Like Me? Follow Me.
When out with a large group of friends and relatives recently, I found myself sat opposite a friend of the family who owns a business. The business is relatively small, and according to my vague understanding has something to do with marketing. Anyway, we got to talking and, as a recent graduate myself, I inquired as to his thoughts on the age-old ‘Degree vs. Experience’ debate, those two dark monoliths of the employment market.
You’ll forgive me for paraphrasing his response, wine has somewhat muddied my memory, but it went something like ‘Oh degrees, yeah they’re relatively low on my list of priorities to be honest. What I’m looking for is someone who has a proven track record in the job, good experience, and someone who’s going to fit into the team.’
As a recent addition to the I-COM team, I’m not long out of the employment market myself and am well aware of the pervasiveness of the ‘must have at least one year’s relevant experience’ job advert addendum – how it used to upset me, sitting at home endlessly browsing Monster for something, please something that was relevant to my degree subject (English Literature and Creative Writing).
Ever the glutton for punishment, like a limpet I clung to the idea of Copywriting, the Holy Grail, yet time and time again my lack of experience was holding me back, but how could I get experience if no-one would give me a job without experience? Did no-one care about my three years of toil at university?
Is it Worthless Though?
If you ask me (and you haven’t, but I’ll tell you anyway), it’s not; not at all. It’s just that we’re entering the whole university experience with a muddied perception of what we’ll have at the end. Unfortunately, an arts degree, or any kind of degree, is not an automatic pass into the employment market.
There is an increasingly prominent idea that University constitutes some sort of step in a career ladder, and the institutions themselves are encouraging it. Universities nowadays advertise themselves on their statistics; how many people have gone into full-time employment, what jobs are they in, how much are they earning?
Now, if you’re there for a Medical or a Law degree, this is no doubt true. In fact Law graduates can expect to earn between 24% and 30% more than people who left school immediately after A Levels. But is it really true of an Arts degree? Of course not.
If you choose Arts, you’re choosing philosophy, history, literature; you’re choosing a path of intellectual inquisition and acquisition. What you’re not doing, is getting your foot in the door, climbing a rung in the ladder or particularly impressing your future employers, which is why so many arts graduates turn to teaching.
Studying the Arts at university is almost the direct antithesis of the business world, which is why all those Arts graduates are sitting around twiddling their thumbs after graduation saying ‘What now?’, whilst all their ultra-organised marketing and business studies contemporaries are already eating at the captain’s table and applying for The Apprentice.
Now every man, woman and his/her dog goes to uni (has this popular saying suffered from the PC treatment?), they’ve had to diversify, which is no bad thing. Surely there’s no-one pining for the good old days when women weren’t allowed and foppish, upper class men lounged on the lawn musing aimlessly (well, maybe...). The Arts has been left behind, and all the proper jobs are for business, science and engineering graduates, unless you’re willing to do a post degree conversion in accountancy, law or some other vocational subject.
But don’t listen to those miserable types – you know the ones, moaning about all the debt they’ve accrued during their university careers, desperately trying to rain on everyone else’s parade as a salve for their own inadequacies. There are homes for arts graduates in business, and there are Arts-based opportunities for the chosen few with the killer combination of drive, ambition and creativity (If only...).
As long as you’re not the kind of person who gauges success by how much money you earn (or owe), you can feel good about your Arts degree; perhaps you even want to be a teacher.
Don’t Get Lost in Translation
Arts degrees are chock full of translatable skills – research skills, writing abilities, creative thinking and the general worldliness that comes with knowing a little bit more than your peers about where we’ve come from, not to mention the fact that you’ve stuck with something for three years, met deadlines and come out with a recognisable grade at the end.
We know the papers are doom and gloom, just look at the ‘swine flu’ debacle; they may as well report on the common cold. It’s therefore inevitable that they will also report on the ‘grave state of affairs’ in the UK jobs market, not to mention the state of graduate employment, as it’s a fantastic way of having a dig at a Labour government who encouraged more and more teenagers to consider university.
What I’m saying is, pay them no mind. Yes things are bad at the moment, but the internet is a limitless resource, constantly expanding, and the freedom it allows also allows for economic capitalisation and consistent business expansion. Arts degrees can be easily translated into the world of internet marketing, copywriting and web design – choosing the right words to perfectly describe a clients’ product, targeting your copy to appeal to a particular audience, researching keywords that will ensure your website is found by the right people, designing a website that looks fantastic and is easy to use…
Don’t get lost in translation, steer clear of those graduate sales adverts and hold out (if you can) for a job that will utilise the skills you’ve acquired. It’s done; you can’t go back so you may as well go forward, and moaning about student debt, which is relatively small and friendly in real-world terms, won’t help. Wear that BA with pride, re-draft your CV and get yourself back on Recruitment.com, Monster, Jobsite, Prospects, etc. You know the drill.