When I first started college I enrolled as a business management major, and I thought I had everything planned out, and I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up”. However, as my freshmen year started drawing to a close I started to question if business was the right fit for me, and after a lot of soul searching I finally decided to change my major, but I didn’t just change it once, instead I had switched majors three different times, until I finally found the right “fit” for me as an English major with a focus in literature.
Since becoming an English major I started hearing the age old questions “What do you plan on doing with your degree?” or “So you’re going to be a teacher?” And I would always answer, “I don’t know,” or even “Yes, I think I do want to be a teacher” because I truly believe that is what I want to do. However, since enrolling in Dr. Szwydyky’s Liberal Arts at Work: a Professionalization Workshop course at the University of Arkansas, I began questioning what else I might be able to do with my degree if being a teacher didn’t work out or what are the limitations placed on someone with my chosen degree?
As I began my search the biggest question I kept asking myself was, “What skills have I learned since choosing a liberal arts degree?” This was a difficult question to answer at first, because the only things I kept coming back to was being able to read, discuss (at length), and write articles and papers on different authors like Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Woolf, but it wasn’t until I read an article called “Why Study the Liberal Arts?” by Richard Sigurdson, the former acting Dean of Arts at The University College of the Cariboo(Yes it’s an actual school), that I began realizing what skills my liberal arts degree has truly given me. Thanks to my liberal arts degree I have gained different skill sets ranging from critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills, to being able to research complex ideas and topics, and present them using multiple modes of expression. The problem that arose, however, is how could I use the skills that I have learned in conjunction with my own personality to determine what jobs would best suit me?
It wasn’t until we read You Majored in What? by Katherine Brooks, and began mapping out our skills, jobs, hobbies, and interests on a “wandering map,” that I began to see how interconnected everything was. As I began connecting everything together, one central theme kept appearing, and it was the fact that I’m constantly involved in jobs and volunteer opportunities where I could help people. This is true for my current job at LifeStyles Inc, a non-profit organization, where I have the opportunity to work with adults with disabilities, and be able to support them by helping them become contributing members of society.
So, as I began exploring the opportunities my liberal arts degree offered me, one of the very first jobs that I caught my interest was as a public relations manager, which would provide me the opportunity to represent other non-profit organizations, such as LifeStyles, in order to assist them by getting the news out to the public about the services they offer, open job positions, and the different events and fundraisers that they might be hosting.
Along with public relations I discovered that my liberal arts degree has prepared me for jobs in human resource management, or even a federal government position, because of the communications skills that are required by almost every liberal arts major. Along with communication one of the valuable skills that we are taught to is how to remain flexible, and be open to any imaginable possibilities.
“’With just a little bit greater awareness of what employers need, (students can) unlock a huge array of jobs that might not otherwise have been open to them,’ says Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass, a Boston-based labor market analytics company that works with colleges, employers and recruiters.” (Marklein)
When we were growing up the sky was the limit, and we believed we could be anything we wanted, and our future was always changing as we discovered new interest. With a liberal arts degree it is almost like taking a step back in time to when we were kids, and a limitless number of possibilities were open to us, with the only limitation being how big we could dream. With a liberal arts degree we are not taught how to do one specific job for the rest of our lives, instead we are taught how to express ourselves in a multitude of ways in order to follow our goals or interests, whether it be the sometimes typical route of teaching, it could even be something as grand as becoming a state senator, or even running our own companies, the only limitation that is placed on liberal arts majors is how much we can dream.
Brooks, Katharine. You Majored in What?: Mapping Your Path from Chaos to Career. New York, NY: Viking, 2009. Print.