Help Us Help You, Take 2

10 May

Liberal Artists = Con Artists

I want to take a different perspective on Sarah’s recent post on “Help Them Help Us.” I’m one of those college graduates “pretty clueless as to desired career.” But believe you me, there is pressure to figure it all out right now. And I think that constraint is not entirely fair. Sure, graduates shouldn’t be fishing around looking for everything and anything without some sort of personal compulsion, but I think too many students rush in to careers because they think it’s what they want to do.

Employers: a good liberal artist are also good con artist. We’re excellent bullshitters, most of the time. We’ve had to fool professors, academics, and registrar offices everywhere for at least four years and likely before that too. We’re so good at it that sometimes we can fool ourselves into really believing our “professional euphoria” is in your field. If we do, we’re going to become disillusioned quickly and leave.

I’m not shifting the responsibility back on to employers, but I am saying that employers should design entry-level programs more like rotating internships than permanent positions in a single area. Give liberal artists a chance to actually experience where they can make the most impact in your company. It will pay off, trust me. The reason graduates are applying to a bunch of positions is not because we’re dumb, it’s because we are insecure.

Internationally, students choose a specialty even earlier than American students. I am arguing for an even further delay of specialization. The whole point of being a liberal artist is that we’re not specialized. We can make an impact through adaptation, fresh perspective, and critical analysis. So don’t make us con you, employers. When push comes to shove, we will. Instead, give us a chance to experience a lot and jump in where we see room for impact.

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One Response to “Help Us Help You, Take 2”

  1. MA May 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm #

    Most larger Fortune 500 type companies have training programs for fresh college grads which give them an overview of the company and time to rotate through some key departments. However, those programs are expensive to run and really take 12+ months or longer to complete before the graduates are then assigned to the departments where the company have openings. With the downturn in the economy, a lot of companies scale back the hiring of trainees and limit recruiting to certain (usually larger) universities that they have been successful in recruiting from in the past.

    For most start up and smaller companies, it is entirely up to the graduate’s manager to make sure the employee gets exposure on the job to other departments. It is therefore very important to have an immediate manager who gets it that providing employees overall exposure is a long term investment and they should do it even though there is day to day pressure to meet deadlines. Unfortunately, the graduates usually do not have any choice in picking managers and have to be lucky or manage their own careers by helping the manager to help open the doors for them. The process is not ideal by all means.

    With that said, if you want a very structured learning environment, go for the larger companies with training programs. It will give you more in depth knowledge of the functional area you are in. However, if you end up in a small and entrepreneurial shop, you will have more opportunities to be a jack of all trade and get exposed to and work more on a variety of functions/projects. There is no right or wrong way to start.

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