Friday, December 7, 2018
Thinking about majors. . . and employability
Even then, and this was over a decade ago, it was easy to tell parents about the skills their student would gain as an English major and that this learning wasn't as much about the literature he would get to read, but the work he would have to do because of the reading; because of the research; because of the writing; and, of perhaps most importantly, because of the thinking, the necessity of learning how to make connections, the requirement to articulate those ideas, and the expectation of listening to others, making connections with those ideas, and articulating any change of thought or perception. I wish I could report on the trajectory of that particular student, but, alas, I cannot. I do know that some of my English majors went on to be teachers, others went to graduate school in different fields, others went into the military, and still others found a profession and line of work that had nothing to do with English or literature and yet makes them happy.
systematic inventive thinking. I'm sure some of what they're teaching and discussing has changed from what I learned back in 2004 or 2005, and that's good. It should evolve. But one thing that was revelatory to me is that sometimes the best solution is a simple addition or a simple subtraction. It was transformational thinking in the purest sense and recognizing that transformation doesn't necessarily mean massive redesign, but perhaps one small change making a large difference in a way of doing, in a way of thinking.
Because I do a lot of work in STEM, and because of my own unusual background, I'm aware that the liberal arts are often maligned and misunderstood. I'm also aware of the concern of underemployment of those with any degree, the subject of many a report this past spring.
Traditionally, students have pursued jobs that aligned with their major; therefore, a business major looks for jobs that seem to reflect the courses taken for that major or the kind of work they think they want to do. However, it's true that one's major does not define one's career. A degree is representative of something in which a student may be interested. I qualify that because I've had my share of students who graduated and realized they had a degree in something they didn't really want to do or didn't really like.
Soft skills aren't new but they are of greater interest to employers now. And why? Well, take a look at those top skills in that graphic at the top of this post. What do you see? Anything about a specific major? Nope.
Seth Godin wanted to call them vocational skills. Meh. I think that what we call "soft skills" are life skills. We need to be active listeners and good communicators whether we're collaborating with work colleagues or life colleagues. Emotional intelligence has value outside of the work place as does, well, pretty much everything on that list.