As I have mentioned here before, I recently earned a degree in History and am thinking of getting a second B.A. in Communications. Going back to school for me was initially about putting myself in a better position to get into my top pick graduate program, but having been thrust into the job market in the meantime I think my goals have shifted a bit. While I would still like to eventually earn an advanced degree, I have also been thinking about how I can protect myself from the vagaries of an unstable job market.
Even though I found History (specifically modern British History) to be an exciting and fascinating area of study (and still do), upon graduation I still found my education to be a bit lacking in one area, namely, marketable skills. Now, of course university isn’t necessarily designed to provide these skills, (unless you’re pursuing a degree in commerce, business, social work or education) but work experience, internships even work study can, in a lot of cases, fill in this gap (Side Note: For those of you still in school, if you’re permitted to do so, according to your university’s student aide guidelines, I strongly recommend you apply to or look into your eligibility for work study. While it’s primarily meant to function as a type of student aid, my experiences in the program offered at my alma mater really helped me discover career paths that I had never considered. They are also a great way to gain fantastic work experience that you can use to pad your C.V.), but then again, in the eyes of perspective employers, and as has been my experience job hunting over the past six months, they may not.
I had always planned on getting a professional degree immediately after I graduated. I wanted as little lag time between my first and second degree(s) as possible, but I wasn’t able to transition from one stage to the next as smoothly as I would have liked. So now I’m in the awkward position of trying to figure out what I want to do with myself right now and how to get there while leaving my options open for the future, and (somewhat unimaginatively) the best solution I could/can come up with was/is more school. Once I had figured this out the question then became, “What kind of school?” I know that ultimately I would like to work in the not-for -profit sector in some capacity, but in order to answer the question I had to figure out in what capacity. For awhile I was thinking of dropping the idea of law school altogether and instead enter the field of non-profit management. I had gained some experience working in fundraising and volunteer outreach during my undergrad (I had a work study job at the campus radio station), and had enjoyed it enough to consider pursuing it as a career. So I wondered if I should, as so many of my friends have done, apply to some post-grad college programs focused on fundraising and volunteer management. The plus side to this strategy is that many of these programs require internships or work placements in order to graduate and this could lead to an actual job once you’ve earned your diploma (or certificate). Also, you gain a lot in practical experience and get to network with organizations you may want to work for in the future. I’ve been looking closely at Humber College’s Fundraising and Volunteer Management program and have been wondering if this is where I should be heading instead of university (again). But letting go of the dream of attending law school and a growing, admittedly, stronger interest I have in museum studies ( I have been volunteering at a museum as a docent for the past year, and started talking to people who actually worked there and began contemplating a career working in one. Of course museums are typically multifaceted institutions that require all sorts of people with various professional backgrounds to keep things running, and so I do not necessarily need to earn a diploma in museum studies to work in a museum, but I have developed an interest in the curatorial and exhibition planning side of things which does usually call for an advanced degree in museum studies.) proved to be a lot harder than I thought it would be and in the end was something I couldn’t do. Also, because college would not help me achieve this goal later if I were to change my mind, I found myself contemplating a second degree again, but seriously this time.
Now I’m trying to decide between continuing to take third and fourth year level courses as a non-degree student (which means the courses I would take would not be part of a degree program) to improve my transcript or taking on a second degree. I had already taken some courses last semester, and I’m looking into whether or not I can incorporate some of them into a second B.A. The time frame for completing a second Bachelor’s degree, for me, is between 1-2 years, which is a time frame I’m comfortable with, but not every law school in Canada (though most will) takes into consideration the grades you earned while pursuing a second degree during the admission process. So, in the long run, B.A. # 2 may not help me at all. On the other hand (ignoring the possible cons for a minute), while surveying local charity and not-for-profit job sites, I noticed that there was a pretty high demand in the not-for-profit sector for people with degrees in Coms, and I did find the few Coms courses I took during my undergrad to be interesting and was able to do well in them. So, theoretically, even if I’m not able to get into the law school with the second degree, Coms may be a degree that can stand on its own in the job market.
Having been out of school for about a year, it’s a little embarrassing for me to admit that I have been putting off, until now, thinking about what exactly I want to do with myself in a practical and realistic sense. What I mean is that while I’ve always had an idea about where I want to end up, I haven’t really thought about what it would take to get there since things haven’t worked out as I had expected. I never made a plan B or thought of an alternate route for myself. I feel that my procrastination is in part due to three main factors, the first being my strong desire to “fix” the mistakes I made during my undergrad, secondly my desire to gain the type of skills that would enable me to work in the non- profit sector and possibly carve out a future for myself there, and lastly my lifelong dream to become a lawyer, a dream that I’ve nursed since I was four but is now becoming a bit of an albatross as my professional and academic interests have shifted. These three factors are pulling me with equal force into different directions, and at the moment none of them seem to converge in a way that would make making these decisions any easier. This I think (I don’t have any statistics or anything to back this up) is a problem that comes up a lot among people like myself, people who have degrees in a field that they thoroughly enjoyed, but find themselves at a bit of a loss with what to do with them once they’re finished school. At the beginning of my degree I saw myself as ambitions and with a crystal clear idea of my goals and how I would achieve them. But faced with the immediate problem of what to do with myself now while in the process of trying of trying achieve my long term goals has been a challenge, and all this is only compounded by a shitty economy. I’ve always felt like there is ticking clock in the back of my head that’s constantly reminding me that while I’m young now (early 20s) time is going by pretty quickly and I need to get things started soon! I’ve always been someone with a 5 year plan, and have developed a bit of tunnel vision over the years as result and now that I can no longer be so narrow in my focus and in the way I want to achieve my goals, I am a little disoriented and this creates more than a little anxiety. I think it has been this anxiety that I have found the most difficult to get a grip on, which is making everything else that much more complicated, and harder for me to move forward. But, I think things may be beginning to change?
Originally I had intended to write a post about how to field annoying questions from well meaning but perhaps nosy interlopers about getting a second degree, but after about the first sentence this post turned into something else entirely. Having examined my academic and professional choices (which for me have always been tightly intertwined) in this post, this may be indicative of a bit of a pattern.