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Old 02-09-2014, 07:05 AM
 
2,113 posts, read 2,487,695 times
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There have been a lot of threads lately from current and former Liberal Arts majors asking for advice. I thought it would be good to create a single thread to talk about career options and strategies. I also think it would be helpful for those of us who successfully leveraged Liberal Arts degrees into careers to tell our stories. Since we all like to write this should not be too difficult.

Please note: This is NOT a thread for people to bash "worthless" degrees. There are plenty of other threads on here for you to troll.

I will go ahead and start. I majored in history as an undergrad with the original intention of becoming a K12 teacher. When I realized that I was not equipped to handle a classroom full of students, I panicked. Realizing I needed to get whatever relevant experience I could, I interned at a corporate archive my junior year and at a publishing company my senior year. Through hard work and a little luck, I landed an entry-level customer service position at the publishing company. The first 3-4 years were a bit of a slog as I worked various low-paid administrative positions. However, I learned a lot of excellent practical experience in those first few years. I tried different things and eventually landed in the Marketing department as a Research Analyst. Once I realized that Market Research was the right career for me, I went back to school for my MBA part time.

The lesson I learned looking back is that experience is everything. At the time I thought those administrative positions were a waste of time and that I was heading nowhere in my career. However, I frequently draw on things I learned initially in those positions. Any experience you can get is key to future success.
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Old 02-09-2014, 07:22 AM
 
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Right out of college, I had a lot of temp jobs that were largely administrative and low paying. I also had worked in restaurants and retail. My liberal arts college degrees helped me get adjunct teaching experience at a community college. I had looked into teaching K-12, but I found that as a substitute teacher, I did not have patience with kids at any age and I did not care for the school environment. Then I decided to stay focused on adult learners. I had done such part-time teaching for over a year or so at different local colleges.

Those teaching jobs turned my direction into another career indirectly as one of my part-time jobs was teaching introduction to computers later helped me get entry level IT/computer jobs just a few years after obtaining college degrees. Going through all this uncertainty for a few years was my learning experience in the working world.

You are right, with few exceptions, your skill sets are usually more marketable to employers rather than your college degrees (particularly with traditional liberal arts degrees). I also lived in a larger metro area, where as when I had lived in smaller towns, job opportunities are few and far in-between. Some of us have to move where the jobs are. But it may take years before you know what you want to do professionally. And then some of us have to change industries for whatever reason.
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:13 AM
 
1,049 posts, read 2,373,596 times
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I hear walmart will take management trainees with any bachelors degree..I suspect the same from lots of retail establishments. Granted, LA type managers have tended to be the scum of the earth in my experience, but ymmv.
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Middle America
35,751 posts, read 38,863,446 times
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Question...is your degree in "the liberal arts," or did you choose a specific major from within the humanities-based disciplines?
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:32 AM
 
3,153 posts, read 2,803,199 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthur Digby Sellers View Post
There have been a lot of threads lately from current and former Liberal Arts majors asking for advice. I thought it would be good to create a single thread to talk about career options and strategies. I also think it would be helpful for those of us who successfully leveraged Liberal Arts degrees into careers to tell our stories. Since we all like to write this should not be too difficult.

Please note: This is NOT a thread for people to bash "worthless" degrees. There are plenty of other threads on here for you to troll.

I will go ahead and start. I majored in history as an undergrad with the original intention of becoming a K12 teacher. When I realized that I was not equipped to handle a classroom full of students, I panicked. Realizing I needed to get whatever relevant experience I could, I interned at a corporate archive my junior year and at a publishing company my senior year. Through hard work and a little luck, I landed an entry-level customer service position at the publishing company. The first 3-4 years were a bit of a slog as I worked various low-paid administrative positions. However, I learned a lot of excellent practical experience in those first few years. I tried different things and eventually landed in the Marketing department as a Research Analyst. Once I realized that Market Research was the right career for me, I went back to school for my MBA part time.

The lesson I learned looking back is that experience is everything. At the time I thought those administrative positions were a waste of time and that I was heading nowhere in my career. However, I frequently draw on things I learned initially in those positions. Any experience you can get is key to future success.
I think this is the advice everyone keeps giving - to just work, even at jobs that seem low level, until you figure out what you want to do (based on actual experience), and then go for the extra education. It's really the only smart career path for someone who doesn't have a clear goal upon graduating.

I did it the wrong way - left the low level job for more graduate school (in the wrong field) and only much later landed in the right job and went back for the right education.
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Old 02-14-2014, 08:35 AM
 
Location: Middle America
35,751 posts, read 38,863,446 times
Reputation: 48416
My degree is in English, and I got a secondary ed teaching certification concurrently, even though I knew that a traditional classroom gig was not where my interest appeared to be lying. I've worked almost entirely in instructional/information-based settings, from writing and editing at a newspaper to overseeing an inner city youth outreach, tutoring and mentoring program to picking up a special education certification and teaching kids with autism and case managing IEPs. Am considering getting a master's degree in adolescent counseling, specializing in special education students with emotional and behavioral disorders.
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Old 02-14-2014, 09:01 AM
 
2,113 posts, read 2,487,695 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mnseca View Post
I think this is the advice everyone keeps giving - to just work, even at jobs that seem low level, until you figure out what you want to do (based on actual experience), and then go for the extra education. It's really the only smart career path for someone who doesn't have a clear goal upon graduating.

I did it the wrong way - left the low level job for more graduate school (in the wrong field) and only much later landed in the right job and went back for the right education.
I fell into the graduate school trap as well and am finishing up my second grad degree. While I got the first one while still working, I made the mistake of enrolling to "figure out what I wanted to do." I graduated still having no clue which direction to go, and no better equipped for it.

Lesson: Get into the the field first and THEN go back for the credentials.
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Old 02-14-2014, 09:36 AM
 
8,934 posts, read 7,082,304 times
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I think young people are making this a bigger deal than it really is. You start off with one plan in mind. It doesn't work, so you come up with a different plan. That's life.

You majored in one thing. You cant get a job in that field. You get a job in another field. Step by step you build a career, you build a life.

Folks have been doing this for thousands of years. Nothing new. It's not just liberal arts majors. It's everyone.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:00 AM
 
2,113 posts, read 2,487,695 times
Reputation: 1993
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlygal View Post
I think young people are making this a bigger deal than it really is. You start off with one plan in mind. It doesn't work, so you come up with a different plan. That's life.

You majored in one thing. You cant get a job in that field. You get a job in another field. Step by step you build a career, you build a life.

Folks have been doing this for thousands of years. Nothing new. It's not just liberal arts majors. It's everyone.
I agree 100%. However, there has been a deluge of posts regarding this lately, and it's good to share experiences. It is a message board after all.
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Old 02-14-2014, 10:25 AM
 
Location: Middle America
35,751 posts, read 38,863,446 times
Reputation: 48416
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlygal View Post
I think young people are making this a bigger deal than it really is. You start off with one plan in mind. It doesn't work, so you come up with a different plan. That's life.

You majored in one thing. You cant get a job in that field. You get a job in another field. Step by step you build a career, you build a life.

Folks have been doing this for thousands of years. Nothing new. It's not just liberal arts majors. It's everyone.
This is my take. Life meanders. I was never the person who mapped out a course. I simply knew I was good at helping others learn and understand things with which they struggled. It's a no-brainer that I'll likely spend my life doing things that play to that skill, and there are a lot of different ways to put that skill to use. I tend to go with the life that opens up before me. New opportunities come up, I follow and see where they go. It's worked out well so far.
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