Life after graduation... what will you do? How will you maximize your education? What career doors are open? What others might open down the road? Here are some thoughts to help you begin thinking and preparing as you complete your Social Science Interdisciplinary degree.
Marketing the Liberal Arts
You probably noticed that there are no job listings in the local paper for Social Science Interdisciplinarians. Yikes! Does that mean your degree is unmarketable? Well actually... the employment picture is more complicated than that.
The interdisciplinary degree is really not geared as vocational training. In other words, it does not prepare you for one particular field. While majors like Architecture or Accounting do work towards specialized career pathways, most liberal disciplines, Social Science included, tend to be less specific in their career preparation.
However... it is important to distinguish between less specific and less valuable. In lieu of vocational training, the liberal disciplines provide important general preparation. Even if you do not have career-specific training to offer potential employers, you still have developed many abilities that they might want. Which of the following have you gained from your interdisciplinary education?
- Research skills
- Communication skills
- Team project experience
- Writing skills
- Computer & multi-media competency
- Habits of critical thinking
- Problem-solving heuristics
- Broad bases of knowledge
- Informed perspectives about the world
- Habits of time management
These are all traits that employers find desirable. AND your skills apply to many different roles in many different organizations precisely because they are general. The trick, then, is to effectively market what you have to offer. Even the best products are only as successful as their ability to communicate that quality to consumers.
Breadth Versus Depth
The interdisciplinary degree does differ from other liberal degrees. It requires less expertise in one particular discipline... less depth. This is a potential problem in marketing yourself. You may have to fight the devaluation of your education as just a general degree.
Why does it matter? First, there are links between certain fields and certain disciplines. Some jobs simply favor some disciplines because the work is closely related to the study. For example, an extensive history background and curating a history museum definitely connect. Taking history courses as part of an interdisciplinary curriculum often may not be viewed as an adequate equalizer. Second, others may simply worry that your learning has been too shallow... that you missed some thinking skills derived from comprehensive study. Deep and systematic knowledge in one discipline may be associated, in the views of some employers, with the ability to master deep and systematic knowledge in career fields down the road. That concern is not necessarily pervasive among those that hire from the liberal disciplines, but you should still be proactive in countering it.
So how might you combat this general degree perception? Here are some ideas:
- Prove yourself in the workplace
While working now or after graduation (even if it is not your ideal job) you'll have opportunities to display versatile and insightful job performance. Once you prove your ability to learn, grow and gain expertise in the workplace, that pretty much becomes the bottom line for future employers. A reputation for “
knowing your stuff” should erase most general degree prejudices very quickly.
- Highlight the value of breadth
Make your interdisciplinary education part of your marketing strategy. Can you demonstrate how your ability to approach real-world problems from multiple perspectives has been enhanced by your degree? Has sociology and economics already helped you diagnose a problem in the workplace? Can you utilize political science and anthropology to assess important industry trends if asked? Highlight what your interdisciplinary degree has uniquely done for you.
- Communicate your program of study
Some employers may simply not understand your degree. Can you show them the positive aspects of your curriculum? Maybe some of your courses are even worth mentioning by name. Remember that your Social Science theme represents a unique kind of depth in itself. Your thematic focus can become a good marketing tool, particularly if it relates directly to the career field. For example, an interdisciplinary look at Ethnicity in America might be especially valued within organizations that deal frequently with diverse populations.
The Degree in Context
So your degree is potentially marketable. It does have some unique strengths and unique obstacles to overcome. Having established all that, the number one thing to remember is that no degree constitutes your “
ticket” into a job. The outcome of your job hunt hinges on more than just your diploma. Your workplace training and performance, volunteer efforts, personal reputation, people skills, personal contacts, extracurricular activities, et cetera are also crucial parts of “
the package” that you present to potential employers. Market each to its proper measure.
Laying the Groundwork
Here are some things you can do to PREPARE for the moment of actually applying for the job.
Use Your Campus Resources
Reading this page counts. However, the really important step is to diligently utilize K-State Career Center in the Berney Family Welcome Center. Internet resources, workshops, internship coordination, career fairs and recruiting programs, consultation availability... these are all excellent opportunities to get the ball rolling. And the sooner you learn about what they offer, the sooner you can use everything efficiently. Consider the K-State Career Center your number-one resource for looking past graduation.
Who you know really does matter. But shallow manipulation of peripheral friends for personal gain is not really what we mean here. People you know can probably tell you about new opportunities and help you better understand particular career fields. They may know about jobs that are not advertised where you're looking. Many people you've forged connections with know things worth knowing, but you need to initiate the conversation for that transmission of knowledge to take place.
Be Excellent Right Now
Many of you are working currently. When you go out to convince an employer that you will do a great job, having done a great job previously certainly helps you make your case, even if the job was part-time and unrelated. On the other hand... well... why should an employer risk an open position on tepid past performance. In short, never underestimate the role of good work now in opening doors later.
Watch the Grades
You'll hear the saying Grades are not everything. That really is true. GPA typically becomes less important as you get further into your career. Actual work performance matters much more. However... Grades are something is still mostly accurate regarding initial job searches after college. Work for the best GPA you can. If the results still fall short however, remember that grades, like the degree, only represent one aspect of your marketability. How do you want an employer to interpret your GPA? Design interview answers and application materials to foster that interpretation.
Pick Some Targets
Knowing where you might want to work eventually, and where they might hire you, gives you some additional avenues of preparation. You can research more fully. You can get knowledgeable about the trends and issues involved in the field. You can find extracurricular activities that offer relevant experiences. You can check into related internship possibilities. You can also seek part-time jobs that will give you an inside view and provide relevant training.
Use Your Internet
The Internet is probably here to stay. Use it to research and sharpen your picture of the terrain. The more you know, the more opportunities you'll uncover. Remember that checking the Internet is an ongoing process. New pages (and new jobs perhaps) are constantly appearing. One of them may be the key you need. Also remember that not everybody on the Internet is right about everything. Comparing sources will help you better define which information you should accept and which you should reject. Career and Employment Services offers a great nexus of sites to serve as your entry point into the web.
Here are some jobs that Social Science Interdisciplinary majors have recently landed after graduation. Their variety demonstrates how the degree was only one part of the hiring picture. Note that some of the positions probably required additional education. While the list might spark some ideas, remember that your career search will be unique. Don't let this list confine you. This information was taken from data compiled by Career & Employment Services.
- Loan Processor
- Manager / Assistant Manager
- Insurance Sales Agent
- Public Relations Personnel
- Associate Human Resources Director
- Marketing Support Staff
- Sales / Account Representative
- Administrative Assistant
- Delivery Person
- Title Officer
- Youth Counselor
- Genealogy Researcher
- Personnel Dept. Position Analyst
- Registered Nurse
- Claims Assistant
- Office Assistant / Secretary
- Research Investigator
- Childcare Program Director
- Leadership Consultant
- Medical Records Technician
- Residence Hall Director
- Assistant Newspaper Editor
- Assistant Golf Pro
- Military Officer
- Crisis Shelter Personnel
- Case Manager
- Bank Teller
- Postal Carrier
- Athletic Coach
- Remedial Reading Teacher
- Manufacturing Personnel
- Preschool Teacher
- Broadcasting Technical Producer
- Certification Officer
- Purchasing Agent
- Team Support Coordinator
The Beginning at the End
This discussion really just begins the process. Much more sweat and toil awaits if you're willing... so this seems like an appropriate place for some key points to help broadly frame your search.
- Think several moves ahead
If your options for “
first job after graduation” are not what you ideally wanted, that does not mean your career is DOA. Those positions might grow into better positions down the road or give you the necessary training for new opportunities. You are not looking for your whole career... just the next good stepping stone.
- Do some reading
Lots of books tackle how to conduct an effective job search. The Academic and Career Information Center has many of them. You might also try www.jobhuntersbible.com, the web companion to What Color is Your Parachuteby Richard Bolles. Parachute is considered a classic job-hunting resource, and its site guides you through career resources on the web and details some other books that might assist you.
- Avoid tunnel vision about working for others
Many of you have the skills and chutzpah to just start your own businesses. If you are not sure who will hire you, maybe you should just hire yourself. Or maybe that will be an excellent career option several years down the road as well, after you have learned an industry from the inside. If you are considering this option, the Small Business Administration website can give you some good initial information.
- Your diploma does not prohibit additional training
If you see an interesting career direction that might open with some additional coursework, perhaps some more specific vocational training, don't be afraid to look into it. More and more people are viewing education as an ongoing process. Whatever happens, your degree will complement any additional study you add to your portfolio.
- Avoid tunnel vision about certain fields
Remember that lots of people have good careers doing things you've never even thought about before. Get off the beaten path. There is life and opportunity beyond The Fortune 500. And your interdisciplinary outlook should give you the versatile thinking skills necessary to learn and succeed in these varied environments.