"I want you to know that It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be lonely, it’s okay to have no idea what you are doing."
Co-president with Muskoka Dittmar-McCallum in 2017-18, Elisa Hall has plunged straight into the working world. She reports the good news that there is life after graduation for those brave enough to seize the day:
"As English graduates, we are often asked what we plan to do with our degree. How it prepares us for the ‘real world’ and for some of us, what kind of job we will have. I was asked these questions over and over again and to be honest, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was constantly stressed out about choosing between law or teaching because that’s what all my peers were doing.
Few people talk about the transition between university and entering the workforce. I knew it would be uncharted territory, I knew it would be scary, but I never thought it would be lonely. When we pack our bags and close the doors to the places we have called home, a small sense of panic rises. I want you to know that It’s okay to be scared, it’s okay to be lonely, it’s okay to have no idea what you are doing. When you set out on uncharted territory, get the keys to your first apartment, and the interview for the job you didn’t think you ever had a chance at, you become a little braver, a little less lonely and a get better idea as to what you are doing with your life.
When I left Queen’s, I knew I had gained the necessary skills to make something of myself. I didn’t know what that was, nor can I honestly tell you what that will be. However, what I can tell you is this: I am detail-oriented, I am analytical, I am able to understand perspectives and synthesize information and I can write and edit; both skills of which are dying in the business world. Most importantly, I can stand up for myself in a room full of executives and speak with clarity and confidence.
When I left Queen’s and moved to Vancouver, I thought I’d be lucky to get a job period. Instead, I found a job as a content writer at what I thought was a small furniture company. I got the job because of my writing. Not because I had the most experience out of all the other candidates, but because the owner liked my writing. Two and a half weeks in, my boss quit and suddenly, there was no marketing manager. My small writing product descriptions and the occasional blog post turned into something much greater. Two months and a half month into working at Moe’s Home, I was Marketing Coordinator and a month after that I got permission to rehire for my old position as content writer. I began to project manage, organize photoshoots, take creative direction, and go on work trips. I had the career acceleration of someone five years my senior.
When I left Queen’s, I never thought that I would have been able to accomplish what I have in the last year. I’m not saying this to give myself a pat on the back, but to let you know that you should be proud of your degree. You don’t just accumulate a small library of books when you get an English degree, you acquire the key concepts of philosophy, rhetoric, analyzation, and the proper use of the oxford comma. Be confident in what you are doing, continue to lead, and don’t forget to take pride in your work.”
Not all of our DSC co-presidents have chosen Law: the 2017-18 team have taken different paths. In her fourth final year at Queen’s University, Muskoka Dittmar-McCallum served as the 2017-2018 English DSC Co-President alongside Elisa Hall (Class of 2018). After completing her Honours Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy, she went to pursue a Masters in Museum Studies at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information. She is currently serving a fellowship at the University of Toronto’s Art Museum as a Collections Assistant before entering the second year of her masters program. Here is what Muskoka reports:
“My passion for museological scholarship and its practical evaluation began in ENGL 200 when Professor G. Dujardin brought her class to W.D. Jordan Rare Books & Special Collections Library. We were given academic access to a collection of rare books, handmade prints, and historic pamphlets. The librarian, Jillian Sparks, instructed students on best practice for handling paper-based mediums and taught methodologies for evaluating modes of production to construct an argument for the work and its intended audience. Through this exercise, I was instantly drawn to the artifacts and their social histories. In my fourth and final year at Queens, Professor E. Peacocke’s ENGL 422, Romanticism and The Visual, facilitated a study into the ways in which art manifests itself throughout the period in a variety of texts. Our academic work was coupled with field trips to the Agnes and Etherington Art Centre which connected me with museum professionals. My undergraduate studies in literature has built a foundation for creative and interdisciplinary thinking that has led me to a career in the cultural sector.”
Erin Boyd, co-chair with Stuart Borenovich in 2015-16, shares her adventures in teaching and marketing since graduating. She writes:
"Since I’ve graduated in 2016 from Queen’s with a Major in English, my degree has been a huge part of my journey!
Soon after graduating, I knew that I wanted to get a larger scope of the world and work abroad. I moved to the Czech Republic in the Fall if 2016, became certified to teach English as a Second Language to adults and children. I lived there and taught English for a year before moving home to Toronto.
After having a taste of international work and the feeling of working towards something with a purpose, I started working for a Non-Profit organization called WE on their Corporate partnerships team. A huge part of why I enjoyed and excelled at this job was my communication skills. This was definitely something that had developed throughout my English degree, and for that I am so grateful!
Most recently, I took the knowledge I received from my Partnerships role as well as the passion to be more creative with my work and started in a Marketing role at a fashion start-up called Knix, still in Toronto. I find myself using my degree everyday and am so thankful for how many doors it has opened for me, especially immediately coming out of University. Being able to try different roles and develop likes and dislikes in the workplace is very important to me. My background in English has laid a foundation for me in all of the roles I’ve tried.
Thank you so much, Professor King for all of the work and passion you put into the English department. Being Vice President for English DSC is still one of my fondest memories at Queen’s and I’ll always be grateful!"
Thanks to Erin for sharing her story, and for the shout out! Consider sharing your own journey with Queen's English.
Maria Stellato served as the 2013-2014 English DSC Co-President alongside Madeeha Hashmi in her fourth and final year at Queen's. Unwilling to give up her studies in English Literature, Maria completed a Masters Degree in English at the University of Toronto after graduating from Queen’s University. In the years since, Maria has graduated from law school at the University of Windsor, and will begin articling this summer in criminal defence law. She writes "My English language and literature degree has contributed to my post-Queen’s career in a way that I imagine no other degree could, both with through the practical skills gained and the social bonds formed. It aided me in developing effective communication, persuasive writing, and analytic skills that will continue to assist me in my professional and personal life. What I value most are the qualities instilled in me during this time - an unending desire for greater comprehension and the pursuit and passion for knowledge that will last a lifetime."
The first reflections come courtesy of Madeeha Hashmi, who served as a 2013-2014 English DSC Co-President in her fourth and final year at Queen's. After completing her undergraduate studies, she went on to pursue a J.D. at the University of Toronto, Faculty of Law and is now practising as a labour and employment lawyer. "In my work, I have to communicate clearly and convincingly each day, making the writing skills I developed and polished as an English student invaluable. While my education in English language and literature is practically useful in my career, what I appreciate the most about having studied English is that it gave me the opportunity to explore many experiences and narratives different from my own. I hops to always live my life with the empathy I learned as an English major.”
Click Here to view her interview
Alysha Vandertogt is the Assistant Editor of Cottage Life Magazine.
"After graduating from Queen’s with my degree in English and Film & Media, I completed a post-graduate certificate in Book, Magazine, and Electronic Publishing at Centennial College. As part of that program, I did a six week internship at Cottage Life magazine, after which I was offered a full-time position. My job includes editing, story research and planning, and social media on behalf of the brand. Upon graduating from Queen's, I not only had the ability to think critically, but I knew how to clearly communicate my thoughts and ideas. When faced with challenges, I had the tools to overcome them, which only became more important as I moved on from Queen’s to achieve my goals beyond my university education."