February 20, 2017, by Words on Words

What My Arts Degree Taught Me

This blog post was written by final year English student, Vicky Lorriman.

It’s the question many an Arts student dreads: ‘So, once you finish your degree, what are you actually going to DO?’ Or, even worse: ‘Ah, right, you study English? Are you going to be a teacher, then?’ As a third year English student, these questions concern me not only because the first implies that the Arts are not “real” subjects (a conundrum that is far too complex to tackle here), but because they pigeonhole students of the Arts as only able to apply what they have learned within an educational context. After having to answer these questions far too many times, I have decided to share a few skills that I have picked up whilst studying towards my undergraduate degree in English, to demonstrate that a degree in the Arts actually equips us with many transferable skills that are valued by employers across a range of employment sectors – so when your Great Uncle John asks you that dreaded question, for the seventh time, you can reply with a sound answer.

Remember that group project you had to do which was pretty challenging and involved copious amounts of late-night messaging on Facebook and group meetings just to get it done? Tiring, yes. Pointless? No. Imagine yourself in an interview situation for a role in project management. Wait… Project management? We wrote a group essay on the representation of masculinity in Twelfth Night. That may well be so, but what if the employer asks, ‘Can you give me an example of a time in which you had to work with others to meet a set deadline?’ Undertaking any form of group project, albeit about Twelfth Night, involves creating logically-organised plans with a clear path that take into account any problems or milestones necessary to complete the task for the deadline. Group members must monitor, summarise and discuss their progress with other group members. You may have set your own mini-deadlines along the way. Perhaps you are more suited to project management than you think.

And what about that nerve-wracking oral presentation that you spent ages practising and cutting down words to ensure the presentation was exactly five minutes long? Working in marketing requires you to be able to relay quickly fact-based insights to your colleagues, in order to address needs and problems of the business. Working in any part of communications necessitates an ability to extract key information from large documents, alongside the structured synthesis and evaluation of this information. So, what exactly do you think you were doing when you gathered all those critical quotes, shuffled them around and applied them to your opinion on Waiting for Godot?

Hopefully, these brief pointers toward the potential career options open to Arts students will help you to realise your own capabilities, and encourage you to investigate a wide range of employment opportunities once you have graduated. Even if you’re still unsure about a future career, then at least you can appease the grandparents.

Vicky Lorriman

[Featured images Pixabay / CC0 1.0]

Posted in Student Words