When I heard about a professionalism workshop class, my immediate reaction was, “now I have to get my résumé together…” I think I speak for a lot of students when I say that it’s hard to get yourself to sit and write out a résumé without a clear goal in mind. What do I include? Does high school count? What is LinkedIn and why do I feel like I’m the only person I know without one? My main imperative in taking this class was to have a responsibility to learn about these things and to get my act together, to learn how to appear professional, when I’ve never thought of myself that way.
After thinking about it some, other reasons for taking this class popped up in my head. The most notable one related to my expected career after college, which is teaching. I want to teach, but what about my students that like English but can’t imagine standing in front of classes every day? Taking this class gave me a good enough understanding of how job searches work and how to apply humanities degrees to the workplace.
With these two objectives in mind, the course was a very valuable tool for me. I’ve found that academic advising in college does a lot to point you towards required classes, but next to nothing to inform you on how those classes apply to life after college. It says something about an institution when a room full of seniors doesn’t understand what types of careers are available to them. One thing that business-minded degrees do well is preparing their students to enter the workforce right out of college. Of course, we don’t want assembly line-style training in humanities courses, but giving students an idea of what to expect outside of academia would be great.
This class made me think about job training in humanities programs, like offering classes for writers that focus on a spectrum of workplace writing styles, such as copywriting, technical writing, and business writing. Similar courses could be offered for editing, since nearly all writing as an undergrad is done in order to avoid editing as much as possible, i.e. write it an hour or less before it’s due and never look back. Literature and writing courses for undergrads focus on producing and analyzing literature rather than looking at writing as a whole. While we can learn a great deal from literature, there are more direct ways to look at how to write in certain contexts, which offers students a chance to train their writing more specifically before applying for a job.
I think that practical training like this can do a great deal to alleviate common anxieties in students and start normalizing the opinion that degrees in the humanities do produce lucrative and fulfilling careers. I’ve had a problem with the attitude of many English majors that fall back on self-deprecation as a defense against criticisms of their degree. I always hear jokes about “oh, us English majors can’t do math,” “yeah I want to grow up and not make any money” etc. I’ve never felt this way about what study because I love it and have always expected to find a job where my skills apply. Offering more formal training would prove to students and to judgemental onlookers that humanities majors do plan on getting jobs after graduation aside from teaching positions.
All that being said, a professionalism workshop is a great way to find the value in one’s experiences and to give students time to organize their thoughts and résumé materials during class time and while working on assignments. Part of the difficulty of preparing for job searches is that students usually have to do it in their free time. If my understanding is correct, English majors tend to avoid moments like this, resulting in a panicked, thrown together résumé when the time comes to apply for a job.
Through this class, I was able to arrange all my job-related materials and experiences into a meaningful order. I now feel confident in my future career possibilities. It feels great. I encourage those who need a boost in confidence, a reprieve from anxieties, or a hand to hold during the résumé writing process to get involved in a course like this, or to ask around in their universities for the possibilities of a course like this. Finding and applying for jobs is only as hard as you think it is, and after learning how the process works and seeing how applicable your skills are to the workplace, it doesn’t seem so hard.