English Majors’ Curiosity and Willingness to Learn: Key to Success on the Job

Angel Theriot Sulzer (MA ’12) and Suzie Lear (MA ’12)

Too often, our culture misunderstands the connection between a university degree and career preparation. Recently, Anne Phillips asked alums to share stories in response to students’ fears that their English degrees may not be relevant to their future jobs. We heard back from several alumni, including Angel Theriot Sulzer (MA ’12) and Suzie Lear  (MA ’12).

Angel and Suzie explain how their degrees helped lead to success in their careers. Angel is currently one of the lead technical writers for a small business that specializes in industrial automation. Angel explains, “While I don’t have formal training in . . . [the industry], I do have formal training in the type of work that needs to be done when it comes to writing the documents that businesses need. I also have the attitude and work processes that contribute to success in my position. And that training came from my undergrad and graduate programs in English.”

Suzie, currently a manager of a sales and underwriting department at a top five insurance company, shares a similar story about her degrees in English:  “My undergrad and grad degrees absolutely did not prepare me specifically for insurance sales or management. However, the analytical skills, close reading, and classroom discussions absolutely prepared me for audience based conversations, closely reading the contract language, and how to talk to people — even more importantly, to not be afraid to ask questions to understand.”

Elaborating further on how students should value what they’re currently learning, Angel says that an anxious student should “look at the whole experience, not just the specific papers or research she is producing; that’s a byproduct of the WORK she is doing. Specifically, what processes is she developing to get the papers done while meeting deadlines? How does she approach working with other people/in a team? How is she getting information from experts while honoring their time? . . . How is she approaching being a leader in the classroom?”

Suzie’s experience speaks to how interpretive skills and abilities connect to her industry:  “We know there’s always more to the story than just the finance piece, and I’ve become known for how to spin that story. And because I carry my love of learning with me, I’m able to train easily on job specific tasks like Excel. . . . Being flexible and open-minded to possibilities gets us farther than anything.”

Angel credits her work as a tutor in the Writing Center for helping her “personal and professional growth a hundredfold.” Suzie offers an especially memorable insight: “Several leaders throughout [my] organization say ‘We can teach someone insurance, what we want is curiosity and willingness to learn.'”

Congratulations to Angel and Suzie on their professional successes. Thanks for sharing your encouraging words about how learning experiences in an English program are (to quote Angel) “100% transferable to any industry and position in a company.”

Deborah Murray, Instructor

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