There are different reasons we all spend four years studying to receive an undergraduate degree. Some people do it because they’re passionate about the subjects they study, and want to find a career they’re passionate about also. Others do it because their parents want them to, or so they can make a lot of money. I can’t say I really put my lot in with the latter. I once had a roommate who studied accounting and hated it. She ended up returning to school after receiving her degree because she couldn’t stand anything she was doing with that field. That’s sad to me, that our culture embodies an idea that places value on high-paying, well-detested careers. As an English major I’ve gotten the prototypical sneers as a reaction to my degree path. I wanted to take the professionalization workshop to draw out the value of my degree.
It’s discouraging, to say the least, when you begin to devalue your choice in major the way that others do. Other people, who have no idea the work that goes in, can have a lasting impression. Especially those within the STEM field. But our skills are more applicable. I find with STEM degrees the skills you learn are such hard skills that there’s very little room fore movement, very little room for variety. If you’re a computer science major, how do you get a job in something that isn’t computer science if that’s all you’ve done for four years? For English and other Liberal Arts majors, we’ve spent time honing our teamwork skills, our communication skills, our ability to think critically and react to a presented situation, to measure outcomes. These skills are invaluable and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
The problem with our degree is mostly in the way it’s perceived. Courses like this one that teaches us Professionalization skills allow us to find the value in our college education. They give us the ability to explain what we’ve learned, so when someone inevitable asks the question: “So what are you going to do with that?” We can answer, “well, actually, just about anything.” It’s easy to see college as a linear process, but the job market is expanding every year and there are a versatile amount of jobs that don’t fit quite right with any particular degree. Although it might take us longer to figure out what career we fit best in to, it’s very different from the rhetoric of my friend, who has to start school all over again because she only knows how to be an accountant and absolutely hates doing it.
The truth is, there is no English course that prepares us similarly for the “real world”, the professional world. Where business students are constantly encouraged to work on résumés and apply for internships, the rest of us mostly focus on academics and cling to the hope that we can find work after. For me, the process seemed daunting and as I approached my graduation date I became more anxious about what I would do with the rest of my life. This class alleviated that anxiety by giving me a sense of preparedness and confidence that I hadn’t achieved prior. I got to take a first hand look into the wide variety of possible jobs I could get, from working in a radio station to editing to non profit organizing. I’ve spent a lot of my time writing research papers on 19th century literature and reading early American Modernist novels. I enjoy it, and that’s why I chose this as my major. But I took the class primarily because it was important to me to see my degree work towards something practical. I think the important thing is there are so many nuances to working in the professional world that you can’t see until you’re a part of it, so taking a course like this one illuminates the darkness in that sense.
I think these kinds of courses have an increasingly important place in our curriculum, especially since our degree becomes more devalued over time and we’re constantly reminded of how far we’re putting ourselves into debt to receive these degrees. Our job market is (let’s face it) not the best and it’s important for us to be given the equipment to be able to navigate our futures. As students we know that writing has many applicable uses, but we need to see those uses ourselves to prepare ourselves. Building a professional life consists of marketing our skills to potential employers, and this course has not only prepared us to do that but also showed us all of the possibilities that come with our wonderful major.