Name: Mariah Kline
College & Majors/Minors: University of Louisville, Bachelor of Arts in English
Current Location: Louisville, KY
Current Form of Employment: Legal Assistant, O’Koon Hintermeister
Where do you work and what is your current position?
I currently work for a law firm as an assistant to two attorneys. I write letters, draft wills and other estate planning documents, and speak with clients when the attorneys are unavailable. I also handle referrals. Our firm works with a larger company called LegalShield, a service that allows people to pay a small fee each month and receive legal advice whenever they need it. When Kentucky LegalShield members need someone to represent them in their area, I’m in charge of finding an attorney for them. This often involves writing up a summary of the member’s legal issue and sending it to an attorney. I make sure they have the essential facts about the case so they can determine if they want to take it or not.
People often confuse my position with that of a paralegal, but they are somewhat different (paralegals are total superheroes, by the way). Paralegals have a specific degree that teaches them about the law and how to work with attorneys. Though you won’t learn about the law in most English classes, I think this is a great area for English majors to work in because it involves so much writing and communication. Whenever my boss needs a letter or document proofread, he brings it to me and says, “Use your English degree, that’s why we brought you in here.” I really enjoy what I do, and I know that my English degree helped me prepare for it.
Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).
Actually my first job found me! I posted my resume on Career Builder and the office manager at the firm called me a few weeks later. I spent months filling out online applications for places that never contacted me (which is still a good idea for someone in need of a job; it is a numbers game after all) but it turned out that letting them find me was the way to go.
What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?
I didn’t have any writing-related jobs prior to this one, but the writing I did in college definitely helped me prepare for the job I have now. Composing articulate emails and summarizing cases are part of my day to day work. You may not think the short essay assignments you’re doing right now will help you later, but I’ve found that the writing skills you develop can translate really well in an office.
What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life?
I tried to have my resume fine-tuned in the months leading up to graduation so that I could start applying for jobs immediately. I also worked many part-time jobs in college, not only to support myself but to show future employers that I had a good work ethic. Some people believe networking and making friends with every professor will guarantee them a good job after college, but I believe gaining work experience is the way to really impress. Going into an interview and being able to discuss the various roles you’ve already had in the working world can really set you apart from other recent grads.
What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?
First, don’t be discouraged by the job market. It is very tough out there, but if you have some job experience, a good attitude, and a solid work ethic you will find a good job. Also, don’t be too picky. If you get a call about an interview but the job doesn’t seem appealing, take the interview anyway. You might enjoy the people you meet and the office environment, even if the work doesn’t sound right up your alley.
Second, it’s OK to take a break from reading once in a while. I felt so guilty about watching more TV and not picking up a book for several weeks after graduation, but your brain needs a rest sometimes. You spend months on end doing nothing but reading, so binge watching old episodes of the West Wing doesn’t make you a bad English major.
Last but not least, be your genuine self. Don’t be ashamed that you chose to major in English, and don’t let potential employers make you question your choice. Whether it be five weeks or or five years from now, you will find a job someday that will make you glad you studied English.