When I first registered as a History major in the Faculty of Arts, I'd already started hearing the propaganda. While I'd also heard from people like my sister who claimed that Arts was only for those who didn't know what to do with their lives, and that I'd be flipping burgers with my degree, I'd already started to hear another story. I read it in newspaper articles, on job search sites, at informational sessions set up by the Faculty of Arts.*
"What can I do with a BA?" the story would always begin. Apparently, plenty. Apparently, the job market was clamouring for eager beavers with Bachelors of Arts, with all of their tranferrable skills in researching and writing, all of their creativity and flexibility. There was an Arts fair that had a booth showcasing all the jobs you could get as a History major. I had no idea I was in such demand!
I didn't think about grad school until my fourth year. It had never occurred to me. Why did I need to think about it, when there were all these fabulous jobs out there where they would be in awe of my research skills and my critical thinking? A couple of professors suggested that I pursue my MA, and I half-heartedly looked into it, but I was still set on finding my way into a "real" job. (Nevermind the fact that I hated the only "real" job I ever had, and wrote dystopic short stories about the office environment.)
In the winter of my fourth year, my university hosted a career fair. I printed off my resumés, wore the closest I owned to a power suit, and went along with an engineer friend. It was entirely disappointing. Everywhere that Dan went, potential employers fawned over him. He gave out so many resumés. I think I gave out two. Everyone I would meet would be so welcoming at first. I would receive a lot of pamphlets and free gifts. Then they would ask about my major. At the word "history" I watched countless faces fall. They would stumble over their words and say something about how they don't know what they have open in my field. The only booth that continued to pay me any attention was a temp agency.**
When I returned to the University, my feet in pain from my high heels, I ran into Dr. B, who I'd gotten to know when I took his German history course (I'd done really well). He asked why I was so dressed up, and just shook his head when I told him about the career fair. He asked why I didn't study German history under him, and I told him that I'd love to, except I didn't know German. He said that was laziness talking. I'd be fine.
And I went home and put away my power suit, having decided to become a grad student.***
* I've been talking about this experience with Ky lately, as she's been trying to find employment with her MA in English.
** I know one person, with a BA in History, who is working in a related field, and that's Ky's sister Lynniec. And people tend to be amazed when they hear that she's a researcher, and found work in Saskatchewan.
*** The happy part of this story is that I love it here, and that the decision to become a Germanist has provided me with non-stop work and experience since then. And I've had opportunities to wear professional clothing. Take last weekend, for example. However, I'm dreading that point when I graduate and have to find full-time employment, as Trillwing is doing.