Guest Post: Anna Butler on The Skills No One Recognizes as Skills

For a long, long time, I have been a person who does not know what she wants to be in a society/workforce that is absolutely obsessed with defining people. I am beside myself that the first question well-meaning strangers and distant family alike ask is, “What are you going to do with an English and TCOM degree?” I am sick to death of people saying, “So you’re going to be an English teacher…?”

Regardless of how much they make me stress vomit, these encounters and my stuttered responses have taught me a valuable lesson: not everything fits into a box, including myself. Some skills aren’t applicable to just one thing, but to all things. The most technical STEM-centered pursuit and the most free-form creative project each need a manager. They also each need a content creator, a PR person, and a team mediator, and I can be any or all of these things.

Two screenwriting classes taught me about ways the mind makes connections within a storytelling context, associating information from one scene with information from the next. In Professional Writing, I learned how to gather data via survey and draw from it conclusions and strategies that could aid a businessman or entrepreneur. Writing and Reading About Screen Shot 2015-05-20 at 2.19.35 PMPublic Discourse taught me to analyze the motivations, biases, mediums, and structures of information and entertainment that fight to reach our eyes and ears every day. Practicum in Literary Editing and Publishing reinforced in me the belief that there are a vast array of aesthetics and preferences in literature, and that each is equally valuable. Flash Nonfiction Writing helped me come to terms with the fact that the everyday can be exciting, can teach us lessons, can link us, as readers, to each other. In Rhetorical Writing & Emerging Media, I learned the basics of HTML and CSS web coding, opening up to me an entirely new type of writing in which to communicate: design via code.

Why, then, does every person I come across seem to think my job search will be a fruitless endeavor? Because instead of picking up a new trade such as accounting or speech pathology and learning it from the ground up, I decided to become an English major and get really good at the stuff I already kind of knew how to do. In college, I learned how to interpret, analyze, respond, incorporate, contextualize, coordinate, and communicate. I may not compose the breakthrough song that causes a band to be recognized, but I might set up their gigs and run their advertising campaign. I may not discover the cure for a debilitating disease, but I could organize the team of volunteers who visit its victims, or write the content that informs the public of how to prevent/recognize the disease. Regardless of the ambiguity my major yields in the vein of career search options, it has helped me define myself as something. Not a psychiatrist or engineer, but something just as useful.

It wasn’t until I took a TCOM Short Film Production class in my senior year and fulfilled the position of producer that I discovered my affinity for management and working with people. In this position, I acted as a public face for a small film team. I communicated, I scheduled, I wrote, I organized, I trouble-shot, I smiled, I shook hands, I made everything happen, and the longer I did this, the more I realized that I was using all of the skills I had gathered over the past few years in a real-world context. It was a light bulb moment supreme.

During that same time, I took my English senior seminar course: Research and Fiction Writing. Writing about a female funeral home director living in 1968 required me to educate myself on women’s rights and embalming techniques, information that I reached out to professional researchers working at Ball State’s library, an architecture archivist, and even a practicing funeral home director to help me gather. Once again, I got to work with others, and this time on a pursuit that required the analysis and incorporation of information into a creative project. It was the perfect synthesis of English skills I had learned and the management skills I was currently refining.

And that is also what I have learned that I am: a synthesis of English and management skills. I am a creative writer, yes, but that is only one title under a larger umbrella term that describes me with much more accuracy: communicator. All of the abilities that I gained from this wide range of English classes built me to communicate accurately and effectively in a knowledgeable, unique, friendly and, when I need to, professional manner with those around me. I can easily communicate between a group of people with individual abilities in order to allow a common goal to be reached. I also can bring together separate viewpoints and concepts in order to create a new whole, via writing. I can do all this because I was, for four years, an English major, and now I hope to do it for a cause/company that I love.

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