February 21, 2020, by Imogen Worrall
Applying Academic Focus to Wider Careers
By Imogen Worrall, Archaeological Science student blogger
From GCSE onwards, we are taught to specialise. Narrowing down the number of subjects further and further until at university we are left, usually, with just one. From there, focus shifts into specialisation, commonly in the form of a dissertation. Continuing along the academic path, it becomes easy to get fixated on that passion that has sustained and driven your studies. Finally, at the end, you’re hoping for a job in that one special subject.
The spiral into specialisation
When I started thinking about careers, all the way back in secondary school, I knew I wanted to be an academic. From there began a path of spiralling focus as I dropped subjects that I felt were not relevant to my studies. At A-Level I dropped a whole host of subjects in my quest to specialise. By the time I started my undergraduate at the University of Nottingham, I had firmly decided on what I wanted to study for the rest of my life. By Christmas in my second year, I already had a topic for my dissertation. This very same topic has influenced my postgraduate degree and is a big part of my plans for further research. I won’t be the only one. Across the world, aspiring students will be heading down winding paths that thin to a narrow tip. In other words; expertise.
Reality and realisation
As an archaeology student, I am frequently asked ‘but what’s the point?’. After all, there are few jobs in archaeology (even less are well paying) and while it can lead to other careers, why not take more relevant subjects? It is a question that many of us find ourselves wrestling with. And with that comes the realisation that specialisation is not the be all and end all. You have to know how to apply your specialisation to a broad range of careers. To make it relevant to a wider audience.
I recently attended the Troy: Myth and Reality exhibit at the British museum. The museum itself was heaving and the exhibit packed. The myth of Troy, first recorded over two thousand years ago was relevant to more than just the classicists and historians. The exhibit was filled with quotes, vases, marbles and paintings all showing the reception of the myth from ancient Greece to the modern world. Even archaeology from the Bronze Age, thought to be the era of the Homeric heroes, made the cut. The narrow focus of the Trojan War had been marketed to a wider audience as something we can all enjoy and benefit from.
Taking your degree further
Going forwards, this is a theme that is becoming increasingly recognised. Transferable skills have always been highlighted but frequently in a way to escape from the narrow fields. Instead, as students we must look to how to apply our focus to the wider world. A specialisation should be like the trunk of a tree; drawing from a multitude of roots and leading to a wide canopy of future potential.
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