“What am I going to do with my degree?” is something liberal arts majors might think to themselves. Many will take their unique skill sets and apply them to careers as soon as they earn their degree, while others may continue on to graduate school. The Career Center has a number of resources for students to help identify options for what to do with that degree after they graduate.

People resources

One step liberal arts majors can take to explore their options is to simply get out there and talk to professionals, also known as networking. Through a variety of programs and events, the Career Center provides students with many opportunities to connect with professionals working in various industries. Networking with professionals help students learn about the career journey, job details, and anything else they may want to explore. By connecting with those already in the field, students have an opportunity to build their network, which may possibly lead to internships, volunteer opportunities, part-time jobs, interviews and career advice.

For example, at What to do with THAT Degree, hosted by the Career Center, all students, but particularly those in the College of Arts and Sciences, can meet alumni who were liberal arts majors and hear their stories about their career paths and get their advice. The event will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday, October 24, in Old Main at the Bone Student Center.

Self-assessment resources

Another resource that the Career Center has available to students is FOCUS. This online self-assessment tool helps students to explore their values, interests, and abilities and then matches them with related occupations they might be successful in, and the majors that accompany those careers. After taking the assessment, students are encouraged to write the pros and cons for the careers that peak their interest, and to visit the Career Center for help drafting a career plan.

Career advising

Students who need a little confidence boost or career assistance as they progress through their major can meet with their career advisor. Career advisors are set by majors, and students can make an appointment with their advisor through the Career Center website. The advisors help students establish career goals, map out a career plan, and become a bit more confident in their major and what to do with their degree after college.

Hands-on experience

Students have many opportunities to utilize their skills and put what they learn into practice. This is important because the opportunities that students get at Illinois State, and the skills they develop while doing so are crucial as they progress towards their career. For example, Illinois State student Billy Stripeik is getting hands-on experience as the College of Arts and Sciences senator, a role that enables him to give students a voice with both Student Government as well as the Academic Senate. As a political science major, Stripeik is able to relate to students who are not completely sure about what to do after graduation. “I plan to either go to law school, or work in D.C.; both would be great experiences that Illinois State University has prepared me for immensely,” said Stripeik.

Employers have been known to hire students that come out of the College of Arts and Sciences due to the unique skill sets they have. Most liberal arts programs provide expertise in critical thinking, oral and written communication, teamwork, IT application, leadership, professionalism, career management and intercultural fluency. These traits and the academic experiences of a liberal arts program help the candidate be ahead of the game. Career Advisor Renee Carrigan commented on these traits: “These are the skills that employers like to see across all industries and all occupations. For the sophomore or junior who does not have a lot of experience in something like communication, they can use the rest of their time at the University to gain that experience.”

Carrigan comes from a liberal arts background herself, and can relate to students personally because she went through a period of time after graduate school where she was unsure of her next move: “I had to live life and open my mind to some other opportunities I hadn’t originally thought of as an undergrad. I’ve always been attracted to why people do what they do in decision making.”

Carrigan uses her expertise from studying psychology as an undergrad today by helping her students with interviews. She believes there is psychology in first impressions, how candidates carry themselves in an interview, body language and even resume format. Having a career advisor who understands firsthand the challenges liberal arts majors face is extremely valuable to students who do not know what to do with their degree.

Students majoring in liberal arts do not have to choose between graduate school and diving into a career right away. The Career Center has many valuable resources to help students make decisions about their next steps. Students are encouraged to use the Career Center for all of its resources including opportunities to network with professionals, complete self-assessment tools, meet with their career advisor, and take advantage of internships and other hands-on experience.

Billy Stripeik combines all of these resources in his role as both student and CAS senator: “The Career Center has been a great resource in terms of providing professional materials from business cards to resumes. It’s absolutely helped me on my academic journey, and is helping me feel more confident at my career success.”

The Career Center assists all Illinois State University students with developing, evaluating, and implementing career decisions.