ways to overcome those challenges brings tremendous value for employee and employer. You might think of creative thinking as something that’s primarily internal, but when it’s applied in the workplace, it gets noticed — and it gets results.
Creative Thinking in a Changing World
Across every industry, the role of changing technology is a critical consideration. You might think this means an increasing need for people with STEM degrees, and there’s certainly some truth to that, but in many cases, an intricate technical understanding of how a new tool or piece of software works is less important than the ability to think creatively about its applications. English majors may not be explicitly trained in computer programming or artificial intelligence, but they are trained to dig into details, understand complex concepts and create innovative solutions, skills that are applicable in a technical as well as literary contexts.
Businesses today succeed or fail in a highly competitive, global environment, and the world only grows more complex every day. A strong grasp of creative thinking gives you a truly global perspective, with the ability to evaluate options, anticipate changes and effectively communicate solutions. Creating a successful product, service or solution requires the same skills as building an effective thesis: looking below the surface to get to the core problem, asking questions like “what else could this mean?” or “how else could this be approached?” and crafting compelling arguments to justify those insights to stakeholders.
Creativity in the workplace means much more than being able to design a flyer or craft a clever marketing email. It means being able to solve problems, find efficiencies and contribute to organizational growth. Whether in the business world, the nonprofit sector, academia or any other field, these are the characteristics of a key contributor or a leader.
Ready to Become a Creative Thinker?
How can you stay relevant in a changing world? The answer is simple: learn to think creatively. Creative thinking is the key to unlocking new skills, opportunities and better outcomes, both for your own career and the organizations you work for. It’s no wonder that a whopping 94% of hiring managers consider creativity when choosing a job candidate.
Knowing how to evaluate a situation and communicate your solution is critical. A strong background in English literature and language will prepare you for the challenges ahead.
If you’re ready to hone your creative thinking skills in a challenging, flexible and supportive environment, you’ve come to the right place. Get your fully online Bachelor’s in English/Writing from Eastern Oregon University Online. Contact us today to speak with an admissions counselor.