Post-Graduation Struggles of a Liberal Arts Major

Posted on Thursday, Dec 15, 2016

As college students, we have all heard the dreaded questions, “What do you want to do with that major” and “What are you doing after graduation”. For some, this question is easy to answer but for most, the answer is equivocally “I don’t know”. I am no different. Throughout most of my college career, I struggled with not knowing if I should I take on a more technical path and secure my financial future or pursue and less clear-cut career path and chase my passions.  I was disillusioned into believing the decisions I made in college would ultimately lead to an either-or career path. My lack of exposure to professionals with similar interests and backgrounds as myself hindered me from envisioning a future that could amount so much more than the black and white picture I painted for myself. Living in DC and working at the Department of Commerce has opened my eyes to a reality that allows me to both pursue my passions and attain a viable means of financial security.
As a liberal arts major, this discovery was HUGE! Monumental if I may say! But how exactly did I reach this state of affirmation? How has living and interning in DC help me plan for a career path that is both practical and fulfilling.  In this blog, I will share with you how my DC trip has led me to a better since of clarity in my post-graduation plans and how you could potentially do the same!
  1. I took advantage of my ability to freely speak with people that had careers that interest me: Believe it or not but people actually WANT to help interns! They like telling their life stories and don’t mind assisting you in developing your own career. They were once in your shoes and understand the value a simple conversation could have on someone’s career, especially as an intern. I promise you that one person in your office didn’t get to where he/she is today without the helpful guidance of people like themselves. My conversations with these DC professionals left me with 3 key take-aways: advice on how to best pursue a career in the field that I am interested in, connections to people that can help me do it, the realization that I COULD have a successful, secure, financially stable, passion-driven job with my liberal arts degree. They did it, therefore so could I!
  1. I took advantage of the opportunity to live in a city where information is literally everywhere: Whether that be the opportunity to explore universities that specialized in developing valued government workers (Georgetown University, George Washington University, Johns Hopkins SAIS, George Mason etc) or the opportunity to attend various events around the city that discussed current event topics that mattered to me, I made sure that I was making the most out of my time here in DC and absorbing as much information as I could while down here. Don’t leave DC regretting that you hadn’t utilized these invaluable and unlimited accesses to information. Remember, you WON’T have this in Texas!
  1. I proactively searched for opportunities within my workplace that interested me and volunteered wherever my services could be utilized: Don’t let your duties as an intern dictate your entire experience. You could be doing so much more, trust me! There is always something more you could be doing so why not make that something a thing you are interested in or something that could boost you resume or skillset. Opportunity, however, is not always going to magically present itself in front of you. You are most likely going to have to go out there and find it. If it weren’t for my proactivity, my internship would have become mundanely boring and largely unfulfilling. The best things I have done so far with my internship have not resulted from my boss simply handing me a new assignment but from my proactive persistency within the workplace.
Applying for PPIP took a leap of courage but it was a step in the right direction. If it were not for this internship and the opportunities I have encountered while working here, I would still have no idea what I would be doing after graduation. I now look to the future with eager eyes. If it could happen to me then it could happen to you!

Janecia Jones
Department of Commerce