Monday, February 10, 2014

What Will You Do With That?

When I was in college, I was asked this question more times than I can count. I majored in comparative religion, and believe it or not, it has been a practical major for every job I have had since then.

I got my first newspaper reporter job out of college because I had a religion degree. The newspaper's consumer base became wildly diverse in the span of a few years because the meat-packing plants with decent salaries and the low price of housing attracted immigrants to the area. They wanted to expand their religion page from a listing of church events to something that would appeal to the Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and other religious people now part of the community.

In exchange for my knowledge base, they trained me in crime reporting, copy editing, feature writing... It was a dream job!

But liberal arts is taking a hit lately from all directions, even the President.

So, what do you do with a liberal arts degree these days?

Compete in the Winter Olympics. This small school has 23 athletes in Sochi right now!

Don't wait until senior year to go to your university career center. Learn career skills early. Interviewing, networking, resume development and cover letter writing are all skills you can start learning the moment you enter college. If you need help with these skills, there's still hope! I specialize in helping liberal arts majors with this.

Work for this company. I love the idea of liberal arts folks marketing themselves as positive and curious.

And if people keep bugging you about your salary out of school, send them this article. Research shows you'll earn more money in your peak earning years than other types of students.

If you're a liberal arts major interested in working with me, I'm offering a 50 percent off discount this month. Contact me at

Monday, February 3, 2014

Back to the Mall

Every morning this week when I woke, I saw the red sweater hanging on the closet door. It was too big, and the easiest way to get my money back was to head to my local mall, except my local mall is the Columbia, Md. mall where the fatal shooting occurred last Saturday.

Let me start by saying how sorry I am for the families involved. I think somehow our society has failed all of them, and that's all I can think of saying about that for now.

That day I'd considered returning the sweater that day, but I didn't, mostly because I was lazy and my son wanted to read some train books, and I wanted another cup of coffee, and like many people I know who could have been there but weren't, I'm terribly relieved.

All week I debated when to go back to the mall, if at all. Maybe I would just use UPS. Suddenly a decision that normally was a half-second of my time became something I ruminated about all week. If I went to the mall, would something else happen? If I didn't, would that make me a coward? I dithered, struggled, and it was exhausting. I finally went back this weekend and returned the damn shirt, but I still felt like a coward. I browsed the watch section of a department store (I don't often wear watches!), then fled out the door.

If violence makes small decisions like whether to go to the mall or not seem like a huge deal, what becomes of the decisions that are a huge deal: decisions about work, marriage, real estate, cars. Those decisions can paralyze us in a world where our small decisions can carry such weight.

So many people I work with feel like they should be able to make their career decisions quickly, act on them, and always be progressing toward a goal, but it's normal to hesitate in our world. Frankly, I think it's the most human reaction we can have.