It’s a math and science world these days.
We know that now. As it turned out, “doing things” beat “talking about things” and English Majors woke up one day to find that the jobs we’d invented in the ether of our hopes were not to be. The financial market for critical theory as applied to Kanye West songs was not as large as our Tumblrs had led us to believe.
I am not bitter, though. I am a romantic. And, on behalf of English Majors everywhere, I offer you our alliance in this brave new world.
You can give us a job.
I know, I know. I know.
You’re laughing, or you’ve stopped reading, or you’re reading an extra word out of the momentum of your rolling eyes and scoffing. I don’t blame you. You made it, after all; you achieved, turning the vague promise of the future into cold, hard truth. You are a pioneer, taking, even unspoken, the greatness denied you in your youth. This is revenge, lazy and glorious, against a world that told you numbers weren’t cool. And now- now?- I have the boldness, the indignity to come to you asking for a favor without showing any myself.
It doesn’t matter. You should hire me, or my English Major equivalents not for my sake but for the broader, plural ours.
Here are nine reasons why.
You can sign any English Major for $58,000 a year.
I know, vaguely, what you people are paid. I have friends making “mid seventies,” “low eighties” and all the other casual, spoken phrases you use to avoid the exact figures. Isn’t that interesting? Even math people will use soft, soothing words over the crass crunch of numbers. When money’s involved, you understand the usefulness of language: why not simply pay for it?
You, the math person, might have been struck by the number I chose above. Do not be fooled; as always, the language hides a world beyond the numbers. The word to notice is any. You can sign any English Major for $58,000 a year- for $65,000, we’d quit school, catch planes, and sign loyalty oaths we wrote ourselves. And that’s any English Major: Harvard kids, forgotten in the finance shuffle, prodigies from Pennsylvania, perhaps even your favorite online blogger named Lev: if you offer anything flirting above the mid-fifties, they’d come for you. They’d come in droves, in scores, from all avenues and corners of life. Worlds of portfolios, of pitches, of sales and ideas would come to you, would come pounding and fighting and you could choose, could tailor and find the precise genius you need. And they would thank you for it, and thank their lucky stars every night. Because any company smart enough to want us and bold enough to use us is a company we want to work for.
It’s worth a shot.
The English Major will spend days and nights working, typing feverishly on things nobody may ever read. We live there, dreaming and working for our own desperate love of achievement. We do it to do it. We stay on laptops, pouring over the same keys to get close as we can to perfection, to art, to something new and better. It’s obsessive, it’s passion, and it’s hard to explain without sounding somewhere between a romantic and an idiot, locked up in a world of our own ambition, stuck sweating, devoted, to our laptop screens.
On the most boring level, wouldn’t it be useful to have someone else in the office? Someone with a different aesthetic? All these focus groups and consultants, and you can’t have one English Major smart enough and new enough to save you the time and money?
You’ve got the tech side figured out. Fixating on that obessively will give you diminishing returns. Isn’t it worth it to try a new avenue, one, I may add, that your rivals haven’t yet tried.
That’s innovation. That’s leadership. That’s a well placed gamble on talent and work and risk paying off. And that’s not for everyone. That’s not a guarantee.
But it is an idea.
Language is the key through hearts and minds and emotions; it can access worlds and change them. Facts are well and good, Math People, but how can you compete with feeling, with momentum and art?
Think, cynically if you prefer, to how little weight facts can have when you need them. The next time you’re having a fight, tell your boy or girlfriend the facts, the numbers, the raw statistics of you texting your exes.
See how that goes for you.
Can you imagine if Mitt Romney had said “fuck” during a debate with Obama? People would have lost their minds! Momentum and narratives would have been lost and upturned. The lukewarm far right would have bolted upright and the left, shocked and flustered at having lost the default position of attention would scramble to deal with it, fixating instead on this new, game-changing profanity than the entire campaign they’d been leading before.
One word, one moment, and it could’ve changed. Everything would’ve changed. We’d still be talking about it. It would’ve been a cultural touchstone, affecting SNL episodes, lazy improv shows and political cartoons for years and years.
Just one word can change everything.
Just one English major.
Be pragmatic. Everyone wants engineers, and designers and…well, I don’t really know who you hire, but those guys. And you recruit them. You fight for them, and you take them, and you need them, but you hit a glut. A spark is gone. The top, best talents are hard and rare. The average, even among tech, are average.
When your app looks the same as every other app, and your site works the same as every other, you should what sort of talented people has it not even occurred to you to look for.
Chances are, it’s us.
Consider the aesthetic of this list. It’s broken by stars, not listed through numbers. That’s a conscious choice, as is that alliteration, and that there, and the pacing of commas like waves upon the shore.
In that moment of self-reflection above I betrayed myself. That is because all stylistic gains are defeated by awareness. Style, and thus the talent of the English Major, is to linger and thrive in the corners of the mind, vaguely placed and evocative. The English Major, thus, does not lend himself to the quantifiable
Our effort is invisible, at the edge of your awareness. But it is there. Even if you can’t feel it, grasp it our count it in numbers or systems it lingers, a caress upon your memory.
Amongst the English Major, there is a hunger. That is what propels us, and we serve at its mercy. When the English Major writes and writes, consider, for a moment, something beyond your snark. It is not pure narcissism that breeds this effort, but a flailing, desperation to work. To accomplish. And we do it, at all costs, at all hours, and for free. It is that blood-thirst to simply do that renders us flailing.
We don’t do it for the money. Unfortunately, nobody could accuse us of that. We do it, rather, all for the simple, immutable pleasure of doing it right. Of working hard at what we love. Of creating.
They say that character is how you are when nobody is looking. If that’s the case, consider the worlds and universes English Majors create behind private screens. Think of the effort that’s being put in to something unpaid and unseen, reworked and revised for days and nights.
Maybe you could use that.
Isn’t there room for us? Advertising, Communications, PR, or whatever you call it- they are all the bastard children of writers, of English Majors without the savvy or pessimism to brand themselves as such.
We can do it all. We have all of the skills you need and none of the fall-backs. We have no buzzwords for you, no easy or casual brand. There is no cozy peace for the English Major. Our degrees are gossamer strands of garbage. We are unburdened by employability, a safe future or an easy path. And so, dear Tech People, we have nothing to offer but ourselves. We come with nothing but our talents, our dedication and the hustle of those who live- by equal parts accident and choice- the stumbling freedom of the desperate.
The internet is the final frontier. Invest in a little creativity, a little difference, and be rewarded by the absolute best writers and thinkers scooped up on the cheap. Change the pace. Innovate your company, your team, and all of tech.
Hire an English Major.