OP-EDS

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January 11, 2011

An even division of labor

Econ majors aren’t the only ones who go on to professional success

You walk into a room and it goes silent, everyone stares. You find yourself in a restaurant where no one speaks your language. You go to the movies and realize that you are the only audience member over the age of twelve. These are all situations in which it’s understandable to feel like you’re stranded on an island or like you’re a baby crying in a room full of uncaring people who are more concerned with removing the gum on the bottom of their shoes than soothing your shrill anxiety. A college career fair shouldn’t be one of these situations. However, any humanities major attending last Friday’s career fair would have certainly had to wipe the sweat off her brow due to the intensity of the event. I looked around and saw investment bank upon investment bank upon international consulting firm and so on and so forth, with each glance giving me the opportunity to sink further and further into uncertainty and dismay about life after the U of C. Apparently, if you are not a math major or an econ major, your future holds nothing but doom, poverty, and teaching positions.

Does economics seem like the universal language now? The plethora of internships only for econ majors has given this poor student of the humanities a moment of doubt. I want to be pursued by a high-powered international company. I too want those doors to usher me in and to challenge my mind. I don’t want to diminish the effort of my peers, but sometimes when I am among econ majors, I wonder if they study for the joy and thrill of learning, or for their future penthouses and European vacations. Let’s face it, we can’t all be econ majors, and just because you did not major in economics doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of doing what they do, at least to some extent. Anyone at the U of C, even an advanced student in the humanities, can be trained simply because she is so bold as to immerse herself in a field that has no promise of financial riches. After all my experiences this weekend, I find myself asking who is better equipped in the business world: one who knows how to analyze a text and to express an argument in paper format, or one who can suffer through low grades and endless problem sets? And here I thought part of business was being able to convince via argument and analysis why you are correct and why the competitors are wrong.

Yes, we all want financial security, but I am not willing to forsake my books and Virgil for problem sets and the remote possibility of a future career in the financial world. Needless to say, after Friday’s career fair I felt slightly out of my element, but Taking the Next Step was the perfect remedy for my uncertainties.

Over 250 alumni crowded the downtown Marriott on Saturday, some econ majors, others not; some alumni of the College and some alumni of graduate schools, but for the ambitious undergraduate, one saw nothing but diverse, unique, and attainable future possibilities. Lawyers, doctors, actors, writers, professors, students, teachers and countless others sat together, laughed together, and related to each other for a day full of encouraging conversations. At the lunch, as I sat between two lawyers, one of whom was an econ major who barely managed to graduate, I realized that there is no set path to the right job or the right life after the U of C. With the University of Chicago as your springboard into the world, you can enter almost any field with determination and creativity. The journalism and publishing panel demonstrated the diversity of educational backgrounds present in the world of media.

Consisting of English, Classics, and sociology majors, the panel impressed upon its audience the importance of doing what you love and letting that love lead you in the direction of your career. Prize-winning journalist Bob Levey of the Washington Post stressed that success comes from practice, and all careers require a certain amount of “grunt work.” In its entirety, Taking the Next Step made clear to its participants that not only will there be life after the U of C, but also success, if one is willing to utilize every lesson learned, both inside the classroom and outside of it.

Martia Bradley is a second-year in the College majoring in Classics.

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