When people hear that I study history and psychology, they often ask what I plan to do with those after college. Some people even ask in a slightly scathing tone, as if they can’t possibly imagine how those majors could lead to a career in anything. While this caused me great panic at the beginning of college, I’ve learned to talk up the transferable skills I’ve gained through my classes–the ability to write, analyze, communicate clearly, etc. Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how I really have learned so much more than just subject matter in college. Through classes, clubs, and job opportunities, I’ve cultivated my soft skills, most notably perhaps, my public speaking.
I’ve always been a big speaker–in fact, my middle school nemesis once paid me to be quiet in class for an entire month–but my experiences in class have honed my skills to speak articulately. Just last week in my marketing course with Professor Derby, I was tasked with delivering my “value proposition.” This means that I had to speak for 90 seconds on my value to a potential company that was looking to hire. My peers and I all completed this assignment in different formats. Some of us choose to follow a pronged structure, while others told a story of a particularly impressive feat. All of us had to conquer nerves to stand in front of the class, and now, we have bolstered our ability to speak about ourselves, proudly and articulately.
Through my clubs, I have learned how to cater to an audience when I speak. My sorority has chapter meetings every week and as an executive board member, I have to talk about information pertaining to my role (social media, community service, philanthropy, merchandise, alumni relations, etc.). These meetings happen on a Sunday night, when people tend to be cranky and tired, so I’ve learned to spice up my slides with memes and to insert as many jokes as possible.
As the head of my sorority's annual philanthropy event, Concert for CASA, I’ve also acted as the MC (see picture above) for two shows. Speaking to an audience of a few hundred people has taught me how to feel out my audience. I now know to throw in a joke as a test at the beginning of a speech to see how the audience reacts–if they laugh, I keep the jokes coming, and if they don’t, then I tone it down for the rest of the show. Knowing how to relate to an audience is a skill that I hope will help me in any position I hold working with people in the future.
In my job as a tour guide, I’ve learned how to improvise and think quickly when put on the spot. Even three years into being a tour guide, I still get new, and sometimes even uncomfortable, questions that I’ve never gotten before. While this can be tricky, ad-libbing is a real skill that has served me well in other situations too, like interviews. Without tour guiding, I’d be much less equipped to answer those curveball prompts like, “Tell me about a time when you saved the world.” Pre-tour guide me would have panicked, cried, and called my mom! But not anymore!
My advice for you today is to remember that your major doesn’t need to directly funnel into to a job. The skills that you learn in college go beyond a textbook. Perhaps, I don’t know what kind of job I want to apply to yet, but when I find my dream job and the interviewer asks me to speak, I’ll be ready.