Never fear, arts students! If you anticipate a lonely future of crying over your degree before your night shift at Starbucks, the Career Centre and Alumni Association had some words of encouragement for you at the March 1 panel discussion Where in the World Can I Work After An Arts Degree? on the Abbotsford campus.
After a minor mix-up with the folks from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, the event got into the swing of things, complete with free chocolate in exchange for asking questions of the four fresh-faced and gainfully employed alumni. Students were invigorated by the examples of success that lay before us, adults who only a few years previous had been in our shoes, thinking important thoughts like “where shall I work?” and “when should I have my next beer?”
The overwhelming consensus was that not many people are using the exact skills they got from their degree, but are using the generalized skills and knowledge gained from their post-secondary experience. This may cause a few current students to run for the hills, abandon their academic careers, and join Cirque du Soliel, but for the remaining dedicated few, it didn’t seem like there was much to worry about.
Why are you an arts student? If it’s because you are anticipating a six figure salary and a summer home in Paris, you should think again. We study the arts because we love to learn. We study languages to expand our communication capacity, we study sociology to learn how other people live, we study English because we love to read literature, and we study psychology so we can figure out why our parents were always so hard on us. We don’t all study arts to become billionaires.
The panel discussion, given by Adam Simpson (BA ’05, English), Amanda Klassen (BA ’08 English), Dana Boogerd (BA ’08, English/History) and Shauna Svekla (BA ’08 Psychology) was a refreshing breeze in a world where students often spend hours listening to profs, parents, and advisors tell them that their degree needs to have some relevance to a future career. What the four alumni on display found, and shared with the full room, was that they got their jobs through networking, through maximizing the skills and interests they did have, and through the mere fact that they had a degree to begin with.
Simpson, currently employed at a project management firm in Vancouver, got his job in the field of communications by submitting a portfolio of creative writing. He also hounded his future employer until they realized he would be a good fit with the company. Svekla found that the interests she developed during the course of her BA weren’t necessarily the same as what was written on the paper; she ended up searching through her past for extracurricular interests, and found a job with Abbotsford Community Services as a program assistant for Skills Connect for Immigrants.
All four alumni followed their hearts. This included involvement in extracurricular activities (though a common regret was not being involved enough), it included a few false starts, and it included a program switch or two. Students should follow their passion; study what you love, no matter how many people ask you, “What are you going to do with that?” With the right mix of networking (while still at university), interest, and self-promotion, you can do whatever you want with your degree. It’s the skills that we learn while we are within this institution that are valuable. Skills like patience, time management, dealing with difficult people, honouring commitments, and critical thinking are all assets that can be used to your benefit. But there’s no way you’re going to get out with an arts degree if you don’t study what you love.