A recent Daily Beast blog post listing the 13 most useless college majors had a lot of people growling. Journalism and English (among others) apparently fail to give recent college grads a leg up in the job marketplace.
A successful art critic posted a comment that his degree in journalism and medieval history “were as useless as they come,” but he’d “do it all over again.” Other Beast readers posted comments like this one: “Are liberal arts majors really useless?”.
In the immediate aftermath of getting a degree, it may seem like liberal arts and so-called other useless majors aren’t as effective as, say, a teaching or engineering degree. I would argue that “useless” degrees can become useful – but in a different way. It just may take longer. Hopefully, college students whose majors are in the “useless” category are or were involved in many extra-curricular activities, which can literally trump “useless” degrees any day. That’s actually part of my own story.
After three years at college on track to become an elementary education teacher, I had an epiphany: teaching was absolutely, positively not for me. I didn’t just switch majors, I dropped out and fled to southern California where my mother’s friend helped me get a job as a copygirl at the Santa Monica Evening Outlook. I impressed my bosses with my work ethic and contributing articles to their “house organ.” After five months, they offered me a job as a cub reporter for a new “teen” page, but my mind was already made up. I was going to finish college.
Back at school, I changed my major to English and became an active writer on the student paper, covering hot-button issues of the day which I was passionate about, like equal housing and Stop the War. Within one year, I was named newspaper editor-in-chief, a position which not only led to marriage but a career at a Fortune 500 company. Before I even started looking for a job, GE came to me with an offer: an editorial post at their daily in-house newspaper read by 2,000 employees. I joined the company and overnight, became their highest-paid female employee.
When I moved to Chicago, I tested the advertising waters (not for me) before landing a job as an account executive at a reputable PR firm. PR was my calling and I never waivered from it. When I hung out a PR shingle in 1984, I had no confidence I would succeed, yet here I am 25 years later still doing what I love.
Useless college majors? Not a chance. Just do what you love, follow your heart, and the rest will come. I’m interested in other stories from TCW readers who parlayed a “useless” college major into a meaningful career. Share your comments below.