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'That is not just any word cloud, that is a Marks and Spencer word cloud'

At this point you may be thinking to yourself that it seems “like a bit of a stretch” to move from an English Language degree to a career in retail management but, bear with me - I have a few points to share with you that may actually lead you to think more openly about what you can do with an English Language degree.

First, some background. I chose to study at Chester because the degree programme was aligned with my interests: sociolinguistics, corpus linguistics, varieties of English. It also offered some challenges along the way that I was more than happy to undertake in the pursuit of a wide, varied knowledge of the subject (I’m talking about syntax!). We were taught and assessed in such a range of ways, from drawing syntax trees and writing our own blog pieces, to group presentations and even the dreaded solo presentation. There was always something new to learn! The course never disappointed with any of the subject matter and, being a part of a small department meant that, as the months progressed, our cohort very quickly became a strong, bonded community: everyone knew everyone! We were always faithfully led by our lecturers and even ended our degree with a “celebration picnic”.

When I graduated and entered the world of work, I quickly found myself in a management role, which included marketing. In this role, I found myself drawing upon the skills and knowledge developed during my degree as I worked on ways to interact with and influence new clients, both in person and via email. I had developed my spoken and written English skills to a high level as part of my degree, so I felt well-prepared for this role. More recently, I have had the opportunity to explore the world of large-scale retail with Marks and Spencer, focusing this time on people management and floor management. You may think that M&S is an old-fashioned retailer but you might be surprised to learn of the tools available to managers to create a better retail environment. This includes word clouds derived from our partnership with Microsoft as well as using live selling data to drive sales. Our customer feedback system creates word clouds for the management staff to use to help influence what we do in store to create a better environment for customers: a red cloud of words for things to improve and a green cloud for things that customers are happy with. I had first encountered word clouds in my study of corpus linguistics, so was pleased to be able to use this knowledge at work. As part of my management role, I am required to provide staff with feedback and, again, I can draw on knowledge from my degree when framing this feedback. The ability to think critically about language choices in a context such as this is invaluable.

So, never think that just because we aren’t all in teaching, we are not making use of our degrees; we adapt and thrive in the same way that the English language has been doing over the years! Choosing the BA English Language programme was the best decision I made, and I still stay in touch with some of my lecturers even though I graduated almost seven years ago! 

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