Finding a student job – are we living in a university bubble?

Earlier this month, in the midst of editing my dissertation, Forbes posed an interesting question: Can We Prevent An Education Bubble? While the article discussed high quality education at a lower cost and rates of completion, the “education bubble” assessment struck me differently. For the past 11 months I have lived in the student bubble better known as LSE. Earning my MSc in Gender, Media and Culture -a programme that would combine my undergraduate major/minor of Media Studies and Sociology—was intellectually rigorous in a frightening new way (who wouldn’t run screaming from the classroom after two straight weeks of Freud?) Scarier than Freud’s feelings on women was a broader question: how in the world was I supposed to apply these and other theoretical frameworks beyond the classroom? The theory-heavy curriculum has indeed inspired a couple of friends who were on the same course to pursue further educational opportunities elsewhere. If entering the workforce with two posh Masters degrees sounds luxurious, all three of us are the first to admit that it is. Vocation Education? As the Guardian has illustrated, the floundering economy and tuition increases mean that studying humanities is seen as a bourgeoisie move, especially as the government invests in “priority” subjects that, sadly, do not include gender, media, and/or culture. Likewise, an employee hoping to show off their theory in a job interview might be taken aback when asked to entertain the interviewer for five minutes. So is the solution for me and other liberal arts stargazers to drop the gender and take up genetics? Not necessarily. While the abstract title of my diploma requires explanation on my part, I know that my decision to pursue a theory-based Masters vs. a vocational one was the right choice for me. An aspiring journalist since high school, I have gone out of my way to compliment my theory heavy education on both sides of the pond with a series of internships ranging from radio reporting and television news to social media and Internet research. All of these internships taught me how to work; they did not teach me how to think. Vocational programmes that specialise in areas of journalism ranging from TV reporting to newspaper writing would have offered additional hands-on opportunities and supplied a network of contacts. For students who don’t want to abandon education but need career training, a vocational programme is an ideal solution. And with eight European countries launching specific strategies to promote entrepreneurship education, those with startups on the brain can carve out classroom opportunities. “Qualifying Knowledge” But frustrating as Freud can be, the ability to read, comprehend, and discuss complicated theory is more than a luxury; it is a qualitative analytical skill that, in a shrinking job climate, is becoming increasingly rare. It is a skill that is transferrable across disciplines and will benefit arguably any career. If my goal is to write long-form journalism pieces for outlets such as The Atlantic, the out dated inverted pyramid won’t cut it. I will need to take an idea, create a thesis, research varying perspectives, and confirm my own conclusion after a long, often complicated analysis. A recent offer to write a 3,000 word long form piece for a major tech blog would have required me to execute exactly this process for an essay of the same length as most of my LSE summative assessments. Likewise, a recent interview for an Editorial Analyst role specifically called for applicants with a qualitative educational background. The ability to analyse, write, and communicate forecasts in consumer behaviour to clients mimics the process of reading, analysing, and presenting an article to my LSE seminars. I have no intention of attempting a career as a gender theorist. That does not mean the skills I have gained studying this discipline will be null and void beyond my December graduation. Can we prevent an education bubble? I think many of us are already in one. But in order for it to burst, professors need to do more than debate gender theory and, my personal favourite, “problematise paradoxes”; they need to stick their heads out the ivory tower and show how it can, and should, be practically applied in the real world. One of academia’s greatest challenges is to take Foucault’s Panopticon and apply this theory of self-surveillance to jobs ranging from night guarding to teaching—a task that requires the creativity rewarded by a liberal arts education. Are you up for the challenge?   Written by Lauren Maffeo, Editorial Intern at Enternships

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