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The Role of Humanities and what should I do with my life
It's easy to figure out where math and science graduates will fit into the workplace. They are the innovators who propel the rest of us forward. They design our houses, computers, cars, and luxuries. They challenge themselves and build bigger and better things and fundamentally change our use of the world around us. They are doctors and physicists and astronauts. But what about the rest of us? What about the philosophy majors, the history and english people, what about sociologists?

I come from a Humanities' Family. There is no changing it. Numbers are just that, numbers. In my brain they don't correlate into any language or hold any degree of interest without a corresponding story. But what can I do with a humanity degree? Think out loud with some degree of confidence that I will end up approaching a conclusion and, with any luck, an idea. Humanities, the study of ideas.

What good are ideas to a market? I guess that's a stupid question, but isn't that a weird concept, that such a huge margin of the workforce come from humanity backgrounds, which is just a background in thinking? The study of the human condition as opposed to the study of the world around us, the ground beneath our feet.

So what can I expect from a humanity degree, how is it helped any of you? I know it can be employed in almost any fashion and in a way that feels very limiting. If I can do whatever I want with it, why should I settle, or how do I know what to do with it? Full Disclosure: I am an English Major. I'm fairly certain that no one is going to pay me to read books when I get out of college and I'm not so keen on writing any myself, so what am I going to end up doing with that? Sure, by studying one thing I'm getting clear insight into the human mind, by reading I can figure out a greater truth blah blah blah. That shit doesn't get me a job where I'm both doing what I want and getting paid like a rocket scientist. Maybe I should rethink those numbers.

I guess, this is just the breakdown of so many people my age not knowing how they can transfer their higher education to the real world. Yes, people tell me that it's fine I don't know what I want to do, I'm still young, but that's not what the world tells me. The world says: Hurry up Leah, people half your age are madly successful, why aren't you? The world says: the sooner you figure it out the better.

Maybe my english degree will be there to help when I'm unemployed in some alley drinking a 40 and reading Macbeth. At least I'll have words to distract me from how terrible 40s taste.

Any advice then? On how to either figure it out or teach myself not to care that I don't know yet?
There is an old joke. What do you say to someone with a degree in art history?
2 hamburgers please.

I like that joke. But more seriously now. People's lives can take different routes. Life is not easier for people with science degrees, everyone still needs to figure out what they want to do after undergrad, or grad school. Do they want to become professors, lawyers, astronauts, or something else. And then, who knows where life will take you.

I remember going to a theater show with puppets. Big puppets. After the show some of the regular actors - puppet masters - stayed to talk with the audience. One of them, the guy in charge of moving the right hand of one of the puppets and that's it, had an undergraduate degree in physics from Harvard.
I know professors who left teaching in order to sell furniture.
Life leads you to strange places which you can't guess.

Finding what to do with yourself the moment the road is not completely clear (like it relatively is for lawyers or people continuing in academia) is very hard, and it is hard in all professions. Either you have your calling, and then its easy, or you are looking for it.
To quote Margaret Wells in post:  "My advice is, try to understand yourself in a deep way -- that's already quite a project. Surround yourself with people of the highest possible caliber. And develop your talents, figure out precisely what they are and what their capacity is, and the rest will follow."
  Why don't you try to discover what your intersets are? Come to think of it an educational degree, a major is not a handicap. I am an economics graduate without a job. I am in India. I hope since your post you have been able to find employment wherever you may be. I think its best not to despair and you should try to explore new avenues.
All my life, I thought I wanted to be a physicist. For the longest time I dreamed of string theory and quarks and not widely accepted ideas like fusion or time travel. As it turned out, when taking my first real physics courses, i realized that I had romanticized a subject which I had never reeky delved into in its modern form, and wouldn't be happy as a physicist. Now I've switched to an attempt to double major in Econ/math (which, like physics, uses the language of math, but applies it to sone sort of representation of how the human worked works) and sociology. At best, econ can be a rather rigorous science, but if you believe people like Naseem Taleb that's where it breaks down. So usually, economics and sociology are considered soft sciences or humanities.

The first thing I learned is to stop regretting the choice i made to switch. It's arty easy to romanticize and say, "well, look at the defined career paths! The influence I could have on the world! The beauty of it!" the thing about science is the vast majority of scientists are never recognized. You are most likely not an Einstein, and that means that your contributions will be minor or even merely finding the wrong path for other scientists to avoid, if you make any contributions at all. This is fine for most scientists, who want to advance science and love the process, the math, and the day to day research, but if your attraction is only the thrill of discovery, the chance of glory and fame and influence, and even viewing the beauty of the universe, you would most likely not be fulfilled in such a career. So if you really don't like math and science, dint fret about it slogging through that path; you're much better off.

But this still leaves the question of what to do with your life. And here, first you should decide if you wish to pursue more schooling or not. The truth is that a BA or BS in anything doesn't seem enough any more to make one competitive in many fields. Since you learned how to think, have you considered law? You learned how to write, so how about screenwriting or journalism? There's a vast majority of jobs outside the corporate sphere. And even if you don't want to return to school, there are certainly many (almost all that are outside science and academia) in which skills are learned on the job. The degree you have really signifies that you can think and work hard enough to get a degree, but doesn't necessarily give you all the skills you need. Internships, friends, connections, all might be potential sources for interesting jobs.

And I might be young and impractical, but if what you're looking for isn't the job itself, but the happiness a job brings, try to follow the somewhat paradoxical advice I've gotten of both not settling for any job that does not make you happy and wanting to jump out of bed to work in the morning, yet keeping an open mind. I would add that what motivates you to get out of bed doesn't have to be your job job, as long as your actual job is reasonably fulfilling and pays the bills. And like a previous poster said, you never really know where life will take you.
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Latest Post: August 25, 2011 at 7:09 AM
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