For all of the soul-searching, job-seeking seniors.
I have found that, upon graduation from a liberal arts institution, students are left with two common goals: “I want to make a difference in the world” and “I want to make a lot of money.” This is bound to happen because in any notable liberal arts curriculum, students are conditioned to be both socially responsible and professionally successful. More often than not, graduates are left choosing between taking that steady analyst position at a large corporate firm and teaching English in an impoverished South African village (believe me, I’ve been there. Choosing to go to graduate school to postpone making a decision may not have been my most enlightened solution). These options might seem like completely opposite ends of the employment spectrum. The truth is, though, that being successful professionally (in terms of both job title and salary) and making a global difference are NOT mutually exclusive.
Jobs serving the betterment of the community are not limited to government and non-profit organizations. Despite common misconceptions, careers in business have just as much to offer the global community. If a “higher moral calling” exists in the public (government) and social (non-profit) sectors, it exists in the business sector as well. The truth is that “You can make a vital contribution in any of these three sectors, because all three are needed for a society to function well. (If just one sector is weak or absent, the result is usually a failed state. Think of the former communist states that tried doing away with private business, or the chaotic warlord states without effective government.)” And while many are put off by the “corruption of corporate business,” keep in mind that there are dozens of examples of both virtue and vice in each sector. No one sector monopolizes either corruption or morality. It is important to remember that goodness lies within the individual and in the moral decisions those individuals make regarding their work, not in any particular industry.
I recently read the book Half the Sky, which promotes the humanitarian organization by the same name. The Half the Sky Organization is a non-profit that works to fight global poverty by unlocking women’s power as economic catalysts — transforming teenage girls from brothel slaves into successful businesswomen. This non-profit organization is using entrepreneurial and business practices to fight extremism and poverty around the globe. Yes, Half the Sky is a non-profit organization, but it is bolstering the business sector and suggesting (quite convincingly) that entrepreneurial endeavors, combined with education, are the most effective way to combat poverty.
The fact of the matter is that business strengthens a community. It creates jobs, which in turn allows for the economic growth and security of individuals, their families, and by extension their entire community. By entering the business sector and engaging in socially responsible business practices, you are making an irrefutable social contribution.
When it comes time to make a decision about your career path, I’m not suggesting that the business sector is the only place to look; however, I do ask that you not overlook it either. Armed with your Liberal Arts degree, you have the tools to succeed in any job you choose and, with that ability, to better your life and the lives of those around you. No matter what sector you find yourself in, you can make a difference in the world and be professionally successful at the same time.
Until next time!
Associate Director, Entrepreneurial Studies
Director, Entrepreneurial Studies & Pre-business Advisor