Home Arts So you got an arts degree; now what?

So you got an arts degree; now what?

by The Concordian March 13, 2012

With an arts degree, chances are you are not going to Disneyland. Arts students are often faced with many challenges come graduation time, namely where they will be working now that the safety net of academia has been released. To help those of you who will be graduating from the arts this spring, I spoke to graduates from the English, creative writing and communications departments to see how they dealt with leaving the comfort of Concordia.
As difficult as it may be to admit, what I took from my interviewees was essentially that an arts degree is what you make of it. Conceptual comedy show producer Sasha Manoli, who graduated from creative writing a year and a half ago, cites one or two courses taken in her final semester as the inspiration for her moving to the realm of conceptual art.
She is now self-employed, and produces local shows such as The Liar Liar Show, Dear Dave and Crayon Party. Rather than throwing a few stand-up comics on stage, she has found a way to conceptualize comedy by melding it with game show formats and storytelling instead of just punch lines. In this sense, the link to her literary background cannot be ignored.
Unlike some arts graduates, Manoli had a job in publishing waiting for her when she graduated, but her newfound passions took her away from that life. “I had been to Toronto, I had seen my office, it was beautiful but at the same time I was hanging out with these comics…I started getting really interested in PR,” she said. While she had been able to secure a job in her field, it quickly became evident that after working with words for the last four years, producing was where she wanted to be for the rest of her life.
Of course, not every graduate can say they turned down a great job in their field to pursue
an alternative passion. Simon Case, who graduated from Concordia with a communications degree in 2008, found that while he had pursued his degree based on his interests in theory rather than production, upon graduation he was lacking the experience required to pursue the kinds of careers he wanted.
“I was pretty easily discouraged […] not receiving any answers at all, because I had very little work experience,” he recalled. He now intends to pursue a master’s degree outside of Concordia, not necessarily because it will increase his chances of a career in communications, but because Case, like so many other arts graduates, studies what interests him, rather than what leads to a promising career.
“I don’t think I appreciated being a student when I started university as an undergraduate,” he said. Regardless of whether or not he expected a great career opportunity upon graduation, Case admitted that a lot of what he took away from his time at Concordia was increased skills in writing and critical thinking, which are considered invaluable tools in the real world.
Another graduate who enrolled in an arts program simply because it was what he enjoyed, rather than what he expected to turn into a career, is James Gibbons, who graduated last year with a degree in English literature. He found that the job market lowered his expectations upon graduation.
“I didn’t feel that there weren’t any options, just that there weren’t any good ones,” he said. Gibbons is now working on his master’s of journalism studies at Concordia, but if he had decided to work, he would have preferred to go overseas and teach English or do technical writing than copy edit here.
While personal experiences are one thing, what about the resources available to you at Concordia? We have at our fingertips the CAPS (Career and Placement Services) job bank, and a wealth of useful information such as building a proper resume or career workshops made available through the Counselling and Development tab in your MyConcordia portal. This can offer either great job opportunities or great disappointment.
“The thing with something like CAPS is think about how saturated those jobs must be,” said Manoli, an excellent point when you consider how many graduates come out of Concordia per year and how specific those types of postings can be.
Another resource is the career counsellors available at Concordia. “I personally kind of thought it was a waste of time,” Gibbons stated, explaining it wasn’t useful for him because he already knew the kind of information being offered. Instead of gaining some sort of enlightenment, he was handed a paper detailing jobs he already knew he would be qualified for with his degree.
“Any external initiatives in the end mean far more,” said Manoli, emphasizing the importance of stepping outside the classroom and getting involved with extracurricular activities.
If you can’t find work in your field, make your own; that experience is invaluable on your resume and in life. The common denominator seems to be that what you take away from your degree is what you put into it.
No matter what program you are in, you are acquiring indispensable life skills by osmosis: respect for deadlines, critical thinking and interpersonal skills that can better shape you for the career you want.

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