Make Your Next Project Manager Hire an English Lit Major

I’ll disclaim right away: I am an English Lit major and also a project manager.

(That also means that when this post descends into broad generalizations, I’ll know that I’m intentionally using hyperbole.


When a lit major says “I don’t know” what they really mean is:

“I don’t know yet, but I learned how to know in school.”

When a lit major says “That seems familiar” even though nothing looks familiar, what they really mean is:

“I learned how to recognize patterns that cross boundaries – so this looks familiar, so I can help solve this problem.”

When a lit major says “I’ll send a status report”, what they really mean is:

“I might send it as an haiku, but everyone will read it and know what it means.”

When a lit major says, “I can explain that”, what they really mean is:

“I’ll find a way (allegory, storytelling, comparison) to help you grasp a technical concept in a way that allows you to make a great decision.”

When a lit major says “It’s okay if we disagree”, what they mean is:

I learned in school that there are oft more than once answer to a question – so I don’t need to be right, so long as we are moving forward together.”

When a lit major says that success is finishing the project, what they mean is:

Following a method is easy but doesn’t guarantee success. Success is defined by finishing, not starting.”

I could go on, but I won’t. Not imitating James Joyce or Charles Dickens here.

Here’s the deal though: People with a lit degree make better project managers, because their eduction was about learning, not about doing. Project management isn’t about following a software development cycle, keeping a schedule, managing a budget. Those are the least important parts of project management (needed, don’t get me wrong). But merely keeping track means you can be successful at . . . keeping track. So what? You want a fast learner, someone with endless curiosity, someone with great communication skills, someone that can get through a ream of reading material and know what is important, someone who grasps and uses context.

What you need, then, is a Lit major!




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