Marketing Your Liberal Arts Degree

“Oh, that’s interesting. So what can you do with a degree in Theology/Philosophy/English/Literature/History/Humanities?”

It’s the most dreaded question in any job interview for a liberal arts major.

We’ve all heard it a thousand times, and the answer never gets any easier. The follow up suggestions are usually to teach, or go to graduate school. To be honest, those answers seem like the easiest option. After all, it’s not like there’s a philosophy factory opening up down the street. Somehow, you have to tell people that just because you’re getting a degree in literature, it doesn’t mean you’re stuck trying to get a novel published.

Enter marketing your liberal arts degree.

The first step to marketing it is something most liberal arts majors have already realized. There aren’t exactly a whole lot of jobs in the field. So you’re going to need to start out your job search from a very different perspective.

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Instead of looking for a career in mechanical engineering, software design, or at an accounting firm, you’re going to need to find jobs that will be available to people regardless of educational background. On the plus side, that’s most jobs these days. That does mean, though, that you should be prepared for the inevitable interview question- “So how did you get into this field?” Quite honestly, your answer doesn’t matter a whole lot, as long as it’s not for the money or something materialistic like that.

That does mean, though, that you won’t be bound to any particular job. The sky is literally the limit. Take me, for example. I majored in Theology and Philosophy, and I have a position with Bankers Life selling insurance until I can get certified to become a financial advisor. Sales, marketing, advising, corporate offices, and many, many more are looking to hire. Anything you really want to do is possible, as long as you aren’t required to have a degree in the subject (like accounting or engineering).

Step two is to be proud of the fact that you have a liberal arts education. A liberal arts education gives you a perspective unlike anything a technical education can provide. With the liberal arts, you learn how to think critically about problems. You see many, many different perspectives. You understand why people think the way they do and how the various topics influence each other.

Statistically, liberal arts majors make it much, much farther in their careers than those who don’t have liberal arts. A simple google of “Who has a philosophy degree” shows a who’s who of actors, CEOs, and politicians. In particular, liberal arts degrees mean you’ve written a lot of papers and given many, many presentations. That means you’ve learned how to communicate, both in writing and verbally. Use this to your advantage. You have desirable skills. You can get those jobs.

Liberal arts degrees are actually fantastic for trying to find a job. No, the search isn’t easy, but in the end, it will most definitely pay off.

Student Spotlight: Luke Johanni

Hailing from Cleveland, Ohio, Luke Johanni has come to Ave Maria University in pursuit of bettering our world. As a first-year Psychology major, Luke has prepped for his undergraduate studies by taking dual-enrollment courses while in high school and ardently practicing his Catholic faith. Many on campus know Luke for his kind demeanor and heart for serving others. As a fencer for twelve years, Luke hopes to translate his dedication to the sport into his daily life. We were able to meet with Luke to hear all about how he intends to be a light in the world.

So Luke, why did you choose to attend Ave Maria University?

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I chose to come to Ave because I did a year of dual-enrollment at a community college, and was disheartened by the lack of faith in my coursework. While it was great to have a college education early on, as my courses were incredibly interesting and educational, I wanted to attend a school that focused on the whole person in a faith-based curriculum.

I want to go into counseling, so I thought studying Psychology at Ave Maria would enable me to help counsel people to the best of my ability. I believe a Catholic foundation in counseling will help me treat the person as a person, rather than just their illness. 

Why did you choose Psychology as your major?

Initially, I was thinking about majoring in either History or Theology, since I enjoy both of those subject areas and thought I could possibly be a teacher.

However, I realized how fulfilled I feel whenever I help others in deeply emotional ways, like discussing hard topics or being there for them when they need me. The sidewalk counseling I've done on a Catholic platform fueled by desire to go beyond the realm of teaching, and more into a channel through which I can be there for someone in need on a daily basis.

My passion for serving others in that way was something that motivated me to look outside of a teaching role and into a more direct approach. I think that the best way that I can serve people is by pursuing a career in counseling, so Psychology was the perfect major for my long term goals.

What would you say are your "core values"? How do they govern the way you live on a daily basis?

My values are deeply rooted in my Catholic faith and Church teaching. Outside of that, I believe that there is always more that I can do, as a person, to improve so that I can better serve others. I also always try to put myself in someone else's shoes, so to speak, so that I am able to understand them more. 

My values are always oriented around service, and I believe they will help me as a counselor in the future. I want to successful as a person, but not in a worldly sense - I measure my success on how well I am able to serve others, as equipped by my faith and the gifts given to me.

How did you develop these values, in conjunction with your faith?

I would say that my relationships with other people cultivated my ability to serve others. Additionally, I had a lot of time to learn and read about my faith since I was homeschooled.

I had a lot of opportunities to do service work as well, which resulted in my leading a youth group. Through doing those things, it really fostered a desire in me to know more and to do more in my faith, especially with my relationship with God and others. In that sense, it was through my experiences that I've grown deeper in my values and faith.

What are your plans after you graduate from AMU?

When I graduate, I want to working in the counseling field. Preferably, I'd like to work in a Catholic environment due to the success I've had in evangelizing others through sidewalk counseling and being a youth group leader.

Through those experiences, I've been blessed to have been able to discuss hard topics with many people. Essentially, I'd like to continue to help people as a counselor on a Catholic platform because it has enabled me to serve others and God fully.

Have any words of wisdom for incoming Ave student?

My biggest piece of advice is to keep a calendar! I have one on my phone and one in my dorm. I write down my class schedule, my work schedule, my assignments, and certain events so that I can keep track of what's going on in my life and on campus.

I often joke with my friends that if it didn't go on the calendar, consider it forgotten - and it's too true! College life is incredibly busy and demanding, so make sure that you keep a schedule to avoid any unnecessary stress. 

Describe your most rewarding college experience so far.

It's hard to pick! The education I've received here has been so rewarding, because the professors are so involved in the coursework. You can really tell how much they care about the material that they are teaching their class, so it makes me more engaged and motivated to do well.

Last semester, I participated in the Caberet and it was fabulous. It was awesome to put on a show with some of the best people for the school community.

What things are most important to you now that you're in college?

The first and foremost important thing to me has always been my faith. It comes before anything, and I always aim to deepen it in everything I do. After that comes my relationships with others and my education, as they each play a role in cultivating who I am.

Tell us what a day in your life looks like.

This semester has definitely been a crazy one so far! I'm overloading on classes, working three different jobs, and participating in campus clubs and activities. There really isn't a time where I'm not busy, but I enjoy it because it's all contributing to my quality of life.

Luke, what would you say are your three best qualities?

I'm very personable - I love talking to people and trying to understand their perspective, or where they are coming from. I would also say that I'm incredibly outgoing and I always seek to enjoy life. Finally, I'd say that I'm very devoted to the things I hold dear in my life. I work hard because of that sense of obligation I have towards things, and it helps keep me motivated to be the best I can be.

 

Defining YOU : Personal Brand and Mission Statement

Have you ever tried driving somewhere you’ve never been without first plugging in the address to your GPS?

Well, that’s what you do when you try to accomplish goals without first defining 1) who you are, 2) where you’re going, and 3) how you’re going to get there.

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Personal brands help us define who we are, while personal mission statements help us determine where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. So you may ask yourself, “Okay, so how do I come up with my own brand, and mission statement? That seems like a lot of work.”

Well let me tell you, if you have any sort of social media account, friends, or any other network where you receive affirmation from those around you, then you have already begun building your personal brand. Personal brands are our identifying traits or talents that make us unique. Each and every person has inherent, irreplicable uniqueness.

Now, to build up your personal brand there are a few things you can do.

1. Talk to those around you.

Reach out to a mentor, close friend or relative and have a point blank conversation about who you are. Ask this individual what qualities they admire in you, and what qualities they think you could improve upon. Self-improvement allows us to improve on our personal brand.

2. Share things that you’re passionate about.

How are you using social media? Are you sharing 30 second food videos or articles that you find interesting? Follow people or organizations that excite you, and share their posts. Sharing things that you’re interested in on social media will tell people more about you.

3. Get to know you.

Spend some time reflecting on what you like to do, study, or even who you like to spend your time with. All of these things will help you learn more about yourself, and will help you shape your brand.

Now after you’ve defined who you are, the next step is to determine where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Personal mission statements bring clarity and and purpose to our lives by clearly defining our goals and how we plan to accomplish them. To write a personal mission statement, there are a few things you can do:

4. Set goals.

What do you want to accomplish by the end of the week? What about by the end of the year? These are questions that should be considered when writing your personal mission statement. Come up with a list of goals that are attainable and clearly state them within your mission statement.

5. Revisit personal brand.

Now that goals have been set, it’s important to determine how we are going to attain them. What talents do you have presently that can be used to further your mission of achieving these goals? Once you’ve aligned your talents to your goals, you’re nearly done with your mission statement.

6. Get creative.

One last thing to consider when writing your mission statement is creativity, Whether you think in pictures or in words, play to your creative strengths and brainstorm how you want to word your mission statement, then shorten the statement until you have around two sentences explaining who you are, where you want to go, and how you are going to get there.

After following these steps, you should be on your way to furthering your personal brand and accomplishing the goals you set in your personal mission statement. Remember, your personal brand can set the framework for your future successes and cultivate your character in a beneficial way. 

An Introduction to Informational Interviewing

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It’s that time of year!

 ... No, I don’t mean Lent. It’s the spring semester, and everyone’s thinking about what they’re doing when they graduate, or simply what they are doing this summer. College will be ending soon for all of us, and there is never a better time to start preparing for that than now.

So what should you be doing now? Have you ever heard of informational interviewing? I had not.

It’s a very basic tool that will help you in whatever field you wish to enter after graduation. Don’t stress about it, anyone can do it. Simply put, an informational interview is a conversation you have with a professional to gain information about the field. This is information that you would not be able to easily find, the inside scoop if you would. Such information can lead you to jobs that are not publicly advertised, teach you about career options that you would not have known about before, show you what would make you a better candidate, and help you make contacts.

What it is used for is simply enough, so who should you interview?

The easiest people are friends, family, and your immediate community. Does a professor you know have a history in the field you are looking into? Is there a connection through your school, parish, or a job you had back home? Honestly, ask around. Most people know people who know the right people. The point of this isn’t to get a job or land an amazing internship. You’re just gathering information.

Before the interview, you should learn as much about the topic as you possibly can. The point of this meeting is not to learn what you could easily have found on a website; you’re getting the inside scoop from someone who has worked in the field. It is a great idea to prepare a list of questions, even just so that you know ahead of time what information you want to get out of the meeting. However, don’t act like you’re sticking to a script! If the conversation is more human it will be enjoyable for you both, and you may even learn things that you did not know to ask about.

Bring a resume! Don’t expect to give it to them or pull it out but it is always good to be prepared.

Always be grateful to the people who agree to talk to you. Gratitude is a cheap gift to give but it goes a long way in relationships. The more that this person sees you are a good human being the better the conversation will go and the more information you will get out of it.

Network! Ask them if they know of other people you can contact to gain more information. Ask them where good entry level work is, and who has those positions. Ask them how they entered the business and worked to get where they are now. People love talking about themselves. Learning from someone who has already done what you’re hoping to do is one of the best ways to know the path to success.

Be sure to take notes during the interview. It is so easy to get caught up in the conversation, and then at the end of it have only remembered half of it, or all of it vaguely.

Listen to them! Even if they’re giving you more than you asked for you won’t learn anything by ignoring the parts of the conversation you think are unrelated. You haven’t worked in this field, they have. They are the martial arts master; you are simply the grasshopper.

Once it is all said and done, be sure to follow up with them. Our generation has forgotten the tradition of sending thank you cards, although an e-mail would probably suffice. If you are just sending them a thank you, be sure to get that to them punctually, but if you have more questions allowing for a week or two between interviews is a good idea.

When requesting an interview, be sure to give them a good idea of yourself: any applicable job history, interests, or education would suffice. Tell them the topic of what you want to ask them about, how you would like to conduct the interview (over the phone or in person), and when it could occur.

If this all seems like common sense then that’s good! Informational interviewing is simply a way to educate yourself about the possible paths into a field of work, and the most difficult part of it is having a conversation with someone, which is something you do multiple times a day.

It takes 10,000 hours to become a master of something, and given that you’ve been talking for at least 15 years of your life, which is 131,400 hours, I bet that you’ve already talked for 10,000 of those hours.

Don’t be scared, be courageous! It’s simple stuff.