Volume 92, Issue 26
Wednesday, October, 21 1998
bound and gagged
What to do with an arts degree
© Graphic by Brahm Wiseman
By Jael Lodge
For all those students graduating with a bachelor of arts in the class of 1999, it's time to panic. In a few short months you are going to be obliged to join the real world.
Soon, people are going to start asking that million dollar question "And what would you like to do when you grow up?" Or better yet, when they hear you have an arts degree, they might ask "What can you possibly do with that?"
"People are going for practical degrees," says Stacey Nash, a student in her fourth year of a political science degree at Western. "What people forget is that an arts degree teaches you how to think how to analyze things."
Although Nash intends to pursue graduate studies, she points out her career ambitions have changed since starting school. "I originally wanted to be a lawyer," she says. Instead, she hopes she may be able to combine career aspirations in government with her background in banking, having gained experience in that field through a part-time job she held while in school.
For many students who are starting from scratch in their search for a job, the first stop is the Career Centre at the Student Development Centre in the University Community Centre.
"We have a career counselling service that works with students in career choice, helping them to translate skills and interests into jobs," says Marie Murphy, coordinator of the Career Centre resource centre. Combinations of a degree and experience can be promoted to appeal to an employer where an applicant might not otherwise qualify, she notes.
Murphy also points to the other services offered by the centre, such as the Job Search Clinic, which can check resumés, help develop interview skills and all aspects of job search. "I would recommend coming in and working on a self-assessment," Murphy says to soon-to-be graduates.
Murphy also notes a difference in those who have used the centre to assist in their job search. "They are more focussed and have a clearer idea of what's available in the job market and what would suit them."
The career centre also maintains an extensive library of resources for job hunters, notes Murphy.
Another popular service provided by career services is the on campus recruiting program. Gemma Miranda, manager of special projects at Scotia Capital Markets, represents one employer which actively recruits on campus and has found this to be an effective way to locate potential employees.
"We're looking for bright students with the ability to grasp new concepts, accomplished both in academic and extra-curricular activities," she says, also noting experience in the industry, as well as other qualifications, such as the Canadian Securities Course, is a definite asset.
Not even one per cent of applicants are offered positions, says Miranda, noting, however, Western undergraduate applicants are fairly successful.
For those lucky enough to find jobs before graduation, the worries seem to be over. For everyone else, however, they are just beginning.
"This was actually a backup plan," says Crystal Mitchell, who graduated in the spring of 1998 with a bachelors degree in political science and is currently enrolled in the certificate in public relations management program at McGill University.
Mitchell made the decision to continue her education with a professional certificate after being unsuccessful in finding a job in the first few months after completing her BA.
Mitchell, who says she had no problem getting admission to the McGill program, says she is not the only one in her program to continue her studies after obtaining a BA. "There are no hard statistics, but I think that over 50 per cent of the students [in the program] already have degrees."
Mitchell also says she feels the time and expense will be worthwhile. "I think I have a better chance at finding a job," she says.
Dorothy Gryszczuk, liaison coordinator of marketing and communications at Fanshawe College, also points to the trend of university graduates returning for post degree qualifications. She noted a combination of a degree and a certificate is a popular choice among those searching for jobs.
"We receive a lot of inquiries about both programs that are post-diploma, as well as regular two-year certificate programs from university graduates," Gryszczuk says.
Not all students are satisfied with only a bachelor's degree and feel that in order to achieve their goals, a higher level of university education is needed. Kevin Inkster, a second-year economics student, plans on pursuing a masters in business administration after the completion of his undergraduate work.
"I don't think it's necessary, only to those who want to get into top management in the next 20 years," he says. "An MBA looks impressive on paper and helps you get your foot in the door. Salary-wise it's a world of difference."
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Copyright © The Gazette 1998