...or how I learned to stop worrying and love liberal arts.
So, I've made no bones about the fact that I'm a proud liberal arts major. If you're new to this blog, welcome, I'm glad you found it. I blog about mental health, writing and the general shenanigans of a writer's life.
only, I'm not your average writer. I don't think I am. I like to think I'm a bit different, like everyone else does. But this post is for you, future liberal arts writing/English/Mass Comm major.
There are jokes people will never get tired of telling you as a liberal arts major. At best it's a light-hearted implying you work at Starbucks. At worst it's a completely demeaning comment that could make you question your worth as a human being.
This, to start of, is what you will be headed into as a liberal arts major, because society's expectations are: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Medical) majors are useful. They contribute to the betterment of the human condition. Everyone else is just a bunch of peasants.
At this point I'm assuming you do want to go to college. If you don't, you know what? That is awesome, too. The trades are hard work, but they can be very lucrative. I mean, the average HVAC technician and plumber in Houston makes $18-20 an hour, starting. If that's not a deal I don't know what is.
But, let's assume you want to go to college and if you're like me you've 1) really, really, wanted to go into the liberal arts and/or 2) proven to be completely inept at math and science. What now?
Well, you hustle.
I read a quote the other day that said "I find the harder I work, the luckier I get" and I really liked it. I mean for one, it appeals to my immigrant mentality of the American dream, and for two, it makes sense. You work hard, you get stuff.
The only thing is, you're going to have to work harder.
Let's say you want to get that English degree. By itself, it's not exactly marketable. All the papelito shows is that you're really good at MLA and can probably tell me the literary significance of farts. What you have to do to complement that diploma is make yourself useful. Any writing major is indispensable in corporate environments because communication is key. So to get to the point where you'll be able to pay off your student loans, you have to make sure to get some internships and externships during college. Find your career advisor or a faculty mentor and ask them for leads. Show initiative. That way, when you graduate, you have the diploma AND a track record of experience.
I'll tell you my background. I wanted to be an English major because surprise surprise I loved to read and write. But, after a lot of consideration, I decided to listen to my parents and other people, and major in something marketable: Mass communications.
Pause for laughter.
Mass communication sometimes earns its reputation as being a throwaway degree that someone just pursues because of how easy they can get the degree and be done with college.
But what most people take for granted is that it is very marketable it can really be.
In my communication classes, I made sure to take credit hours in design, photoshop, advertising, marketing, psychology, because I suspected they would pay off. In the meantime, I honed those skills by working for the student newspaper. My first 9-5 job after college was working at a Fortune 500 company because during the interview, I played to my strengths and all these things I could do for the company. I pointed to the copy-editing I did in college as well as the classes I took and made a convincing speech that I could be an asset to the company.
Now, I'm also a history major. But you know what, the same thing applies. You have to learn how to market yourself. What's a history major useful for in say, the corporate world? Research. Beyond that, the ability to take large quantities of data and interpret them for the layman is valuable. The key is that you remember that a job interview is a sales pitch. You are the product. You are selling yourself to the company or the organization you want to work for.
Now what if you're some other, more specialized major, like African-American Studies or Mexican-American Studies or something along those lines. What, then? The same principle applies. It's going to be harder, yeah, but not impossible for you to get jobs with those degrees. Our demographics are changing drastically, for one, and for two, given the highly specialized nature of the major, you are already hitting the job market with a chip on your shoulder.
And honestly, there's nothing wrong with that. When I started working in the corporate world, I was a minority in many ways: 1) immigrant 2) Latino 3) bilingual 4) liberal arts major 5) community college -> little state school route through college. I was surrounded by engineers and people who went to fancy schools, so I knew I was going to have to try harder to get ahead. And I learned that in college because from the very beginning, I knew that my choice was not going to be easy mode. I've kept that attitude since. I'm not just going to settle or do the bare minimum. I'm going to be the best, and I'm going to fight like hell for that.
You are not entitled to anything. You are not expected to do well. That is your strength. The STEM major gets told all throughout college, oh, you're good, can SCIENCE REAL GOOD, so no need to worry. You're told the opposite. Who is more likely to double-down on their efforts after that conversation? The same could realistically be said abut someone who went to say, a big state school with either burnt orange or maroon colors. They are told, oh, the Aggie Alumni or the Texas Exes networks are the best, you're golden, don't worry. If I was a hiring manager at a company and I was given the choice between Applicant A, who went to a burnt orange/maroon and white school and did nothing but chill and drink on 6th Street or Northgte; or Applicant B, who went to Sam Houston State but busted his ass getting job experience, I'd take Applicant B in a heartbeat.
You are at a handicap. But that's going to make you better. You are not entitled to anything. And if people don't think liberal arts majors are valuable, they're missing out on all the great things a liberal arts major can do to improve the human condition. We are dreamweavers, artists, poets, counselors, people who help. Art should be hand in hand with innovation.
Med schools are starting to see this through the new holistic approach they've been taking, and that's a direct influence on STEM majors .
So, if you're going to be 45% happy with a STEM degree and 90% happy with a liberal arts degree, take the liberal arts degree. Just remember to be able to diversify and be able to market yourself.
If you have any questions or ideas, drop a line in the comments!
Blog title lyrics from AFI's 'Girl's Not Grey'