One of the most common questions I get asked by students is ‘What can I do with my degree?’ Some see their options are very limited, while others know most careers are open to them but need some guidance on finding the right one (or, want me to tell them which one they should go for!)
On the whole graduates from the same degree discipline can be drawn to similar career areas. For example, a large portion of English graduates are attracted to jobs utilising their writing skills, such as those in marketing, journalism and public relations. It can be harder for other students to make a connection between their degree and the workplace, with those studying Philosophy being no exception.
That’s why I enjoyed recently attending a Philosophy/Humanities Careers Adviser Day which was aimed at sharing best practice between advisers working in these areas. As part of the day, Janet Forsyth from The University of Edinburgh shared some of the resources she has created for the Philosophy students. I was very impressed with what she had come up with, so I thought I would share some of Janet’s ideas as a way of demonstrating that no matter the discipline there are always ways of engaging with students.
As I’ve already mentioned, Philosophy students in particular often struggle to recognise how the skills they are developing in their degree relate to the world of work. Janet shared a handout she uses to address this issue, called ‘Philosophy in the workplace’. As you can see below, the handout uses a table to organise information relating to the skills developed by a Philosophy degree, how these relate to the workplace and why they are important. The handout also provides a concrete example for each skill being used in practice.
Handouts like this one could be used during a guidance appointment (to aid discussion or be taken away to remind students of what was covered), or at a CV appointment if a student was having difficulty identifying skills from their degree to highlight to an employer. The handout could even be adapted for use in a workshop by removing some of the content to encourage students to come up with their own examples and links between their subject and the world of work.
The Philosophy in the workplace handout was actually created by Lee Madden, an alumnus of the Philosophy department at Edinburgh who now works in consulting for EY. Lee has a great video on YouTube about the parallels between philosophy and business which is definitely worth a watch. For even more insight Lee has also written about philosophy for business and career, philosophy and the value of critical thinking in a volunteering role and applying philosophy skills to career decisions.
Although the handout is very comprehensive it could potentially be quite hard for students to digest in one go. To make the content more accessible to students Janet pulled skills from the handout and used them as the basis for individual posters. Each poster focuses on a skill developed through studying Philosophy and explains how it relates to the workplace. These posters could easily be adapted to other disciplines too.
The Philosophy-based skill is used as the main heading for the poster, with the other information from the table laid out in speech bubbles. Each poster also has a little image in the bottom corner to help illustrate the focus of the specific skill.
Janet talked about how she uses Padlet to store all the resources and graduate case studies for Philosophy students. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Padlet, it acts as an online pin-board that can be kept private, shared with select individuals or be made freely accessible to anyone with the web address. A Padlet can also be embedded into VLE platforms, making it simple for the author to keep the information up to date. I really liked the way that Janet used Padlet to provide students with access to careers resources without the need to visit campus.
Seeing how Janet has used resources to help address the more common questions raised by Philosophy students has motivated me to create some new resources this summer ready for September. I hope they do the same for you too!
You can find Janet on Twitter: @JanetForsyth