Buckle up, it’s story time. One of my closest friends in the world goes to Case Western in Cleveland, one of the most well-established engineering programs in the country. The dude’s brilliant; aside from being a giant nerd like me, he’s currently doing metalworking internships and working with alloys to figure out which is structurally safest for use. He could probably out-calculus me within two seconds, and he’s been making small machines and decorative metal art since we were in grade school. So you’ll imagine my surprise when, while I was hanging out at his place one day, I discover his massive, decorative copy of The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe. When I asked, his answer was simple: “Dude, he’s really good. Have you read his stuff?”
People are amazing creatures, and when they break down stereotypes, they’re a million times cooler. In the job world, that becomes illuminated via the mixture of both Hard and Soft Skills, the mixture of Humanities and STEM. That makes someone stand out from the crowd, because then you’re looking at a well-rounded individual who can think outside the box of their field, rather than the next “starving artist” or “business manager” straight off the assembly line. I’d be willing to bet that a handful of people wouldn’t be expecting an English major to have built a computer before; yet here I am, finishing my fourth one for a friend.
Think of your hobbies, your free-time activities where you really invest yourself. Do you teach yourself cool things on Photoshop? Perhaps you play for a co-ed volleyball team. Maybe you’ve loved playing the trumpet since you could walk. These tasks show attention to detail, a flair for the creative, and experience with teambuilding activities, and they balance out those important Hard Skills. Hard Skills train you for your field. Soft Skills don’t come from little “to-do’s” that might make you seem better on paper. Soft Skills develop from matters of character, from who you are. I can’t tell you those; I can only hope that you start discovering them yourself.
So, having analyzed Georgetown’s article roughly four times now, here’s what I can tell you. STEM jobs are the popular choice right now, partially because they pay higher on average, partially because the increasing technology of our time offers new fields that (before) weren’t available, and partially because America isn’t that strong in STEM compared to the rest of the world, and we need a push. When you look at the numbers, however, BOTH humanities and STEM have roughly equal unemployment rates, with some jobs highly in-demand and high unemployment rates for others on both sides. To avoid that unemployment line, most employers want potential employees (YOU) with some form of experience merging STEM and humanities, as well as developed Soft Skills to balance out their Hard Skills. If you are going to earn a degree in anything or have had any form of training/certification or tech experience, those are your Hard Skills. If you have talents for communication and leadership, those count as types of Soft Skills. Most likely, you have some of both already and you didn’t even know it.
I guess my final bit of advice is this, and truthfully, I need to learn this too: have patience. Yes, times are getting better, but that does not lead to instant gratification in the working world. It takes… well, it takes work. True, the English major is by no means destined to fulfill the “Would you like fries with that?” role, and the business major doesn’t have to live that mundane cubicle life. But if you’re expecting to have that dream job right out of college, you’re in for a very cold splash of water to the face. Reality has determined that, most likely, we will have a couple of jobs before we land a career (and there is a difference). That doesn’t mean you should automatically throw in the towel; if anything, try motivating yourself by absorbing the skills those jobs have to offer, working your way to your personal brass ring. Who knows, you may be surprised, and start calling that job your career. Let’s be real: I’ve experienced plenty (and more) in my 21 years, and I’m fairly sure that there are hundreds of surprises yet to come.
This is post 6 of 6 in a series concerning college grads and employment. Thanks so much for reading!
Andy’s LinkedIn Profile: www.linkedin.com/in/theandyhorner
Georgetown Article: https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/HardTimes2015-Report.pdf