Spring English Network Career Panel

April 07, 2017

On Friday March 31st 2017 we held a career panel with six members of the English Network, our career mentorship program for English majors and minors. During the panel, six former English majors and minors spoke about some of the opportunities open to students pursuing an English degree: James Siddall about his work managing The Sport Gallery on Granville Island; Yaa-Hemaa Obiri-Yeboah about her role as Senior Policy Advisor for the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada; Simone Abt about the path that led her to become the managing partner of Elettra Communications; Christina Low about her work as communications officer at the Provincial Health Services authority; Penny Freno about her work as the career education manager for FASS here at SFU; and Chris Hilliard about his position as president of LNG Direct Rail Ltd.

All our panelists stressed the importance of precise and concise writing, a skill they cited as the key skill imparted by their English degrees.  Chris Hilliard emphasized, “What you say is important but how you say it is more important,” advice that applies both on the job market and at work, while Penny Freno described the reality of the current job market and the necessity of being versatile and creative in mapping a career trajectory. Both pointed to the importance of being open and willing to learn in future careers. 

Christina Low recalled how her time in the English Department here at SFU was one in which her instructors encouraged her to be both rigorous and creative in her academic work; from this Low was able to be more creative in her current work which requires her to persuade a broad audience to see a person or idea in a new way. Low cited clarity, brevity, and wit as central to her work with provincial health services.

In searching for a job, connections and putting a human face to your resume were hugely important to all our panelists. Simone Abt highlighted the importance of being able to “synthesize a lot of information and get that into a communicable form,” a skill she learned through writing essays. The most important thing Abt learned in her English degree was how to structure arguments and how to produce concise and direct writing. In searching for a job, Abt encouraged students to take the initiative by reaching out to potential employers through phone or email, which all of the panelists echoed. 

Yaa-Hemaa Obiri-Yeboah spoke to how English degrees create the potential for a well-rounded life; Obiri-Yeboah looked at how an English degree gives you the skills to succeed in workplaces and also see the creative potential in and out of those jobs. James Siddall spoke to the variety of things that he has called on in a day and encouraged the idea that you can follow your passion within a broad range of areas. He looked at how writing can be a way to communicate who you are and increase the likelihood of getting a job.

Want more advice? Interested in the possible careers waiting for you and your English degree? Check out the English Network, a program designed to get you in contact with working professionals with English degrees! All majors and minors are welcome to participate! Have any questions? Email our undergraduate Chair Dr. Michael Everton.