Has anyone ever questioned whether your degree is “practical”? Perhaps you’ve heard some of these: “Oh, a performance major, huh?” or more bluntly, “I can’t imagine there's many career options with THAT degree.”
When taken at face value, some degrees may seem impractical, but college is teaching us more than facts related to our major – we’re learning life lessons, too. Even with an “impractical” degree, there are important skills that everyone should develop in order to become productive members of society. Here are eight:
1. Verbal communication skills
Can you speak to clients or customers on the phone in a professional manner, even in stressful situations? Being able to speak clearly and respectfully is a skill everyone needs in the modern workplace, and in many social situations. College offers you the opportunity to speak with a lot of people that you probably don’t agree with. Use this as an opportunity to learn how to navigate disagreements while keeping your cool.
2. Written communication skills
Being able to write – and write well - with a specific purpose and audience in mind is a skill that can be applied to all aspects of life, whether you’re writing a quarterly report on sales, an article for your company’s blog, or just an email to a coworker. If you’re writing a paper for macroeconomics and asking yourself, “when will I ever use this?” the answer is all the time!
3. Computer skills
Everyone should know how to use Microsoft Office in a society becoming increasingly paperless. Go beyond that and pick up some technical skills not everyone will know, like basic HTML, Acrobat Pro, or Photoshop. Even if you don’t expect to use it at work every day, it’ll give you a leg up over the competition!
4. Presentation experience
There are many presentation platforms available today! However, it is not enough just to know about Prezi or PowerPoint. What matters is your ability to utilize these programs to fit your needs – and give a professional, concise presentation.
Organization is not something that comes naturally to everyone, nor is it the same for everyone. Find your own system that works best for you! Whether this is organizing your desktop on your computer, your workspace, or your apartment, developing this skill can make or break your success. No one likes to work with someone who can’t find an important document or who’s always missing deadlines! Use your time in college to find a method that works for you, then you’ll be prepared to juggle all of your projects when you start your career.
6. Travel experience
Traveling provides experiences that are completely unique to you! Being able to share what you’ve seen, and more importantly, what you’ve learned, is an important skill. Attending study abroad trips or spending summer break in a different country shows that you’ve experienced hands-on learning and are willing to try new things. If you can work volunteering opportunities into your travel experiences, you might be able to save on expenses, while establishing some bullet points for your resume that can really set you apart.
7. Leadership and involvement
Seek opportunities to put your leadership skills to use! Join a club, and run for a leadership role (or, better yet, start a new club), attend volunteer programs, and get involved with events around school, work, church, or community outreach groups. Regardless of your degree, these experiences will show that you work well with others and can handle responsibility.
Can you perceive the needs of others? Initiative is all about doing what needs to be done in a timely manner, often without being asked or told. More importantly, it includes going above and beyond the bare minimum. Prove that you will go out of your way to make something the best it can be, and can get the job done right the first time. This is also a great way to grow your role and responsibilities at work, and when new opportunities come up, so will your name.
To those of you majoring in an “impractical” degree, don’t get discouraged! You may be learning many of the above skills already, and if not…well, now you have a list. You can follow your passion while keeping reality in mind. Having a degree proves your dedication to a subject and hours upon hours of hard work and studying. This alone is valuable in the workplace. So the next time someone tries to shame you for your “impractical” degree, give them a smile, shrug it off, and move on, because you know better!
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