How the Liberal Arts Kickstarted My Career

by   |   estephen@bju.edu   |  
Peek into class at BJU as teacher waits for students to complete a test, Greenville, SC, February 20, 2018. (Hal Cook)

When I graduated college four years ago, getting a full-time job in my field looked impossible at first. Every employer wanted five years or more of experience for entry-level positions. I had spent the last five years earning a degree.

The degree did get me a job. My BA in creative writing (with a minor in theatre) translated into a first full-time job as a project analyst.

A perfect fit? No.

A job that allowed me to earn professional experience, connections, cred, confidence, and a paycheck? Yes.

Attending BJU meant I had to take courses other than those in my major—writing and acting classes. I took occupational speech classes, a computer course, a general science course—courses that shoved me out of my comfort zone. But each gave me a knowledge base and skills that helped me survive a job I hadn’t exactly planned for.

God opened the door for me to work in my field after a few years as a project analyst. Now I’m an adjunct instructor of creative writing, a marketing copywriter, and a freelance writing coach. But I wouldn’t have survived that first job (or my current jobs) without a liberal arts education. Here’s what the liberal arts experience gave me that occupational training or community college couldn’t.

Versatility

The skills I developed through liberal arts courses had me well-prepared to fill roles outside of my specialty. I knew nothing about how to be a project analyst, but I had the flexibility I needed to thrive in any workplace. I not only knew how to write well—I knew how to deliver good presentations, analyze and catalog information, and cooperate on group projects.

My occupations have me interacting with folks from every walk of life. A liberal arts education equipped me to speak intelligently and think critically about everything from economics to theology to opera. It’s easier to make new friends with a broad knowledge base to pull from while forging those new connections.

Biblical Vision

My course requirements included a Bible course for every semester. My teachers began every class with prayer. Every class in every subject had, at its core, the intent of applying that subject to the heart of a Christ-follower.

How did this help me in my career? This biblical saturation I had in college prepared my mind and soul for the endurance race that is professional life. I didn’t just learn facts in college; I learned principles. I learned how to apply them in the journey God has granted me. I’m more dedicated and responsible than I would be otherwise because I’m working for more than myself—I’m working for God’s glory.

A Starting Point

When I got job #1, the best tool in my kit was teachability. I didn’t know how to be a project analyst. But with a diverse educational background that taught me how to learn, I figured it out. That teachability was the starting point that opened into my freelance work, my adjunct instructor position, and my job as a marketing copywriter.

When I graduated, I didn’t leave college with only a diploma. I left with a foundation. Four years of focusing on my field and subjects outside of it prepared me for a life of learning. College is about learning how to learn—you don’t stop learning once you walk away with a diploma!

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Emma Galloway Stephens is a writer and faculty liaison in BJU’s Marketing department as well as an adjunct writing faculty member.