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Q & A with Former History Majors
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Angelo Araimo is the chief enrollment and planning officer at a small residential liberal arts college.
Elisabeth Nevins works in museum education.
Jessica Walter works in college development and fundraising.
Richard Nevins is a former lawyer, currently teaching history at a parochial high school in Connecticut.
Lauren Hull does campus recruitment across Europe for a major U.S. investment bank.
What skills or information learned in college do you find yourself making the most use of?
Angelo: It is amazing how often I still use the basic research and writing skills learned in college. Preparing an analytical report is very similar to doing a research paper.
Elisabeth: My research skills have come in pretty handy over the years as I've had to educate myself about many specific periods and topics in American and local history so that I could ultimately educate others.
Lauren: The the art of thinking on your feet—also known as making it all up on the spot—jointly useful during a seminar when you didn't even dent the reading list and also during a presentation when the slides you were sure were loaded on your laptop have disappeared.
How did you decide which field to go into after college?
Angelo: In the five years after college I worked in travel, high school teaching and library research (and continued to tend bar to make a living). I also completed a master's in history during this time.
Elisabeth: My interest in history has always been about trying to understand everyday people and their motivations. My summer internship in the education department of a museum opened my eyes to a field where I could study the past and share my passion with others through teaching. It was a perfect fit for my strengths and my interests.
Richard: The legal profession beckoned because of its inherent intellectual and social context. Applying legal principles to actual life problems is very rewarding.
Lauren: I targeted a company/sector that I knew would be advantageous for me in terms of my personal goals (i.e. moving and working internationally in the short-term future).
What's the number-one bit of advice you wish you were given before you entered the job market?
Angelo: Find a career you truly enjoy because if you are not happy at work you will be unhappy most of the time.
Elisabeth: If you have to justify taking a job to yourself, it's probably not something you really want to be doing. Most of my friends and I had moved on to our second job by the end of our first year out of school. In retrospect I wish I had stood my ground and kept looking even though I was feeling pressure to get a job, settle down, and start paying the rent.
Jessica: The advice I'd offer is for students to be brave enough to explore career options in addition to what their Career Services office provides them. Go for something in which you are truly interested.
Richard: Knowing the "culture" of the work place before you jump into a specific job is highly important.
What was your first job out of college?
Angelo: I was working at a bar in Manhattan and a group of folks about my age would come in every Friday afternoon for a drink. They worked at a company that produced exotic tours to Asia, Europe and Latin America. One thing led to another and I went to work there as a customer service rep.
Elisabeth: My first job out of school was as an account executive at a very tiny ad agency in New York City, five people total.
Jessica: My first job was as a research associate for the Corporate Executive Board in Washington, DC.
Richard: My first job out of college was that of a soldier; it found me through the draft. I ended up in military intelligence work largely because of my academic record. After service and law school, I worked as a public defender.
Lauren: Recruitment associate—working for a medium sized consultancy providing outsource recruitment/occupational psychology solutions to a range of UK public sector departments.
If you went straight into the workforce after receiving your bachelor's degree, do you wish you had attended graduate school first?
Angelo: I sort of did both silmultaneously and am glad I did.
Elisabeth: No! No! No! I went straight to work and am very happy with that decision. First, there was school burnout. I needed to do something different. Just knowing that, at 22, I could take care of myself was important to learn.
Jessica: No, I am glad that I went into the workforce, because it was nice to work nine–to–five and not have papers and things hanging over my head over weekends/holidays/vacations/etc. I wasn't mature enough then to decide "what I wanted to be when I grew up" so I thought it best to check out the real world.
Lauren: I have no regrets about skipping grad school at this stage–to me it would have been a pretty pointless exercise given that I was pretty fed up with studying. I intend to complete further study within the next five years but have yet to decide whether this will be in a field directly related to the undergraduate degree I have.
What do you like most about your current role?
Angelo: I love interacting with students, helping them make decisions about college, and solving some problems when I can. I really enjoy working at something that helps shape the future in such a tangible way. And never leaving college is a great thing.
Elisabeth: There are many things I like about my field—getting paid to study history and hang out with kids, to name two. But what I like most is teaching history in creative ways.
Richard: Everyone went to high school and could write a Hollywood script of (real-life) extraordinarily amusing/embarrassing adventures. I'm author and actor, producer and director, to some extent, in these dramas at this point in my life. At the same time, this position requires an intellectual, a social and a moral presence. It's challenging.
Lauren: My colleagues and the opportunity to learn from them and their experience.
What suggestions do you have for those still in college?
Elisabeth: Explore as much as possible. There are so many opportunities for learning right at your fingertips: classes, professors, extracurriculars and other students.
Jessica: Current students should be sure, every semester if possible, to take at least one course purely out of interest in the topic.
Lauren: Make the most of your time studying and focus on the areas that interest you–they are the only ones you will remember. Only make time for the "extracurricular" activities that truly fascinate you.
Do you have any tips for those entering the workforce/graduate school now?
Angelo: Be practical, but be idealistic at the same time. It is just as easy–and much more rewarding–to do good while you are doing well.
Elisabeth: I'm not a big fan of the straight–to–graduate–school path. I think it's important to get out there, get a job, pay the electric bill, buy groceries and work for "the man" for a year or two. It's amazing what you learn about yourself and what you really want your life's work to be.
Lauren: Travel first if you can, get out there and see the world and learn something about yourself and how you cope outside of college/away from your family and friends.
What mistake do history grads often make?
Angelo:History graduates are often led to believe that their choices are teaching or some form of "research." These graduates often do not explore the more creative benefits of their degree.
Elisabeth: Go to law school?
Lauren: They choose to go into education, because when they tell people "I'm majoring in history," everyone responds "Oh, are you going to be a history teacher?" Teaching is a noble and wonderful career, but it's not the only option for history majors. We know how to read, write and communicate. Those are universal skills that can be used everywhere.