Help, My First Job Is a Disaster!

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True or false: The major you choose in college will dictate what you do for your entire career.  Did you choose true?  Well consider this: a certain actor, prankster and ex-husband of an older woman majored in Biochemical Engineering in college. Would you have ever predicted Ashton Kutcher’s career from that major?

Don’t misunderstand: I am not saying that what you learn in college isn’t useful. It just may not be useful in the way you anticipated. Sure, in many cases the content of your major provides theories, facts and techniques that can be directly applied in the workplace. Often, that content is supplemented and enhanced on the job as a new employee is taught an employer’s way of doing things.  In many other cases, the content of what you learn is not as important as the skills you develop in the classroom and the lab, like critical thinking, logical writing, oral presentation or working on a team.

The same principle applies to your first job.  Obviously, it’s insanely great to be hired by your dream company for the perfect position right off the bat. But it is not a career-ending catastrophe when your first post-graduation gig is far from the ideal you envisioned.

Maybe another quiz will help make my point.  Consider the following list of jobs: Lion tamer, paralegal, congressional page, accountant, special needs teacher, mortuary cosmetologist, hair salon receptionist, high school drama teacher, party clown.

Who do you think held which job before the start of their “real” career? Christopher Walken, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Ray Romano, Sheryl Crow, Whoopi Goldberg, Beyonce, Jon Hamm, Hugh Jackman.

(Answer: jobs are listed in the same order as the people who held them.)

It’s not too hard to imagine the transferable skills these rich and famous folks may have developed at their early jobs. Courage, patience, and humility come to mind; public speaking, relationship building, and detail orientation do as well.  After walking into a cage with a lion, or being responsible for applying makeup for a deceased person, a job interview might not seem that intimidating.

The reality for most new grads is that student loans are due, rent has to be paid and food put on the table. And even if you’re happy moving back to live with your family for a while, it’s a good idea not to leave a sizeable gap on your resume between your graduation date and your first job.  So don’t hold out indefinitely for the perfect job, and don’t stress if you need to take one that is second best.  Instead, challenge yourself to learn all you can while you’re there, even if your work wardrobe includes a red nose and floppy shoes.

Author Susan Loffredo began counseling NU students well before the iPhone was invented and owns socks that are older than the class of 2013. Email her at s.loffredo@neu.edu.

The Lost Art of… Art (as a major)

art history picThis guest post was written by Katie Merrill, an NU and BC alum and Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at NU.

I can remember being eighteen years old and having just gotten accepted to my dream college. I was sitting with the student handbook and course catalogue in my lap, and flipping through all the possible majors I could declare.  There were classes I had never seen before, topics I was eager to explore, and a few I was thankful to be free from (goodbye math!!!). I remember my father telling me that I could major in anything I wanted, that the purpose of college was the quest for knowledge (he comes from a liberal arts mindset), and so scanning the pages I picked out the two subjects I liked the best in high school: history and art.  I couldn’t decide which I wanted to pursue, so I figured why not squish them together? Mind you, I had never taken an art history course before in my life, but I liked museums and Indiana Jones’ adventures as an archaeologist, so I thought that was reason enough to declare an Art History major. I spent four years studying all the great artists through the ages, and even spent a semester in Italy taking art lessons and eating gelato.

Not once, during my entire undergraduate career, did I have that desperate thought I hear so often today as an advisor: “But what am I going to do with That?…”

The answer? Anything you want. My degree in art history taught me to examine things analytically, to write well, and to understand how others organize thoughts and information. Did it lead me to becoming a world renowned Art Historian? No. But it could have, if I hadn’t had an internship at a highly regarded art museum, during which I learned that I had no interest in becoming a curator.  Pouring over texts in Dutch and spending all day in the underbelly of a museum was not my passion. (Note: the basement of even the most beautiful museum still looks like a basement.) The point is that it was the skills I learned that mattered, not necessarily the content. That is why experiences are so important to your undergraduate education.  Very basically, experiences teach us about our likes and dislikes. Better yet, intentional and meaningful experiences can teach us about what we do or do not like about a career path.  They can teach us our strengths and weaknesses, about our abilities to adapt, our way of interpreting new information, and they can shape our values and goals.

I am not saying that everyone should switch majors to pursue something with art.  What I am saying, is don’t rule anything out completely because you have rationalized in your head that one major is going to set you on a path to success, while another will condemn you to eating ramen for the rest of your life.  I think it is important to pursue what you love and stop worrying so much about the end result. Skills and experiences are what lead you to succeed, not necessarily the specific content you studied. After all, that’s what graduate school is for.

Katie Merrill HeadshotKatie is an Academic Advisor for the Honors Program at Northeastern University. She studied art history as an undergraduate in Boston, and received her Masters degree in College Student Development and Counseling from the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University. She likes to run and cook in her free time. 

Blending Art and Business: A New Dual Major Opportunity

image source: www.fastweb.com

image source: www.fastweb.com

This guest post was written by Sam Carkin, a sophomore studying Marketing and Interactive Media.

I was going to be an architect major. I had visited architecture firms all over the area, toured fourteen campuses for the major, and was dead set on pursuing this profession. Then, like most 18-year-olds, I changed my mind less than a month before applications were due. I felt my creativity was going to be limited to just structures, so I looked for other ways I could channel this desire for a creative profession and came across marketing.

Marketing allowed me to be creative in problem solving, content-creation, strategy, and many other areas, and I realized I had found my future. However, there was one school that stood out as being able to provide me with a cutting-edge education in this industry, and that school was Northeastern, thanks to its dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media that was still in development at the time. Well this dual major is now official, and the number of students enrolled in it is growing every semester. It brings together the art school and business school to create future professionals that can “speak both languages” and become highly effective in the worlds of marketing and advertising.

Since class sign-ups are just around the corner, I highly recommend that interested students check out the list of required courses for the dual major. I also encourage making an appointment with someone in the advising office of the D’Amore-McKim School of Business so they can further assist in planning course schedules going forward. I am excited to see this awesome program continue to grow in the years to come!

Sam Carkin is currently in his sophomore year at Northeastern University. He is a dual major of Business Administration-Marketing and Interactive Media and will be going on his first co-op in July. Feel free to contact him at carkin.s@husky.neu.edu with any questions related to the blog post or his experiences.