In December 2015, the Edmonton Journal profiled(http://edmontonjournal.com/life/fashion-beauty/edmonton-poli-sci-grad-finds-new-career-in-shanghai-fashion-industrty) U of A political science alumna, Tanja Crnogorac (BA ’11). After working for Chinese fashion house Decoster, she is now a Creative Strategist for for Serviceplan in Shanghai, China, where she help localize western brands to a Chinese market.
We asked Tanja to tell us how her degree helped her start her career in fashion, and to offer some advice to any political science students looking to wander off the beaten path.
To tell you that this was always part of the plan would be a lie. “The plan” was to do four years of my undergrad, three years of law school, and cool travels in the months between, with the long-term goal of a career. Rings a bell, right?
The plan went mostly according to plan. I majored in political science and economics, all while working for the government. I wrote my LSAT my final year before moving to Washington, D.C. to do an internship with the Canadian Embassy. I returned home to a full-time job with the Government of Alberta and found myself a little trapped, torn between a good salary and a fresh start, and unfulfilled.
Now let me back track a little…
My four years at the University of Alberta taught me many things — notably, how to be a critical thinker. It introduced me to people who inspired me and continue to inspire me today. It gave me insight to new worlds and arenas, shaped my areas of interest and facilitated, to a large extent, the dramatic shift in character I began to experience from the age of 19 to 22. More specifically, my political science major really made me zone in on the study of humans and their behaviours.
My liberal arts education was largely centered around this notion of human behaviours: what people thought about, how their thinking was guided, how behavioural trends, writing styles and theories have evolved over time, how those trends moulded how we currently make sense of things. I guess the best way to put it is that I felt like for the first time, I stepped out of my own point of view and was able to look in.
This was the shift. I decided to really pursue this avenue as much as possible within the next few remaining semesters. Taking complimentary courses in the fields of psychology, sociology, theology, media and philosophy. I explored perspectives, (mostly) enjoyed assigned readings, and grew passionate about my studies.
The same questions I asked myself then — how do we think, when do we think, what guides our thinking, how do we make decisions, why do we make these decisions? — I ask myself today when I get a new brief from a client. I put these skills to use almost every single day in my professional and personal life.
Before anything concrete, creative and fancy is executed and designed, advertising consultants and strategists really zone in on behaviours, trends, consumption habits, and political and economics events happening around the world. They are the ones who have to be “in tune.” They have to be able to be both left and right brained, balancing their creative ideas, while aligning them with behavioural insights.
And sometimes you will not believe the things that inspire an idea, or a campaign. And overwhelmingly, literature and philosophy dominate my train of thought. Just last week, a quote from Jean-Paul Sartre (“Everything has been figured out, except how to live”) inspired one of the most recent campaigns I am working on.
So, that’s how I went from a political science degree, working for the government and with nonprofits facilitating international business in China to working in fashion and advertising. And if you really think about it, it’s not far-fetched and far removed. My job, though in a creative industry, is largely centred on human insights, behaviours and trends.
Check back on February 20th to read Tanja’s advice on how to make the most out of your political science degree.
Follow Tanja's own blog here http://tcrnogorac.tumblr.com