Chances are if you’re a college student you’ve been asked, “What’s your major?” or even worse “What are you going to do with your degree?” Maybe you were undecided up until your junior year, or you switched majors five times, or perhaps you were one of the chosen few who knew what you wanted to do before you even hit puberty. Whatever the case may be, at the end of your college career you will ultimately end up with a degree in something. Unfortunately that “something” may not always equal a job in your chosen field of study.
Having graduated from college myself a year and a half ago, I struggled to find a steady job related to my majors in film and theater. It took three months for me to finally get work as a yearbook photographer for a local studio, but because it was a seasonal position I was out of work again in November. Looking at the latest unemployment statistics it was no surprise that recent college grads make up 6.9 percent, which have forced many into taking jobs unrelated to their majors including some that only require a high school diploma.
It’s an unfortunate reality when college tuition is constantly on the rise and so much money is put into education. The average cost per year of a college degree is $7,020 for a public institution and $26, 273 for private, according to CollegeBoard. Not only that, but unless you major in business, medical, law, or engineering, your degree may not be worth what you’re putting into it. CareerBuilder.com reports that many arts and science graduates will only make $48,515 on average at their first job, which is about $20,000 less than law or business graduates. So what can be done to remedy this situation?
According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, colleges and employers need to work together to ensure college students are obtaining the skills and experience they need to survive in today’s struggling job market. They named integrative learning (or applying and making connections between subjects), intellectual and practical skills like writing and public speaking, and personal and social responsibility as key elements paired with a diversified liberal arts education. Indeed, 56 percent of business executives surveyed believe a marriage between these elements and specific skills for a particular field will produce the ideal employee in the workplace.
The average cost per year of a college degree is $7,020 for a public institution and $26, 273 for private, according to CollegeBoard.
Ideally, colleges will take primary responsibility for preparing students the way Katharine Brooks did. Brooks, the director of the Liberal Arts Career Center at the University of Texas-Austin, created a series of courses called “The Major in the Workplace,” where students learn skills like résumé writing along with a typical general education subject. Employers also need to make an effort, by reaching out to colleges and universities, and providing examples of what they are looking for. Having their current employees speak about their experience with the company would also be helpful in clarifying what skills are needed to excel.
If you are one of the unlucky unemployed or were forced into taking a job unrelated to your major, don’t dwell on it. If you’re looking for a job, make sure you draw on all your resources and contacts, including your college’s career center. Work on your résumé or have a friend do mock interviews with you. Every little bit of confidence will help once you finally score an interview somewhere.
And if you’re just working to pay the bills right now, consider it a skillbuilding exercise. Remember, employers want someone well rounded, and if you have great customer service skills and you are a mean graphic designer, that may just give you the edge over another applicant who is also applying for your dream job.
by Liana Minassian
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