Alex in Transit(ion)

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Conversations with My 5 Year Old Brother

(I was showing Ethan my pictures from Disney World. We came across a picture of my friend and I on the Teacup ride at night)
Ethan: It’s dark, when do you go to sleep?
Alex: There aren’t any pictures of me sleeping.
Ethan: When I go to sleep you go bye-bye for a long time and you need to stay here, all day, so when I go to sleep, I get to see you. Don’t go bye-bye for a long time anymore.

If there was any moment I wanted to break down and cry, that was it. The truth is, in a month, I will be going bye-bye for a long time when I leave for grad school. Until then, yes, I will walk you over to the bus tomorrow. Allie loves you more than you’ll ever know. One day, you’ll understand.

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The Misconception About Philosophy Graduates: We Use Cardboard Boxes for Recycling, Not For Domiciles

It’s articles like these that drive me absolutely batty:


Source: Yahoo Education- Don’t Bother Earning These Five Degrees

I like to think of myself as a really nice, happy, and optimistic person, but hell hath no fury if I hear someone say in my presence that philosophy graduates are destined to live in cardboard boxes or something to that effect. I will call you out on it because the assumption that philosophy graduates spent four years on a dead end career path is absolute drivel, ignorant, and quite short sighted. 

My first philosophy class was during my second semester of freshman year at Hartwick College. I dropped out of my biochemistry major and wanted to explore other academic areas before I declared another major. I decided to take Values and Society, which was offered by the Philosophy department because it looked like something I would be interested in, and boy, was I right. I fell in love with Plato’s works, especially Symposium. I treated those texts as if they were gifts from above because the writing was so rich. I thought it to be a privilege to develop valid arguments from these texts about these ancient values and how they fit in with our modern society.

Notice that I said valid arguments and not arguments because there is a difference. The meaning of philosophy is “the love of wisdom,” and the study is centered around teaching its students how to use logical reasoning to identify valid and invalid arguments. Because of that training, we learn how to read critically and not passively. We are not intimidated by big passages of words, such as proposed bills. We will go through it, line by line, and find the mistakes to tell you why parts of the proposal aren’t valid. 

What does that sound like? Oh, it sounds like a lawyer, which isn’t a surprise because, other than economics and mathematics majors, philosophy majors perform better on the LSAT than any other major in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. As you see, I got a little tired from hyperlinking sources, but you get my point.

What about the GRE? Well, we’ve got that one covered too.


And if you don’t believe me, here’s some sources here, here, and here.

Not bad for people who are destined for the cardboard box chateau, right? 

What I feel is the pitfall for college graduates, in general, is actually something that has to do more with themselves more than their degree. In the end, it is up to the individual to market themselves to compete for a job. If you don’t know the strengths of your degree and why they will help you attain a job, then the truth is, maybe you shouldn’t get the position because you can’t market yourself. I like to use the example of Pitbull. Love him or hate him, he knows how to talk, dress, and promote himself to get what he wants and approaches each professional situation with class, even when he’s sent to Kodiak, Alaska against his will. He could have acted like a diva about being sent to one of the most remote places in the country, but he didn’t. He had fun with it and gained a lot of respect from the people in Kodiak for taking out the time to come and visit them. Market yourself with the same confidence as Mr. 305 and you’ll be set. 

In a more realistic situation, when potential employers ask me about my philosophy degree and why I chose it to advance my career, I say it’s because it was something that I enjoyed, I’ve developed excellent critical reading skills, and I can effectively deduce arguments. I then bring up how those skills have helped me in my previous positions. Those are all valuable traits to any employer because not do I bring experience and desirable skills to the table, I actually have fun with them. See? It’s all about marketing yourself. 

What I would recommend to any major who is unsure about their future career is, first, reach out to your professors and have a honest chat with them. They know what’s it’s like and will be your best ally.

Secondly, seek out who the best career services advisor is on campus. Don’t just go to the career services center on a whim, find out who is the best one to talk to because in my experience, a lot of people who tend to work in that department do not know what they’re talking about. I was told by a random career services advisor that being involved in the campus radio station would amount to nothing for my career. Wrong. I received an internship with the Federal Communication Commission because of my radio experience. That internship was the springboard for me to attain my jobs in political campaigns and government relations. If I had listened to her and solely focused on the Political Science club, I really doubt I would be where I am today. When I told one of my friends about my dismal experience with Career Services, he told me that I was talking to the wrong person and directed me towards the best career services advisor and I never looked back. 

After you find the best career services advisor on the block, talk to them about your major and your career path (or lack thereof). If you took the time to find the best career advisor on campus, use them to your best advantage. Your tuition dollars pay their salary. Use them to their full potential so that you’re prepared for the real world. Ask them to conduct a series of mock interviews with you because the more practice you have, the better off you’ll be. One is helpful but it’s not going to fully prepare you for what’s out there.

Then, have them put you in resume boot camp. Don’t leave campus without a resume that has a format that is crisp, easy to read, and is one page. Yes. One page. To me, creating a resume is like curating a museum. Of course there’s a lot of interesting historical pieces, but if you put them all in one room, it’s going to look overwhelming to the eye. Think of your resume that way. You have that one room to curate. Make sure you put out your best pieces in it. If you want to put more experience on it, create a professional website or create a LinkedIn profile and slap it on your resume. LinkedIn is excellent because you can have your colleagues vouch for your skills. 

Lastly, it’s all about location, location, location and taking risks. I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in Upstate New York but it wasn’t a good launchpad for my career. I could have made it work if I really wanted to but I knew the easier way to start my career was to move to either Albany, NY or Washington, DC. I decided that Albany would be more affordable for me, so I took on a lease for a studio that cost me $650 and temp jobs that paid me about $11 a hour. There were a lot of times that I got frustrated but I kept saying to myself to wait until campaign season started because that’s when the opportunities would pop up. After my temp job was over, I volunteered with a campaign, and eventually, I was hired. Looking back, it was worth all of those times where I was wondering if I was going to make end’s meet with my bills and I wouldn’t of traded it for anything. Your career isn’t going to move in a progressive direction if you don’t make the moves yourself. 

If you need help, let me know. There’s nothing more that I love than coaching people towards their dream career, for any field. I know I gave out a lot of tough love, but tough times call for tough people. You can do it, just like Dr. Seuss said: 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

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The feeling I got when I realized that for the next two years, someone will be pumping my gas for me…

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My definition of sexy.