Preparing for the Job Market III: What if I don’t get a job right away?

This is the third in an on-going series of posts about preparing for the Job Market.  In post 1, we discussed some ways to articulate your skill set. In post 2, we talked about making the most of the interview opportunities available. Today we will discuss what to do if no job is immediately forthcoming after graduation.

First, DON’T PANIC! It is quite common for Liberal Arts majors of all sorts, American Studies majors included, to struggle to land that first big job. Studies show, however, that Liberal Arts majors are quite competitive in lifetime earnings over the long haul. According to a recent story in Inside Higher Ed, “By their mid-50s, liberal arts majors with an advanced or undergraduate degree are on average making more money [than] those who studied in professional and pre-professional fields, and are employed at similar rates.” So, once Liberal Arts students secure that first job, they do succeed and advance beyond their peers. Prepare to be in it for the long haul.

Second, clarify your goals. What is your dream career? What are you good at? What are you passionate about? What are you willing to settle for until you can identify your dream or make it a reality? What are you not willing to settle for? Once you have some sense of your long term goals, take stock of your skills and weaknesses relative to those goals, and . . .

Be willing to do some re-training with those goals in mind.

  • If you’d like to get a job in marketing, for example, what are your plans for learning about the industry and how it works? Are you willing to volunteer for an internship to get that vital on-the-job experience that will put you over the top. Note, again, you can get AMST credit for such an internship if you’re still in the coursework phase; ask Dr. Takacs for details, or see this blog post)?
  • If you want to be a writer, can you also construct a web page, run a blog, insert media into blog posts, etc.? Do you know how to code in Word Press or XHTML? Knowing how to write well is only part of what you need to know these days to succeed as a writer. You also need to be able to get your work out there. So, what can you do to learn the rest of the job? And how can you showcase what you’ve learned? (Go ahead and start a blog, for instance. It’s free, easy, and Dr. Takacs can show you how to do it if you take her Intro to Digital Humanities class in Spring 2018).
  • If you want to teach, you’ll need to get some training and experience in pedagogy, and you may need some additional content courses. Where can you get those skills or that knowledge? Hint: Graduate School in Education is one possibility, but so is Alternative Teacher Certification through the Oklahoma Department of Education. Are you ready to get that process started?

Finally, Professional Certificates are increasingly available from higher education institutions, like OSU, to allow people to specialize a bit more in a particular field. For example, you can get certificates in environmental studies, sustainable business management, customer interface excellence (i.e. sales), international competency, and other fields at OSU, and more are being developed all the time. Certificates may or may not signify excellence to employers, but they DO signify desire and commitment on your part. Better yet, they cost less in time and money than a post-graduate degree and will allow you to cultivate some additional human, cultural and social capital in the process. Translation, you will learn new job skills, gain more knowledge, and make connections that can help you find that first, great job.

In sum, while the job market for Liberal Arts majors remains a bit harder to enter, the good news is that “bachelor’s degree holders [of every sort continue to] earn 60 percent to 80 percent more on average than those without a college degree.” It is worth it, so hang in there, and let your professors in American Studies know how they can help you identify your goals and make useful contacts. We’re here to help.

Leave Comment