I would say the majority of people I know are looking for work, have just recently just started working, or are about to be looking for work. But that’s not why I started my new employment blog: liberalart.us. I started it for the liberal artists (not democratic painters) and named it as such.
What does a liberal arts degree really mean? Where does it get you? What skills do you have? I have seen some of my smartest and most talented friends struggle immensely post-graduation and this blog is for them. And it’s not to help them as if this were charity or an advice line. It’s to give voice to them.
I’m saying that the 20-something recession-grad is a story worth telling. The successes. The failures. The pressures. I’m living it, so why try to mask it in Career Service pamphlets and cryptic facebook statuses. The blog, thanks to my partner Sarah, has a bit more of a snarky tone than I’m used to. But employers take note, I know how to adapt to styled writing. I write it that way to have some appeal and light-heartedness to what can be a tough process for my colleagues/classmates.
Let me know what you think. I want the blog to be fresh. There’s a risk of failure, but you know what, I haven’t been failing enough recently. That means I’m getting too comfortable, not pushing myself.
My job is to think about how Middlebury College approaches this:
Middlebury, and many other great educational institutions, are all about leaders. That’s how you get in — show leadership. But once you’re here, too many try to bypass others in their attempt at glory. Why contribute to a pre-existing student organization when you can be the president of a new one, AND put that on your resume. We don’t have a culture of collaboration or of being that first follower.
How do we reward following when we’re told to reward leadership?
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan has been on the bestseller list for forever and a day. But I started into this 400 pager as an introduction to thinking about Food with a capital F. Food is an issue that is powerful with people, and I’ve written about some of my own goals in eating locally and cooking. I usually call this the long form of the movie Food Inc., and I particularly like the way it’s divided into three snapshots of how one might structure their relation to food. It’s detailed but often repetitive, as many point out. Pollan does a great job using a journalists inquisitiveness with a personal voice. I think I’d read anything he wrote just to study the tone of his writing. Still, this is an important book not just for foodie types but for average people to get better acquainted with how food shows up in supermarkets and on the dinner table. My single biggest change because of this book: only buying stuff that has max 5 ingredients, all pronounceable.
A Room for Learning by Tal Birdsey is local folklore up here in Vermont. It chronicles the first year of starting a middle school up in Ripton, VT — just a stone’s throw from Middlebury’s ski hill, the Snow Bowl. I think anyone who has been to school is invested in education but with my particular interest in higher education as of late, this was an important book to throw out education policy and No Child Left Behind just to focus on what counts — a teacher and his students in a single classroom. Now, I’m not really entirely into the lovey-dovey-hippie-ness of anything but Tal sells it in this book. There’s something so genuine about the way Tal writes and portrays himself. I don’t think single-room schoolhouses are the answer to America’s education system but the lesson here is really intimate connections between teacher and student as well as among students. Great book, inspiring, flew threw it.
Country Driving by Peter Hessler follows River Town and Oracle Bones. I am impressed that Hessler continues to drop some of the most insightful, real, and important nuggets about China into his books. It’s not just a former Peace Corps guy cruising around the thousands of miles of new highway in China. He observes, tells us, and postulates how his experience might be indicative of larger trends in the Middle Kingdom. For many students who have studied abroad or now work in China, Hessler describes many of our experiences to a T. This book is not only entertaining but probably more informative than many business books about China. Read it.
I’m going to the Galapagos this upcoming May. I’m excited. Some say, it’ll be a “trip of a lifetime.”
I hear people say that a lot — a [insert noun here] of a lifetime. Most notably, an opportunity of a lifetime. But is any single trip really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
When I graduated from high school, a number of my friends went on summer European jaunts with friends (but I did not). It was the thing to do. Parents gave the trips as graduation gifts. For students, it’s fun right out of the movie Eurotrip, and for parents, it’s fear right out of the move Taken. But still, there is this notion that travel is more than just a simple reward or treat, it’s a singularly important and groundbreaking experience. That freedom and excitement of the international adventure makes it a trip of a lifetime in the moment. That is until you travel enough that trips are become units in a lesson plan.
I treasure traveling, but no longer see any individual trip as a “lifetime” opportunity. Travel for me is about adding to a layered experience of lessons. And it’s an important part of education. I realize that I’m lucky enough to have had my share of passport stamps (or in the case of China, a whole collection of full-on one-page visas) and that a lot of people don’t have that choice.
So perhaps it’s not an immediate goal like reading or local foods, but ironically travel is a lifetime goal even if no single trip a trip of a lifetime. Here’s where I’m going soon and where I’d like to go in the next few years:
- Amsterdam, Netherlands — a last-minute spring break trip (thank you to my boss for the days off)! Haven’t been to Europe since high school?
- Galapagos/Ecaudor — a May 2010 trip with the family
- Turkey — been waiting to get here for a long time. realized I can’t jump a flight without a visa. probably should plan this out.
- Botswana and South Africa — Soccer World Cup held in South Africa very soon
- India — it’s not right that I can go around spouting nonsense of the “rise of India and China,” if I’ve never been.
- Jordan/Egypt — I’m surrounded by Arabic speakers at Middlebury.
When people ask what I am doing after (working at) Middlebury, I usually say I don’t know what I AM doing, but I am NOT going to grad school. I am opposed to going to grad school without knowing what I should be going FOR. Is there no such thing as graduate school for the continuing liberal arts student?
But today, I got some good advice from some of my elders here at Middlebury today — go to grad school in a broad-based subject area that can be widely applied. So, what keeps my options open and actually helps me get a (better) job?
I’ve been looking at:
- Doctor in Educational Leadership at Harvard University: As Harvard’s newest Ph.D. program, to me this is the right blend of business, social awareness, and practical experience. From a more broad perspective, education goes deep with people and this country’s education system needs a brain investment (not a cousin of the brain drain…). I know because I’ve been to China, if that counts as a qualification. I’m going to say I probably can’t get in to a program like this but I believe strongly that other bright people should look into this. Alternative: Joint MA in Education and MBA at Stanford.
- Studio 20 (Journalism) at NYU: Let me be clear, I’m unsure what journalism school teaches you that you can’t hash out on your own but this is a program about adapting journalism to the web — an critical task at a critical time in journalism. A partnership with NYTimes to produce the East Village Local Blog doesn’t hurt either.
- Master of Management Studies (MMS) at Duke University: Although you have to convince me why I shouldn’t wait a few years and then get an MBA, this is an interesting idea if just for the novelty. Spend less than a year, get a masters, and boost your chances of actually getting an entry level job in consulting, finance, or marketing positions that wouldn’t hire the liberal arts kid right out of school with no summer internship.
- Peace Corps Masters of Public Administration at MIIS: Peculiar program but combining study with Peace Corps just seems logical.
Other ideas? Combinations of Education, Business, Journalism? No, I’m not going to school to learn about social media. And I’m not saying I want to go grad school right now but I like to keep the ideas stirring.