Wondering where your degree in English will take you after graduation? Ask the experts.
Part two of this year’s Alumni Speakers Series, featuring English Alumni in Publishing, brought a crowd of students to Blanchard Hall on October 23rd. Alumni panelists Amy Collins ‘96, David Congdon ‘04, Randall Jahns ‘84, and Eric Siewert ’10 each gave an insider’s perspective on how English majors succeed in the publishing industry.
Amy Collins is the president and founder of Squid Ink, a literary agency specializing in the culinary arts. As a Wheaton student, Collins once dreaded entering the workforce because she feared she would lose her connection to the literature she loved. However, she found her vocational calling through her first job in the acquisitions department at the University of Chicago Press, where she quickly learned the many facets of publishing. Majoring in English, said Collins, “teaches you to be flexible and quick on your feet. It teaches you how to teach yourself.” Collins founded Squid Ink in 2012 and now represents award-winning food writers and chefs in the United States and Europe.
David Congdon, as Associate Editor in the academic division of InterVarsity Press, both acquires books and sees them through the development process prior to publication. Developing a manuscript demands a broad literary perspective and a sharp eye for detail, said Congdon, and a degree in English teaches both. “A good editor needs to be a generalist,” he explained, “and the English major is essentially a major in everything.”
Randall Jahns is Senior Vice President of Bible Ministry Relations at Crossway Publishing. As a young graduate of the English Department, he found himself drawn to the field of publishing. “What could be better,” he said, “than to publish books that bring people close to faith in God?” On a practical note, Jahns urged English majors interested in publishing to seek diverse cultural work experience, to practice writing book reviews and professional letters, and to recognize the workplace value of their education. “Google ‘what employers look for,’” he suggested. “I think you’ll find you’re exactly the kind of person employers are looking for.”
Eric Siewert is International Client Manager at Tyndale House Publishing. While an English major at Wheaton, Siewert worked at the Wheaton College bookstore and as the managing editor of The Record. After graduation, he worked for a year as a shipping clerk for a small publishing house; shortly thereafter, Siewert was hired at Tyndale. He soon found himself traveling to Kenya with Tyndale’s CEO to sell books to local pastors. “It doesn’t matter if you’re analyzing numbers or words,” said Siewert. “What matters is that you know how to do it. That’s the beauty of the English degree.”
After speaking about everything from getting their first job to discovering a passion for the work of publishing, the panelists fielded questions from the audience. One student asked, “If you could go back now, would you choose to major in something else?” The panelists shook their heads. “Never,” said Siewert. “I don’t regret the English major one bit,” added Congdon. “It will be useful to you in ways you can’t anticipate now.”
Wheaton College students, faculty, and staff can watch the panel here.