Some responses I have received in regards to my major (English):
- “Do you want to be a teacher?” (Disclaimer: I love teachers. All the respect in the world for them, especially my roommate in Lynch if she reads this)
- Silent nod, followed by a quick change of subject.
- “Really? That’s interesting.”
- “What are you going to do with that?”
and, because of my ultra CSOM-y internship at a big bank this summer,
5. “So why aren’t you teaching?”
These somewhat cliché, but true, reactions to the revelation that I am in fact going to school to read novels and write stories (thank you, Creative Writing concentration) are telling of just what people think of undergraduate studies. They’re supposed to be practical, or so some people think. You’re supposed to study something wild, or so some other people think. Most importantly, you’re supposed to study something that will get you a “real” job, one that comes with benefits and a salary that will keep you off your parents’ couch.
English is not as exotic as International Studies, for example, or as assertively ambitious as Political Science (and History/Communications/Psychology double major), but it is the generalist’s best friend. As a Peer Advisor at the Career Center, which is a wonderful place, I might add, I have learned how to “sell” my major, and how to use key words (ex. “Analytical thinking”) to market the years I have spent closely examining literature. I have also seen more than enough impressive resumes, including resumes from my classmates, to fully appreciative the competitiveness of the market.
My parents, Tiger Mom Lite and Asian Dad, have been more than supportive of my humanities major. They’ve even stopped hoping that I will change my mind and go to medical school—but only because I can still go to law school. Parents want their kid(s) to get a job, move out, and be happy and successful.
But the current economy doesn’t really care about it. Once we’ve graduated with our ultra expensive pieces of paper, what do we do? Some of us will leave with full time offers in hand, while others will embark on adventures to Teach For America, or volunteer in one Corps or another. Still some of us will find ourselves uncertain of what we are going to do next. So how do we navigate this world?
Well, with the national unemployment rate at 7.4% in July according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and 7.9% for recent college graduates according to the Huffington Post (the numbers shift depending on what type of degree the graduate holds), there’s reason to fret. But not too much. An excellent argument, albeit not airtight, is that some of the richest people in the world dropped out of college. Short of starting a social media company, which my two weeks of computer science will not be helping with, or coming up with a software giant, there are few big breaks that will make dropping out of college okay in economic terms. Then there’s the choice of going to grad school, or professional school.
The beauty of graduating in an economy that doesn’t offer the same kinds of guarantees that it used to is the breathing room. Industries such as financial services used to be a relatively stable, lucrative place to find a long-term career. Now, working at a bank is just as subject to layoffs as any other job. Going down the professional path is riskier than it used to be, especially for law school graduates. The 250K in student loans is looking less attractive when the industry employs fewer grads—12.8% of the class of 2012 for law school graduates were unemployed, according to a study done by the National Association for Law Placement.
So with all these clouds hanging over our heads, what’s there to do? Well, for one thing, look on the bright side. Jobs that didn’t exist years ago are now gaining ground: innovation and design, for example, is a new field that has emerged from the increased demand for newer, better, faster everything. Consulting firms such as Continuum, which may have a hand in designing Boston College’s core, take the desire for innovation and turn it into a product. On the other hand, the tech industry continues to grow, and the power of the Internet allows anyone with an idea to launch something with the potential to be great. Just think of the YouTube celebrities that started with a goofy video shtick and are now making money from actually doing what they love.
The bottom line is, an unstable economy offers the perfect excuse to pursue something that really means something to you. Sure, not everyone’s blog will turn into the next BuzzFeed, but it’s worth a shot. At the very least, consider your fun employment that time to figure out what it is that you want to look back on when you’re old.Featured Image via. Flickr