May

26

Perhaps A Career in Radio?

Written by

Hey, recent graduates, still having trouble finding a job? You’re not alone. This morning on NPR’s Morning Edition, CC ’09’s Emma Jacobs got four minutes to tell the nation about her struggles finding a job.

The big problem, according to Jacobs, is her major: “A history major like me doesn’t come with many specialized skills besides research. These days, it’s difficult to convince people to take a chance on an entry-level hire,” especially when the competition has “master’s degrees and years of work experience.”  

She admits that the process, including getting three rejections in one week, has been frustrating. “I’m not questioning my abilities,” she says, “but I have been questioning my choices, knowing students with engineering degrees are still finding jobs. And many of the positions I am equipped to fill are disappearing.” Score one for SEAS.

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40 Comments

  1. Ok. I'll say it.

    Why would you (only) major in history if you're expecting to hit the job market right after college?

    That's a grad school major if I've ever seen one. Don't these kids visit their advisers at all?

  2. hold on

    the real issue is that the average history major expects that they will be banking like engineers and econ/finance folks. you wont.

    there are plenty of traditional history major jobs out there, just maybe down salary from your hope. there are dozens of jobs in the 20k to low 30k range that columbia humanities and softer social sci majors are extremely equipped for. they just may not be as glorified as others. if you are willing to put in 2-3 years, go back to grad school (law, masters or other) you would be surprised that you will get going right to where you want to be.

    it is the 'disbelief' syndrome that bothers me. if a place is hiring 2 people and gets 100 applications, then why are you struggling to figure out why even in a good economy you would be hired. it is not a problem with the major, it is a problem with students preparedness.

    and last i checked with friends working in DC, is that the doors are still open and places are still hiring.

    • sort of

      I'm not sure your argument about graduate degrees holds for an economy like this. Putting in the extra years and (depending on your degree) taking on loads of debt improves your odds, but it really doesn't guarantee much. I've run across plenty of people holding master's degrees who are having trouble finding stable work.

      That's not to say history majors are entitled to big salaries straight out of college -- it's true, you reap what you sow -- but an MA (JD, MS, whatever) isn't a silver bullet. Nor is majoring in physics, apparently.

      Also, while I'm sure there are some exceptions, the history majors I know don't expect to be paid like econ/engineering folks. Some treat it as a trade-off that comes with studying a subject they love; others seem to tolerate it as just deserts for not pursuing a more career-oriented major.

      But no one in this segment and none of my close friends who studied history seem particularly hung up on a high paying job, unless you consider $20-30K the big bucks. The problem seems to be finding full-time work to begin with, which was quite a bit easier for a humanities/social sciences major a few years ago.

      I'm glad I didn't have to organize my course schedule around my expected career path. I have all the respect in the world for people who buckled down and studied engineering, econ, etc., and I chose my major knowing full well that it would limit my job prospects coming out of school, but I appreciated the chance to go through Columbia without feel bound by my post-college plans.

      It's worth remembering that lots of successful, interesting people in the world majored in subjects unrelated to their current fields (or had no idea what the fuck they wanted to do with their lives in college). They probably didn't get paid much right out of school, either.

      • name

        i don't have a problem with what you say, though i do think that working and then getting advanced degrees with purpose really are helpful. you can't be a lawyer nowadays by just being a paralegal. graduate and professional degrees are helpful and in many case necessary. and consider if you get a graduate degree in a down economy it means you might be getting out in an upswing, you will have more currency than those who are in the job market now.

        i know a lot of history folks who tinge at the fact that their major makes them earn less and in a lower bracket. in fact i knew fewer history folks that loved the subject than did it as a fall back major or as a premed or prelaw substitute. no diss to you or the npr girl (though i did listen to her interview and was unimpressed) as you may be exceptions to the rule.

        anyhow i think you would agree with me that there are a lot more jobs (even in this economy) than most people would presume available. i know tons of job postings that come through to me each day. i do think that people are shocked by where they are positioned thinking that the ivy league degree will get them further. it will get them a job over the equivalant at times though. that's an aight deal.

  3. score one?

    We all know SEAS kids are the only ones getting hired right out of undergrad. It's more like score a million.

  4. hmm

    does the fact that she's losing out to people with masters degrees maybe indicate that it would be best to stop competing with them and...apply to get one?

    of course, that's easier said than done. an alum and former history major, I didn't want to do a phd right out of college, so I applied for fellowships for masters. I didn't get one, still couldn't get a job (this was BEFORE the economy imploded) and wound up in law school.

    the problem with law is that it's perfect for the skill set of a history major (researching precedent and making creative arguments about it) but completely lacks the grandeur that attracts people to the major in the first place. fancy moving from your sweeping thesis about the russian revolution to a memo about technical exceptions to obscure SEC regulations?

    history is one of columbia's most popular majors, but it must only attract people who are committed to be history professors or lawyers or people who are not planning ahead to the future. even english majors have better career prospects out of college on average, because their "language skills" make them valued in fields like publishing, media, and teaching.

  5. we all know

    there is not much you can do with a history degree besides teach.

  6. welcome

    to the real world kids...

  7. Anonymous

    Is it just me or are the crowns missing?

    Unless of course, this is a day when all alums have decided to write to us.

  8. emma!

    this is one way to get on npr :)

  9. CC '09

    I majored in social sciences. I got a job as a paralegal. I know SEAS kids who still haven't found jobs.

    It is unfair to boil down unemployment to one's major. Demonstrated interest in one's potential employers, hard work on the job hunt (i.e. stalking craigslist, utilizing contacts, etc.), prior work/internship experience, good credentials, and solid references can and eventually will get you a job, regardless of your major. That's not to say that the job hunt isn't hard right now--I definitely devoted a large portion of my spring semester to it.

    Best of luck to recent grads still searching and hang in there!!!

  10. question

    so looking at people's grad pics and there are a lot of different kinds of ropes etc worn/attached to the robes. What do they mean/ what do you have to do to get one?

  11. let this be a lesson

    Get good summer jobs/internships before you graduate. You do NOT want to be fresh to the job market when you graduate.

    Also... when your major doesn't give you an easy career path, consider sales. If you're good at it, there's boatloads of money to be bad.

  12. grad

    Anyone claiming their CC major is holding them back evidently didn't learn very much while they were here. As several commenters have pointed out, there are numerous career fields open to history majors and just about anyone else, many of them quite lucrative.

    While a lot of employers gravitate toward particular undergraduate majors, it's not like demonstrated interest, internships, and intelligence don't get humanities majors hired all the time. What do you think graduates of "small liberal arts colleges" do after they graduate? Live in boxes? I'm sure some of them do, but the rest are just like their future employers—interested in real skills and not only what classes you took.

    The fact of the matter is that very very few entry-level jobs require a highly specialized skillset. Very few majors provide one anyway.

    I personally know CC alumni who majored in history and are now working in education administration, finance, consulting, journalism, and law. I'm sure there are other opportunities out there, too.

  13. wtv

    you guys r all stoopd. i dont rele care. let's get some more seniors in non ledersphip positions for senior wisdom

  14. by theway

    u uidiots forgot to tag nhu-y ngo's seniro wisdom do that ASAP or i will shit somewhere

  15. Oh fuck

    Guess who transfered from SEAS to CC to be a history major >.>

  16. There's a reason

    or at least there should be that we CC history kids picked the liberal arts education over a more vocational-esque school like Northwestern or Johns Hopkins. We like learning. I know I sure as hell didn't declare with a specific job in mind, but thinking that I'm paying a lot of money to be here and excel and that I am more likely to excel studying something that I care about.

    In any event, studying history gives you a heap of skills besides research . . . writing? analysis? eloquence? organization? discipline? . . . Sure those might not wow a potential employer by themselves, but they sure help you get great internships where you can develop more marketable skills specific to office life. We live in New York City. We have an awesome career office. If you were so concerned about being marketable upon graduation, you should have devoted some effort to getting internships during the year when things are actually happening, rather than during the year.

    Also, in case you're not aware, the history major is not hard to complete AT ALL; and nothing is stopping us from taking tons of electives in "more useful" or at least different departments. Also, the core should at least have broadened your horizons a little. That's kind of the whole point of Columbia: build yourself a solid base and learn how to analyze about the world. If you did well at that, you should be able to give a pretty interesting interview and write a damn fine cover letter.

    There's a lot missing from her account: how successful she was at Columbia, what jobs or at least internships she's held previously, the types of jobs she's applying for, whether or not she used the career center, what her interests are other than history, etc. And those things clearly make a difference. I think this girl is completely misrepresenting Columbia by suggesting that a) our history department is so limited that it produces drones who can do nothing but sit in the library and research, b) that the school somehow encourages pigeon-holing oneself like our more compartmentalized peer instutions, and c) that there is nothing special about a Columbia education that can give you skills beyond just your major . . . like, oh I don't know, taking the core, taking electives, getting leadership positions in clubs, getting involved in the arts, living in a city with more opportunities for growth and learning and adventure than anywhere else in the country.

    You should graduate from this place as a fascinating, well-rounded, thoughtful adult . . . Not just a boring history major who can research and write outlines. If Emma didn't do that, it's her fault -- not that of the economy or her chosen academic pursuit.

  17. SEAS Alum

    Many of you claim history (or whatever liberal arts) majors chose their majors because they wanted to pursue an education they'd enjoy rather than something practical. This implies people who major in econ (or finance at other schools), engineering, chemistry, etc. are doing it solely because they are training a skillset, and this is totally wrong. I'd say the average student who majors in sciences loves the material more than the average liberal arts major.

    Think of how many people you know who majored in History just because it was easy and they didn't know what else to choose. Now consider how many majored in Physics for the same reason. Add to this the fact that if you don't really enjoy the science-y major you're in you will drown, and you have students who both enjoy their studies AND have real-world knowledge and skills. Isn't that kind of the point of higher education?

    The fact of the matter is that choosing a useless major you enjoy is selfish. You are choosing to enrich your own knowledge while in no way preparing to add anything back to society. Let's face it, extremely few of you are going to write great American novels/create an art masterpiece/whatever. Most engineers will work on something people will use, be it their cell phone, the food they eat, the plastic container for that food, their car, tv, refrigerator, etc. People in the natural sciences will either also be working on these implementations, or working on the theory that leads to the implementation by the engineers.

    • Why live?

      What's the point of having these practical things in our lives? I have a better cell phone to communicate, I have more food to be better nourished, but why?

      The great novels and art of the world enrich our society, as we also need your cell phone to call each other and decide when to meet up at the art museum or the concert hall.

      Majoring in something that interests you is not selfish, wasting your parents money on material you will ultimately forget is. Practicality is good, so I applaud you for being an engineer, but maybe you should realize the importance of different life choices.

      I'm guessing you didn't opt to take CC while at SEAS or perhaps you don't care about being a robot.

      • SEAS Alum Pt II

        I agree, there are great works of art in various forms. However, technology is not merely a means to view culture, nor does not being artsy make someone a robot. I got an A in each semester of CC as well, thank you very much.

        The point I was trying to get across is that a large portion of engineers will work on tangibly giving back to society. This can hardly be said of humanities majors. How many English majors will write something worth reading? How many history majors will develop an idea not discussed before? How many art majors will make something that will be seen other than by friends or family?

        A bigger portion of engineers will make something that will be used by, or at least affect, thousands or millions of people. This can range from a better glue used to hold the teflon onto a non-stick pan or the deployment system of a cluster bomb.

        Long story short: science changes the world. Art merely reflects that change. Which do you think is more important?

  18. CC '08  

    I majored in history and am now working a quantitative trading job on Wall St.

    A major means very little. As others have said, there are tons of things you can do for your resume that will make you attractive to employers outside your direct field. Internships, electives, interests, showing somehow that you have quantitative skills - these, plus a good gpa can get you interviews for almost every job.

  19. GPA

    How about we make a post telling professors' TAs to give us back our grades? It's been a while already, and I want my grade already

  20. I have

    All my grades as of a week ago. Your TAs are slow.

  21. I got told...

    that I was "too smart" for a $14/hr legal clerk position. wtf? I just want a job to pay rent before law school!!

    • uh-huh

      yup. lots of people stuck in this trap - either 'overqualified' for entry level jobs, or lacking requisite experience. you can have as many internships as you want and still be screwed without 'real' experience, particularly in a market like this. the problem isn't that there aren't ways to get general experience, the problem is that there aren't paid jobs that exist for people who have who have not been able to get the right kind yet.

      oh, and the career office was pretty much exclusively focused on finance until opportunities in that field pretty much ceased to exist. if you were interested in "alternative careers" (read: everything else), they would shove a short pamphlet in your hands and tell you good luck.

      oh, wait. once they held a "media networking night" wherein a gentleman from conde nast told me to wait until my better-connected classmates got jobs, and to hit them up then.

  22. grades back

    agreed. Does anybody know when grades were due?

  23. wtf

    are you talking about... i'm sorry, but you're just flat out wrong...

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