Last week, Tanja Crnogorac (BA ’11), explained how her political science degree helped land her a job in the Chinese fashion industry. Today, Tanja gives some advice on how to make the most out of a liberal arts degree.
Here’s the most beautiful thing about your degree. Engineering students, nurses, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, finance specialists and scientists are memorizing and learning how to be executors. Arts students, on the other hand, are being asked to think — something, if you haven’t noticed, the majority of society fails to do.
So, whenever you hear a belittling comment about your liberal arts education, please remember that while their life is likely destined for one job, which may very well be fulfilling on their end, yours is still a bit of a mystery. That is a beautiful, yet scary thing.
I love politics, for the same reason I love fashion and design, and for the same reason I love art, music and literature. Each one of them gives me the opportunity to look at human behaviour from a different perspective. My education did this for me. It opened my eyes to the fact that my purpose would not and could not be limited to attaining a goal I set for myself in high school. My purpose might change. My purpose might grow. I might lose interest in one arena, and gain interest in another. But that’s okay, because I am equipped to be able to work in many arenas, to do many things. And in this day and age, there is nothing more valuable than a versatile individual who can think, act, inspire and execute.
I will never forget my IPE class with Dr. Anderson when he said, “your liberal arts education is going to be much more valuable in the coming years than you will ever imagine.” He was right.
It was not really until I stepped outside of my comfort zone that I realized that millions of people make a living by pursuing their passions. This doesn’t mean that things are always happy, fulfilling and inspiring. Things are still crappy, you still have bad days, and you will continue wishing you could sleep in and call in sick sometimes.
That being said, you won’t feel like a creature of routine, clocking in and out. You will be exhausted not from boredom, but because you are using your brain so much. Your frustration will stem from passion. And the results will be fulfilling. They will have meaning and thus you will feel like you have a real purpose.
So if you can take anything away from this, anything at all, may it be these things:
- Apply for some cool internships. Did you know Google, Nike, Snapchat, Apple and international advertising agencies like Wieden & Kennedy, DDB, Ogilvy, BBH, along with start-ups from all corners of the world are looking for you? Thinkers. People to bring useful ideas, insights and a strong work ethic. I seriously didn’t know this before!
- Just because you are studying political science does not mean you need to even entertain the idea of finding employment in this realm. With that said, if you want to experience the political arena, cold call your MLA or MP's office and ask them to be a summer student. See how the government works, see its flaws, see its purpose, see its role in the lives of every day Canadians. It’s useful and will give you good insight. If they’re not hiring, ask to volunteer your time.
- Look at business leaders, entrepreneurs, innovators and doers in the city. Contact them. See how you can be their sidekick.
- Go away for a little bit — once your eyes witness something bigger and better, they don’t know how to look away.
- To have motivation, be motivated. Don’t rely on others, not even your peers, bosses and leaders to motive you. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you will find a good leader and mentor to guide you and help you, but this is rare. For that reason, be responsible for you.
- University gives you a huge amount of freedom to study whatever you want, and wherever you want! Don’t succumb to taking “GPA-boosting” classes that more often than not will land you with a lower grade. Challenge yourself. Note: take classes that you think may not interest you. You will surprise yourself.
- When you feel like you’re not doing enough, it’s because you’re not. We all get lazy and cozy. Let urgency lead your life, but do smell the roses along the way.
- Learn another language if you can. It’s a huge asset. I wish I took it much more seriously.
- That class with 480 kids in Tory Lecture that everyone sleeps through as the professor lifelessly runs through slides that he posts after class on EClass…STOP ATTENDING. Instead, start sitting in on other classes so you can make better decisions next semester. University is filled with several “teachers” who don’t want to be there, with a handful who will change your life. Look for those, build relationships with those, stay in touch with those. (I was lucky to have more than a handful of amazing mentors and teachers and am extremely thankful for that!
- Have “A Plan,” but be okay if that plan takes on new shape.
- And see some cool stuff along the way. There is nothing richer, more authentic and grander than experience itself.