Figuring it Out: Make the Most of What You Have

I came across this “Liberal Arts at Work” course several months ago on the University of Arkansas English Undergraduates Facebook page. I always kept it in the back of my mind as something I wanted to take, but I hadn’t had the chance yet. A month after returning from a study abroad trip in England this summer, I found myself becoming incredibly bored. I needed something to do. This course listing popped up on my Facebook feed again, and within ten minutes I was enrolled in the course and came back to Fayetteville a few weeks sooner than expected. This was my opportunity to do something and take a step in the right direction for my future career endeavors.

I had heard from a friend on the trip to England that this was one of the best courses he had ever taken, so I was excited. Even on the first day I learned a lot of valuable information, such as how much work really goes into applying for jobs. I realized just how busy I would be for the following two weeks, but it was all worth it. This course teaches students not only about specific career paths, but also how to make your own path. It’s important to work with what you have and figure out how to talk about your experiences as they relate to whatever job you’re applying for, because all of your experiences are useful, whether you know it or not.

The value of this course comes from its unique content. When I told my friends at different schools about this course, they would always say something like, “Wow, that seems really useful. I wish my school did that.” So I’m grateful for this opportunity. There are so many career guides and websites out there that it’s difficult to know where to start, and this course was a great place to begin. I realized how I could apply my writing skills to a career involving video games and my communication skills to a career in public relations. I ended up completely re-writing my master résumé and got my first experience writing cover letters, and I received feedback on all of my work. This is something a lot of students studying the humanities don’t have the opportunity to do, and providing this information to more students might eventually make a wider audience realize that there are tons of things to do with a liberal arts major. People always think that I want to teach or go to graduate school, and after a while of hearing that, it seems like those are the only options. But they’re most definitely not. The liberal arts don’t often pave the way for a linear career path, and a course like this one teaches you

It’s important to face the challenge of researching new career fields that might not have been considered before. I, for example, have started thinking about marketing and public relations. I now have practice writing résumés and cover letters for that career path, and even if I don’t pursue it, I now have the confidence needed to explore other career options I might not have considered before.

As far as confidence goes, I’d like to draw a parallel to Amy Cuddy’s TED talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” I watched in a class last year (a liberal arts class, no less). In the video, social psychologist Amy Cuddy talks about the importance of “power poses” and how your body language reflects your confidence. She explains that once people realize how influential their body language is, they can control it to become more confident. In other words, “fake it ’til you make it.” Her basic ideas are relevant in the job search for liberal arts majors. Once we realize just how many options we have and stop thinking about our careers in such a narrow-minded and linear way, we can become anything.

Liberal arts majors often feel overshadowed by the growing STEM fields that often have fairly linear career paths. In those moments it’s important to remember why you chose your major. I read a Huffington Post article about what to do when people belittle your major, but my favorite part was the title: “Study What You Love, Not What Others Think You Should.” One of the major things I learned in this course is that there is no correct path. A choice shouldn’t be considered “wrong,” it should simply be considered an experience. There are all sorts of paths a liberal arts major could take, and we can do plenty with what we have. One of my favorite parts of Katharine Brooks’s book You Majored in What? is when she told the story about students who had all sorts of reasons for protesting the change in location of the fraternity houses. The associate dean asked the students, “How many cat skeletons do you see in trees?” When no one said anything, he continued, “The reason you don’t see cat skeletons in trees is because they figure out a way to get down.” All you can do is assess your current situation and figure out where to go from there, and this course has given me adequate materials to be able to do that. Just figure out your interests, consider your experiences, and go from there.

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One thought on “Figuring it Out: Make the Most of What You Have

  1. Glad to hear you’ve found the experience helpful. I also appreciate you sharing Amy Cuddy’s TED talk! I’m reposting it here along with some others that are related to some of the topics covered in our course. I’m going to play them next time I teach it.

    Amy Cuddy’s TED talk “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are”

    Here are some others that I think work well for transitioning from student to professional, but most importantly, basic interpersonal communication skills that are good rules for…life…:

    Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation

    Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen

    Like

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