March 17, 2022
Sarah Mulcahy


As an English major, I often get asked what I plan to do with my degree.

As an English major, I often get asked what I plan to do with my degree. During my first few years of school, I wasn’t so sure how to answer this question. I transferred to UMass from a smaller campus and realized how overwhelming it can be to figure out how to start gaining professional experience. UMass has so many great resources for students to take advantage of, but the problem often lies in getting started. 

How I Got Started with Networking 

A turning point came for me when I happened upon a posting for a Digital Communications Intern (DCI) position through the English department in an e-newsletter. Since applying for and starting this position, I’ve gotten to enhance my writing and technology skills, but also and perhaps more importantly, I’ve had the chance to speak with some wonderful current students and alumni about their current career paths and ambitions. I’m also interested in studying law, so as part of my DCI work, I did some research and found three UMass English Department alumni who are now on the pre-law track and spoke with them about their experiences. I suddenly felt like studying law was within reach for me, as these students were in my shoes just a few years ago. 

Each of the women I spoke with are at different points in their post-graduate career, but they are all on a path to study law. Tess Halpern ‘19 is a first-year student at Boston College Law School, Donikah Brutus ‘20 is working at a local immigration law firm as a paralegal, and Sam Mahan ‘21 is working at a multi-practice firm in Boston as a paralegal assistant. 

Three Different Journeys, One Goal

Learning about the experiences of each alumnus has helped me realize that there are so many paths to take after our undergraduate years as English majors, and the journey doesn’t necessarily need to be a straight line. Each of the alumnus I spoke with started out with different post-grad jobs in mind; Sam wanted to pursue technical writing, Tess was working in content editing, and Donikah was ambivalent about the type of law she wanted to work in. But talking with them showed me that even if you thought you’d end up in a technical writing job, like Sam did, there is always somewhere else you can put your writing skills to use. Tess’s post-grad experiences gave her the clarity that she needed to decide to attend law school, while Donikah opted to gain valuable experience in the field she’s interested in before she heads to get her J.D.  

Talking with Sam, Tess, and Donikah has also shown me that there’s always going to be a new opportunity if you look for one and having a background in English will position you well to adapt to a variety of jobs. The major emphasizes transferrable skills that will be useful no matter what career you decide to pursue. Each of them emphasized how helpful their background in English has been while working, studying for the LSAT, and ultimately taking classes in law school. 

Interviewing these three alumni, and others, has offered me great networking opportunities as I’ve been able to connect with individuals who had similar undergraduate experiences and are now on a career path that I can picture myself on. Working as the DCI has given me the opportunity to connect with a lot of people I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I’ve learned so much about how different the college experience can be for different people, even within the same major. I’ve been able to develop my writing and interviewing skills while making important connections, within and beyond the department, and it has been a great learning experience so far. 

So, What Can You Do to Connect?

If you’re interested in connecting with UMass English Alumni who may be working in a field you can see yourself in, you can! UMass has a whole network of alumni mentors who are eager to speak with you about potential careers and other aspects of post-graduate life. If you don’t know where to start, you can check out the alumni page on the English department website or connect with other English majors and alumni through the English Department LinkedIn group. You can also reach out to Janis Greve, our alumni mentor coordinator. For more information on how to start the conversation, check out this resource on informational interviewing. Connecting with alumni is one of the best ways to learn about new opportunities and talk to people who have similar academic and professional interests.

Written by Sarah Mulcahy, English major and Digital Communications Intern for the English Department