I was recently asked if I felt that my education at the small liberal arts college I attend has preparing me for my career. I am a senior getting a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History set to graduate in a few months.
The question was prompted from the 2015 Clark Emerging Adults poll where 56% of respondents say that today's job market does not value a liberal arts education and 10% say that their education did not prepare them to find a job in their field.
Do I agree? How ready do I feel to begin my career in merely a few months?
The Bumpy Road From College to Career
While the idea of leaving the comforts of my college life is frightening, I do feel prepared for my career. Each week, I feel more secure in knowing what direction I would like to take my life and how I am going to go about doing it.
It was not always this way, as a freshman I felt anxiety over the idea of having to graduate. When I switched majors my sophomore year, I felt as if I was never going to know what direction I wanted to go in let alone how I was going to do it. Now that I am a senior, my experiences are beginning to piece together a roadmap that I will be able to follow to begin my career.
How to Make a Liberal Arts Degree Work For You
The classes necessary for a Liberal Arts major do not focus on the technical aspects of the possible careers that a student could pursue. From my experience, they are founded mostly in the abstract theoretical foundation of the topic or understanding the broad real world applications.
While this may not necessarily help for a career outside of academia, the ability to understand this information, synthesize it, and convey it to others is important for long-term success in your life and career. Your classes at a liberal arts school help you to understand the world in a rich and complex way, as well as where you fit into the world.
Despite this, I can recognize the disconnect between the college experience and the career world. My classes never taught me technical skills such as memo writing or holding meetings, I was not taught about the advocacy and activism I would like to pursue, nor did I learn how to talk on the phone or write emails professionally.
However, I did gain experience working with others through group projects, sharpened my writing skills through many papers, and gained an understanding of the world that allows me to see where my strengths may best shine. I was even allowed to take a class in personal finance and personal investment to count towards the liberal core, so I feel prepared to budget and invest.
You Get What You Put In
Even though liberal arts colleges may not be covering some of the technical skills necessary for a career, they give students a platform to learn anything they find necessary for the real world. Technical skills can be learned quickly through an entry level position or other experience, so it is not something I worry about much.
I can honestly say that if it weren’t for my time in college, I would not be embarking on the career that I am. College helped open my eyes to the world and where I feel my skills are best suited. Without the experiences I have had in college and in college-only internships, I would be pursuing a different future fueled by innocent dreams. However, my experiences have shown me where my interests truly lie. College has exposed me to the necessary networks needed to get there and the education and information needed to thrive.
Many students may not want to hear this, but especially with a major in the liberal arts, you get out of it what you put into it. If you are willing to network and interact with professors, pursue internships and special projects, and push yourself your experience will be much more rich and meaningful (and you'll have more to add to your resume).
Do you feel that your education has prepared you for a career? What could you have done or are you doing now to get more out of your experience?