Resume Keywords for English Majors

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English majors do more than just read and write. As a junior English student, I am certain that I do more than simply consume and regurgitate words onto a page.

But words that explain all the things I do often escape me. What skills does an English major use on a day-to-day basis? “Can explicate the works of Flannery O’Connor through a psychoanalytical lens” just seems a bit… wordy. And maybe not exactly what a PR firm is looking for.

The daunting word “resume” keeps being thrown my way as I come closer and closer to graduating. That short summation of “What I Learned in College” has caused more stress than all of my finals combined.

Resume writing is a craft; each and every word needs to have a “buzz” that can be applicable to different types of employment. And for the fresh college graduate, using the right terms is even more crucial when writing up a resume, since work experience is often lacking.

Slapping a ten-page paper about post-colonialism onto an interviewer’s desk isn’t a realistic way to show off a skill-set.  So to counter my troubles, I began researching keywords that can flaunt the skills every English student develops in their college careers.

Through my internet travels, I found a handy-dandy chart by the University of Washington that lists a massive amount of the transferrable skills learned by English majors. These are employer-friendly terms that English majors utilize every day, even if we don’t always realize it:

•assessing an audience
•creating persuasive messages
•drafting documents in accordance with guidelines
•establishing hypotheses
•establishing priorities
•evaluating results
•finding solutions to intricate problems
•gathering information
•interpreting data
•managing a project from conception to completion
•managing information


•meeting deadlines and managing time
•perceiving patterns/structures
•perceiving the world from multiple points of view
•reading critically
•summarizing and presenting information
•summarizing ideas
•synthesizing information
•thinking independently
•understanding components of complex problems
•using original sources
•using precise language
•working with others

Building a resume, however, is more than just listing skills. It’s about experience. It’s paramount to use the above keywords to give context to what you’ve done rather than simply listing what you know how to do.

Here’s a sample of how to use the skills listed above in a resume format:

(Sample position) for The Clock Newspaper:
Managed Features section from conception to completion*
Edited* content from contributors
-Met biweekly publication deadlines*

Want a better example? Check out this English major’s journalism-focused resume.

“But what if I didn’t work for the newspaper?!” Fear not, fellow English major. You’ve done more than you think, and you’re not in hot water yet.

Not all resumes are focused on work experience. Functional resumes focus on skills rather than previous employment. This format is perfect for recent graduates, because it can use college courses to back up skills. Ever take a class that utilized online applications or social media platforms? Use that to show off your proficiency with technology. Did you take ever course on diversity that you could find? Fit those classes into a functional resume; they reveal your personal interests while remaining relevant to the application, which can make you stand out from other applicants.

Resumes are tricky. It isn’t easy to sift through memories of British Literature and Composition to find something worthwhile for employers. But English students shouldn’t fret: between the flashbacks of Keats and Works Cited pages are career building, marketable skills that every English student owns for life.

We are more than readers and writers. We are researchers, analyzers, masters of time management, and independent thinkers. We are English majors.

Still need guidance? Here are more English major-friendly links to get your resume pristine for employers:

How to be an Employed English Major

The Four Resume Secrets of Savvy English Majors

Resumes and Cover Letters

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