Monday, November 4, 2013

Coo! Coo! Don't Get Pigeonholed!

The above article, which first appeared on the Monster job board, also ran in the Buffalo News this past Sunday. It outlines which majors are "underemployed" when they first graduate--working below their abilities, talents and pay-grade.

I was rather surprised to see as #1 at the end of the article "business administration and management." Isn't that the go-to vocational degree for aspiring corporate types?

Less surprising: #5, "liberal arts" majors and #3, "drama and theater arts." These are much like the English degree. They have great potential in the business world--they have the ability to think, read, communicate, and continue learning. These are all qualities that employers say they really want!

However, note that language under "liberal arts": "Hiring managers might see a liberal arts grad as someone who can't make a decision..."--and they may well "make a decision about your future for you by hiring you as an administrative assistant, office manager or paralegal." In other words--a secretary.

There's nothing wrong with being a secretary. I did it for a number of years before jumping back into academia. But it tends to be a dead-end in terms of climbing the career ladder. You are background noise as a secretary, never given a chance to shine, be noticed, be promoted. If you make yourself useful, you won't be promoted because you're too valuable right where you are. If you don't make yourself useful, you'll be let go--fired, downsized, whatever.

The take-away: before you're out there in the Real World clutching your new B.A. and wondering what's next, take the time to explore specific career fields. Decide what sectors look attractive (non-profits? advertising and social media? publishing?) Prepare yourself for that field by networking, doing coursework or extracurricular activity or internships, understanding the career ladder. If you don't--you may be pigeonholed.

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