Forgetting the resume, a student’s attitude and commitment may be the best factor she can bring to the table. Which way will you head?
The recent economy has been similar to the morning after a rough college night.
Four years after the collapse of the housing market, job-hunting collegians still find it hard to escape the nation’s post-recession hangover.
Given the financial gloom, it does not take much to start a college student worrying about his future. No decision is left unquestioned — and the liberal arts student can be tempted to switch his studies in biology or English for an undergraduate business degree.
Business majors look attractive on paper: Mid-career salaries for students who studied business administration average 24% higher than psychology majors, one of America’s top liberal arts concentrations. These undergraduate degrees teach skills relatable to the workplace, and during a job interview, it is easier to explain the corporate benefits of Accounting 101 than a Human Sexuality course.
“My education so far has provided me a solid background in all aspects of business,” says Ara Garibyan, a sophomore studying finance in the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. “No matter what my particular concentration [at Wharton] is, I will have a great understanding in all things relating to business and economics.”
Garibyan’s sentiments reflect those of many undergraduates, a trend increasing due to the economic uncertainty.
While business majors have been growing in popularity since the recession, established banks and consulting firms still require new employees of all majors to undergo extensive training programs before starting their career. Many business majors are pursuing skills that are usually only learned on the job.
Furthermore, in a culture that considers “Wall Street” synonymous with “success,” students can forget the diversity of the job market. A recent graduate is much more likely to end up with one of the vast majority of careers that have no pre-professional track in college.
Even professional schools such as medicine and law accept students of all studies, making any major seem irrelevant.
Kenneth Skelton, a sophomore at Baylor University aspiring to be a commercial pilot, defends his political science major on these grounds. “I think it’s clear that a student’s choice of major is starting to matter less in the job hunt,” he says. “Students are finding employment further from what they studied.”
Both Garibyan and Skelton agree that a college concentration is not the golden ticket to a specific job. According to Garibyan, “an employer looks for someone to better the company,” not necessarily for someone who has taken specific courses.
Grades, not the major, are most crucial. “A political science student with a 3.7 or 3.8 G.P.A. is much more likely to land a career as a pilot than an aviation sciences student with a 3.0,” Mr. Skelton explains.
Students worried about the job search should remember that there are many factors at play apart from schoolwork.
As Garibyan describes it, these experiences demonstrate to employers that an individual has more than “just theory in [his] head.”
Forgetting the resume, a student’s attitude and commitment may be the best factor he can bring to the table.
Skelton agrees: “An aggressive go-getter who demonstrates a superior level of adaptability and aptitude still trumps one who happened to make it through college with a business degree in the process.”
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