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Melanie, the others are right that there's no substitute for work
experience when looking for a job. Non-profits are indeed an excellent
place to start, especially while taking classes.
That said, however, a background in classics includes certain kinds
of skills and training that are usually not obvious to those who know little
about classics. You can make this clear in your cover letter, by talking
not just about what you've done ("I read all of Plutarch") but what it
means. E.g.: extensive training in a foreign language often means you know
English well--spelling, grammar, punctuation. An ability to see what's
going on grammatically in Pericles' Funeral Oration means you are less
likely to be flummoxed by the (often) convoluted syntax you find in highly
technical areas. If you've read a lot of Greek, you probably have a good
eye for detail, which is useful in all sorts of writing-based and technical
jobs. If you've read lots of Latin, you have a head start on terminology in
law and medicine. Probably you also have a big vocabulary and spell well.
If appropriate in your case, you may want to point out the
similarities between degrees in English and in classics: reading lots of
well-written literature, lots of experience writing papers and whatnot, the
ability to absorb and analyze texts (that is to say, documents).
Years ago when I was just out of college with degrees in both
English and Classics, what got me a fairly high-paying job in legal editing
was the ability to follow legal "English," a skill developed by reading tons
of Greek and Latin. My employer didn't care about my English background
(lots and lots of people had that), but they were quite excited by my
More recently, my present employer didn't care that I had a PhD in
*classics*: what interested them was that I had a PhD at all, since they
interpreted that to mean I was good at researching, analyzing, carrying lots
of data in my head, organizing info on paper and electronically.
BTW, it often helps if you refer to it as "classical studies" rather
than "classics" when you're talking to outsiders, since (as someone noted)
people often think "classics" is either Mega-Hits of World Lit or "Star
Wars," Jacqueline Susann, etc.
Advantage Computing Systems
PS: UNIX is a lot like Greek: details matter, small marks of
punctuation are crucial, and if you make a mistake, you're
> Subject: Skills
> From: Melanie Burrett <wirren -at- golden -dot- net>
> Date: Thu, 13 Jul 2000 08:43:42 -0400
> X-Message-Number: 10
> Hello(: Very recent lurker here. I have a few questions
> to pose to the list in general.
> I'm trying to get into the field of technical writing. I
> am one credit from finishing my B.A., and I have been
> taking computer courses at my local Community College
> (UNIX, HTML, programming stuff). Will having a B.A. in
> Classics hinder me in any way?