I had the pleasure of hosting a rising high school senior this summer. His family lives in California, and he wanted to look at colleges in Maryland and Virginia. While driving back from one of his visits, this prospective engineering student said, “What’s the point of an English major?”
As someone who holds a Bachelor of Science in English, I was able to give him a healthy list of reasons as to the ways my English degree has been useful. (None of those reasons involves being a barista, by the way). He was put back in his place, and the rest of his stay was lovely.
A few weeks later, I met a young woman at our August #AMAMingle networking event. I was telling her about my job, and she said, “What makes you qualified to do that?” After asking a few questions, I realized that I wasn’t being challenged. She genuinely wanted to know what went into being a marketing project management professional as she was looking to move into that field. Was it another degree? Experience? Both?
These conversations made me think about my education and experience that led me to being Ringmaster at Coyle Studios. There wasn’t a particular degree or internship that could prepare me for this position. My college, insurance, sports, teaching, and other personal experiences helped me prepare for this demanding job of sales, marketing, project management, and office supervision. It’s a position that is challenging and fulfilling.
There are a few ways that you can prepare yourself for any position whether it is in a new field, a promotion, etc.
- Embrace Your Unique Perspective
No two people have the same views, experience or perspectives. Use that to your advantage. A background in sales can help a marketer curate content that helps further the marketing goals and generate leads. A person who was a college athlete will know how to be a good team player. There are things you’ll learn in the field that you can’t learn in a classroom, and it is important to not only recognize it. You need to use that to your advantage.
It is also important for leaders to embrace the unique perspectives of their team. There are employers who are open minded and look for graduates with liberal arts degrees as these students are often analytical, creative, and trained to ask questions. Employers know that serious athletes have a solid work ethic and are open to coaching. Leaders who are able to build a team with a diverse set of skills will create a richer working environment for everyone.
- Find a Mentor
Learn from someone that has been in your position. Whether you want to change careers or are vying for a promotion, you should talk to someone that has the experience to give you context and guidance to help you make your decisions. Learn from their successes and failures. You need to find someone that you can be candid with and trust. If you’re censoring yourself because you’re trying to impress them or cover up insecurities, you’ll never be able to get the full value out of mentorship.
- Keep Learning
Education doesn’t stop when you get a degree. Scientific studies show that reading can help you be more creative, live longer, and be more successful. You need to continue feeding your brain with reading, taking classes, listening to podcasts, and more. Learn how to use a new program or develop new processes that will make you more effective at work. Studying something outside of your field or talking to someone in another career can broaden your perspective and help you approach a problem differently.
- Get Involved with the Community
Yes, volunteering is helpful to the community. However, it can also help you exercise skills that are not often used. I am a volunteer freelance writer for Baltimore OUTloud. I began writing for them to build up my portfolio and practice my writing skills in a different capacity. Many people volunteer for AMA Baltimore to meet people in the marketing community and practice various marketing skills. By volunteering, you can both build your tribe and hone your skills.
You don’t have to settle for a job because you think you’re not qualified for something else. It’s easy to think your degree/job/life/whatever is better than someone else’s and put someone else down because of it. It’s also easy to become defeated and think you can’t achieve greatness because you don’t have the degree/job/life/whatever that someone else has. By constantly evolving, learning, and meeting people, you can achieve the career you want (even if you were only an English major). Stay positive and explore your passions.
Brynn Devereaux serves as President Elect and VP of Marketing & Communications for AMA Baltimore.