*THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2014 DURING THE FIRST ITERATION OF CHANGTHEWORLD.COM*
And the story continues…
After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I advanced to graduate school in 2011. In fact, I went abroad for my graduate studies, thinking it would be advantageous in the age of globalization. My destination? Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea. With South Korea’s growing presence in the global economy and the North Korea issue, I thought it was an ideal choice and place, especially if I wanted to pursue an international relations or history career. Graduate life started and I made many new friends and acquaintances, hailing from all around the world: Colombia, Kazakhstan, Holland, China, Taiwan, Thailand, Canada, Delaware, etc. What made things even more interesting was that a number of the people I met in South Korea are acquainted with people whom I either went to college with or met at conferences previously. What a small world!
Half a semester later, I started to develop mixed feelings about my graduate program. The curriculum and pedagogy did not meet my expectations. I thought this was weird, especially coming from one of the most renowned academic institutions in South Korea. We were just not compatible. After some careful thought and discussions with my peers, I made the decision to tell my graduate program that we should start seeing other people. I was not missed by the school since it was only in a relationship with around 30,000 other students.
To the United States I returned. Disoriented. Confused. Lost. Handicapped. I got into an accident the week before leaving Korea, which resulted in my left ACL torn. Anyways, I withdrew from graduate school; now what? I knew what was up. Student loans... They came knocking on my doorstep almost as soon as I returned home. Apparently, my brief academic stint overseas did not qualify for a loan deferral since the institution is not recognized by the United States. That is pretty funny actually since there were an awfully lot of American exchange students running around that school. I even met someone who went to my high school!
In any case, I needed a job.
Time to look for a job!
Before I go into further detail, let me give you a glimpse of what I am doing at the time of this post. I am working full-time as a marketing professional in a company that is a major player in its industry. With that established, let us continue…
(I left that job back on June 27, 2015 and later became an educator as you already know. I will talk about this in a later post as to why I eventually left to become an educator.)
After reading about bleak job prospects for liberal arts majors, I slightly worried a bit. I had no technical skills to offer. I cannot hope to be a porn star because I am an Asian man. Should I sell blood? Many entry-level positions I came across needed at least two years of work experience. Entry level. Two years of work experience. ENTRY LEVEL. TWO years of work experience. ENTRY LEVEL! Seriously, this did NOT make ANY sense to me. How does a recent college graduate with no work experience even get an entry-level job???
Faced with these obstacles, I only applied to one position I found on Craigslist. The company claimed to be a major presence in Hollywood. I gave them a call and scheduled an interview. The company was located in a very isolated business park. The interior of the office was dilapidated. There was even a dog running around the office! At the time, I thought, “Hey! It’s Hollywood! Paris Hilton has that signature dog of hers. This must be the norm.” The president of the company interviewed me and her personal office was lacking in furniture. Everything began to look real shady and I was mired in doubt. She promised me great riches and an awesome career. It made it sound like I can live like the pharaoh of Egypt! After doing some research online afterwards, I found out the company was a pyramid scheme. Though I was promised the life of a pharaoh, I am not ready to be entombed in a pyramid just yet. I never called nor went back to that office.
Despite this minor setback, I never once regretted having pursued a liberal arts degree. I was really confident that in the long run my liberal arts background will be extremely beneficial.
Following a friend’s advice, I created an online profile on LinkedIn and Monster.com and uploaded my resume. I did not have much expectations. I had limited experience: two internships, a campus administrative job, and a brief stint as an editor while I was in Korea. Despite having loans descending upon me, I thought I would use this time as an intermission to figure out my long-term plans while recovering from my knee injury.
How I found a job.
Now this is where many of you may be caught in disbelief. About a month after I returned home, I found a job. This came about two weeks after that pyramid-scheme experience. I received a call from a recruiter in the afternoon. I was in the middle of a nap, so I answered the phone, dazed. The recruiter told me he represented a certain company. I have heard of the company before, so I know it cannot possibly be another pyramid scheme. He asked if I am interested in a certain open position after seeing my resume on Monster. He felt that I might be a suitable match. Having just woken up, I could not even hear clearly what the position was, so I just said yes. I did not want to lose this opportunity simply because I was still drowsy. After speaking with him, he said he will be in contact with me. And most of us know that means “I will never call you back.” At least, that is how I see it now. I was younger then, so I was naïve and believed that “Bob” will call me back.
I waited for a few days.
Bob never called…
What did I do?
I called Bob.
Bob could barely remember who I was. He only recalled me because I had internship experience with the state government, which was unique to him. See! He forgot me! He had no plans to call me back! Liar! After going through a whole another phone conversation and finding out what the actual position was, I managed to convince Bob to set me up with an in-person interview with the company the following week.
Suited up, I proceeded to the office and met the hiring manager. After a fifteen-minute interview, I was offered the position, which I accepted. For the record, I did not know anyone in the company, so the job was not gained through connections. It was through my own personal actions. My employment acceptance ended my job hunt. After going through background checks and signing legal documents, I became gainfully employed.
How did I do it?
This is probably the most important part for many readers. Everything else up until now is more or less entertainment material. A recent liberal arts graduate with limited work experience found a job in a month? The capitalist world must be insane. Liberal arts majors are supposed to be unemployable! We must be caught in limbo. Someone check your totem!
So how did I get this job? I would say that being proactive and confident got me the job. “Good luck can be enticed by accepting opportunity. Men of action are favored by the Goddess of Good Luck.” That quote hails from George Samuel Clason’s “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I think it perfectly describes the situation here. An opportunity came before me and I took it. I did not wait around for Bob. He was never going to call me back anyways. I went TO Bob. From there, I told him about my academic background and what I had to offer: my soft skills. That managed to convince him to set me up for an interview. Then I presented what I had to offer to the company at my in-person interview.
Confidence is key. People can sense it. Not for a single moment did I doubt my liberal arts degree. I sold it like it was best timeshare deal on Earth to my interviewers. I sold the soft skills, developed from my liberal arts background. Let me bring up that short list again from Part 1:
To reassure you, I use all those soft skills every single day at work and they have been indispensable. I get along well with all my colleagues and have no known complaints lodged against me…yet. If the liberal arts really are useless, then why am I still employed after all this time? I should have been fired from the outset. After all, I studied subjects I can only use if I am on a trivia game show or some sort of hippie hipster magic circle.
I once worked with someone who graduated with a “very practical” major. He/She possessed almost none of those soft skills I mentioned. That person was let go after two months after driving everybody nuts. I merely brought up that individual to prove a point that all those soft skills up there are not necessarily common sense skills. It takes all sorts of things to develop them. And in my case, my liberal arts education played a major role. Another thing I can give credit to for my workplace survival/success (depending on the perspective) is that I am a devout adherent of lifelong learning, a byproduct of my education and personality. I will save the discussion of lifelong learning for another time.
Like I said in Part 1, it is really about what you want to make out of your education rather than letting your education make you. Never let the subjects you studied become the very obstacles in unlocking your fullest potential. Overcome those doubts and ignore the general public’s derision of the liberal arts. The liberal arts enabled me to become what I am today and I am proud of it. If I can choose again, would I choose something different? No. Period.
And about my Asian tiger helicopter parents…
Having found employment shocked quite a few people around me. Some Asian parents stopped talking to my parents, especially those who used to be pompous and condescending. They used to tease my parents for having a stupid son who chose to go to a liberal arts college. You know…to study art, dancing and acting. None of them really know what the liberal arts are. Liberal arts colleges are not really known to the Asian American community. Now you can see why there was a thorn in my relationship with my parents. It is a matter of “face” and a lack of understanding of the liberal arts. My parents always thought I had made the wrong academic choice. They, too, were also shocked when I found a job. Let’s just say that the thorn mentioned in Part 1 is no longer there and my parents have a newfound appreciation in the “arts.” After all, we are all “artists” in life.
Thank you, liberal arts education. I am able to Chang the world because of you.