By LOIS SMITH, student in the Writing and Consciousness MFA program and intern in the CIIS Communications Department.
This is the first in a series of blogs that Lois will be writing this fall.
As a little girl, I believed that a career was not something adults had any control over, but rather a winding path that twisted and turned, until, lo and behold, you stumbled upon your dream job. I think my hippie parents had something to do with this belief. I distinctly remember my parents’ friends talking about how they “fell into” their career, as one would fall into a hole.
When I graduated from college in 2006--just before the economy tanked-- with a BA in theatre, I naturally assumed that this would happen to me. I would amble along, experiment with different jobs, and that I would at some point “fall into” my dream job.
Four years later, after a series of dead-end jobs and brief jaunts volunteering abroad, I was still no closer to my dream job than when I graduated. It occurred to me that perhaps my parents and my parents’ friends might have been wrong. Maybe, in order to find my dream job (or, at this point, any job) I had to make choices and do things. No one was going to hand me my dream job, nor was anyone going to hand me any career at all. If I wanted to find one, I would have to choose something specific, and pursue it on my own.
Not long after this realization, I enrolled in the Writing and Consciousness MFA program at CIIS. Although I was, once again, pursuing something I loved rather than something practical, I vowed that I would not graduate without figuring out how to apply my degree to finding an interesting and relevant career. I knew I would be writing regardless of what job I had, so that wasn’t an issue. What I desperately needed to know was how to find a career that would use my skills, challenge me, and, most importantly, allow me to make the living I knew my creative writing would not.
In forthcoming blogs, I will seek answers to these questions: What career resources are available to students? How have CIIS professors pursued their careers? What advice would career counselor Margie Lam give to second year students? What steps have graduates taken towards new careers after completing their education?
I embarked on this degree last fall because I knew I loved writing and because I wanted to further my education and test myself as a writer. When I graduate, I will need to answer another, practical question: How does someone with an arts degree use it to make a career for themselves?
In the current economic climate, we would all do well to prepare ourselves for what is going to be a desolate economy we graduate into. Graduates of alternative higher education programs are in a unique position of danger and opportunity. On the one hand, we do not have the business degrees or economics degrees that other job searchers may have. On the other hand, we possess a unique constellation of talents which, if we are clever about it, we can use to find jobs. How can we do this? I’ll do my best to find out, and I’ll report back.