Question of the Week # 7: What are some unexpected career paths for liberal arts majors?

Question of the Week #7: What are some unexpected career paths for liberal arts majors? – Emanuel Castaneda ‘16

As you may know, Emanuel, career paths are not always perfectly linear. For instance, you may not know where you will be career-wise five years down the road.  In From Bullfighting to Finance, Carmen Bermudez gives a great portrait of her career path and shows that where one starts out may not be necessarily where one ends up! With a liberal arts degree, the path to one’s “ultimate” career usually involves many twists and turns. This is primarily because liberal arts majors are extremely well rounded and suited for positions in a variety of industries. Here at Princeton, liberal arts majors aren’t only well versed in their specific major, but they have developed analytical, writing, problem solving, research, and communication skills—all traits that are extremely valuable in today’s job market! Don’t believe me? Check out this great Daily Finance article What Good Is a Liberal Arts Degree in the Job Market?.  Author Vanessa Richardson outlines some great techniques for liberal arts majors as they explore their career options. Here are some highlights from her article:

  • Believe in your degree
  • Sharpen your skills
  • Market your skills
  • Give your skills a boost
  • Draft a portfolio and cover letter that shows off your degree
  • Determine whether you need more education

Another resource that can help you explore some “unexpected career paths” is the Links by Industry page on the Career Services’ website.  Career Services’ posts links to a host of industries that might not be typical for liberal arts majors. Some that really caught my attention were the following: TV, Film, Entertainment, Religion, Sports-related, Manufacturing, Fashion, and Pharmaceuticals & BioTech. The Career Services Annual Report is also a great place to learn about the post-graduation career plans of graduating Princeton seniors.  Students reported accepting positions in fields such as Retail Trade, Health Care & Social Assistance, Information, Educational Services, Construction, Public Administration, and many more! Also included in the 2012 Summer Experience Report that offers a look at the types of summer opportunities Princeton students have pursued. Take a look at these publications to get a better feel for the types of industries hiring Princeton students and graduates.

All career paths can in some ways be deemed “unexpected.” Unless you have very solidified career goals such as going to medical school to become a physician or law school to become a lawyer, there really is no set equation that can predict where you end up. My advice to you is to really use your liberal arts education to become a well-rounded student and person. Take classes that both challenge and interest you. Try to amass and refine your skills so that you can be marketable in the job market later on. In “Strengthen Those Soft Skills” on the SavvyIntern site, author Dave Ellis points out that employers are seeking candidates with the soft skills gleaned through a liberal arts curricula. Seek out opportunities such as extracurricular activities, internships, and even volunteer work where you can further develop these skills, make connections and turn interests into passions. Sometimes the best career information may come from out of the box thinking or unconventional experiences. (For example, take a look at this great article about how one woman’s volunteer experience turned into a career opportunity).  Don’t limit your options—explore them while you are in school so you will plenty of future opportunities to choose from.

Make sure to set up an appointment with a career counselor today to speak one-on-one to someone who can help you get started exploring your interests. There are also lots of programs and resources for freshmen such as you to get the ball rolling. Check out Career Services’ infographic “Freshmen Year: 12 Steps to Begin Your Career Development,” for specific steps you can take now. (In fact, you should consider applying for a Princeternship as a great way for you to get an inside look at different career paths and receive invaluable advice from alumni. Applications are now live on TigerTracks!)

Hope this helps, Emanuel.