You’re A Liberal Arts Grad. Now What?

Flickr.com / Durand
Flickr.com / Durand

Graduation means decision time. Time to make the tough choices. Time to decide what the next step in your life is. That time has come for me.

The “real world” isn’t welcoming to recent grads – something you don’t learn until after you leave the bubble of college life. In college, we were always taught that the more experience you have through internships and co-ops would help you land a job after you graduate. That’s true … to an extent.

As a political science and journalism double major at a tech school – Rochester Institute of Technology – getting experience in my fields wasn’t easy. RIT particularly caters to the engineering and computer science students, and their career fairs were never geared toward helping a liberal arts major land a job. But I wasn’t worried. With four internships under my belt and two degrees in hand, I thought getting a job would be a breeze. The truth? Giving up your firstborn child wouldn’t even guarantee you a job.

When I got ready to leave college, I came to the realization that I didn’t just have to choose a job. I had to decide between graduate school, law school, travel and getting a job. The original plan was that I would graduate from RIT, take the summer to study for the LSATs, and then enter law school right out of college. I didn’t end up applying for law school in time to make it for the next year, so I had a full year to do something … I just wasn’t sure what.

One thing I knew was that I couldn’t travel the world. I’ve always wanted to, and I saw some of it during a study abroad in Kosovo, but if that taught me anything it was how much it costs. Even when staying at hostels, friends’ apartments and “couch surfing,” I still ended up without money to spare. Though I wanted to travel for a year, I knew that was out of the question – a poor graduate is just that. Poor.

When I came to the realization I couldn’t travel, I began applying for jobs. Facing the reality that I couldn’t just “get a job” is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced. I spammed my résumé and cover letters to more companies than I could even count. And that’s about the time when the rejection emails started arriving. Many recruiters didn’t even bother to email me back, the larger corporations sent me a generic rejection email and the small companies often said, “Thanks for your interest, but we’re looking someone with more experience. Good luck on your post-grad job hunt.”

So, what’s the solution?

Well, I found one that began to work for me. Market yourself, and don’t take “no” for an answer. I took my résumé and started from scratch. I spoke with my professors for advice. And, I bought a new suit. Now that I had the tools in hand, I had to pitch myself as someone more than just a kid with a degree in political science and journalism. I began to apply at job fairs to companies looking for marketing and public relations majors.

I’m not a marketing or PR major, but I came up with a halfway decent ten second elevator speech to give potential employers. In my justification for why I should be considered for a marketing position was simple: What are politics, if not the ultimate marketing plan? As a political science major, I learned to understand the reason people choose one candidate over another. As a journalism major, I learned what keywords and properly placed phrases catch a reader’s attention.

The job hunt taught me this: I learned that a liberal arts major isn’t like a mechanical engineering major. A mechanical engineering major becomes a mechanical engineer. A journalism major doesn’t have to become a journalist. A political science major doesn’t have to become a political analyst.

By applying what you’ve learned in school and through experiences, you can get a job. Is it going to be the job expected? Not necessarily. But, it might end up being exactly what you wanted. Take the next step and follow your dreams. TC mark

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